Save The Wall
In 2012 The Association for the Preservation of Geneseo (APOG) launched a major multi-year project to restore a landmark of our Village. Restoration of the mile-long stone wall bordering the Wadsworth Homestead preserves the gateway to Geneseo’s Historic District. The Wall stretches from Crossett Road, down South Street/20A, and extends south on Route 39/20A. Thanks to community support, the Save the Wall campaign got off to a tremendous start!
Phase One (2012-2015) is complete and the project is half way done. Master Mason John White Sr. estimates that it will only take four more years to complete the wall restoration project. Congratulations all around. APOG, masons, and volunteers are ready to launch Phase Two of the project, but we cannot do this alone. We need your support. How can you help? Donations of time and money are necessary to continue this project.
Be a Volunteer
Workdays begin on June 4 and run through September 24. Meet at the wall at 9am each Saturday and work with us until noon. There is work for all skill and age levels clearing brush, moving and cleaning stones, and rebuilding and sealing the wall. Donations of coffee, water and snacks for the volunteers are also appreciated.
There are real and large costs associated with this effort. Professional masons need to be hired to train and oversee volunteers to ensure work is done properly and to complete sections requiring a master’s hand. Cement and tools also need to be purchased, not a small need for a mile long wall.
The nineteenth-century, mile-long stone wall in Geneseo, NY is a defining feature and gateway into the Geneseo National Historic Landmark District. The wall stretches from Crossett Road, along the south side of South Street, past Main, turning the corner and extends south on Route 39 towards Mount Morris. In recent years, the slow degradation of time caught up with the wall and it is now in various states of disrepair. It is critical to the historic character of Geneseo that the wall see a major improvement.
Since 2012, every Saturday, June through the end of September, volunteers have worked on the restoration of the wall. This is one of the most significant community preservation projects in Geneseo’s history. Cynthia Howk, the Architectural Research Coordinator for the Landmark Society of Western New York, described the project to the Livingston County Historian as:
“One of the most interesting projects is that“Save the Wall” campaign (launched Spring, 2012) – a cooperative venture with the local community to restore that ever-crumbling stone wall that extends for 1 mile along edge of the property & adjacent to Route 20A (main public road). For years, that has continued to fall apart. Now, they’re working with APOG (Assoc. for the Preservation of Geneseo) to repair the wall. A May, 2012 article in the local newspaper states that they’re working with Dansville mason, John White – who’s coordinating the project/supervising the volunteers working on repairs … This is certainly an important & highly visible project, as the wall is a major defining feature of that Natl. Register estate property.”
Season One (2012) launched the project and multi-year plan. In the first year alone, 102 individuals logged over 650 volunteer hours. Volunteers cleared brush, cleaned stones, and made preparations for rebuilding. Master Mason John White and his son John White Jr. were brought in to coordinate the project and supervise volunteers working on the repairs. A great deal was accomplished in 2012, including developing a better understanding of the scope of this project. Cash and in-kind donations from the community totaled $13,180.00.
During Season Two (2013), 112 individuals logged over 700 hours by the end of September. Volunteers made modest but visible progress on the actual reconstruction. Additionally, volunteers continued to clean and prepare stones as well as remove brush to allow access to the wall. Cash and in kind donations from the community totaled $16,213.00.
In Seasons Three (2014) and Four (2015), a total of 196 individuals logged over 2052 hours. Significant progress was made on the reconstruction. Most volunteer hours were spent in the actual rebuilding although brush clearing continued at a more limited pace. Cash and in-kind contributions totaled $38,000.00.
There are tasks for those with strong backs as well as tasks for young children, the elderly, and disabled. The volunteers are a diverse group, ranging in age from six to their early 90s. People from all walks of life are represented in the volunteer pool. It is not uncommon to find retired judges, teachers, firefighters, college students, high school students, lawyers, carpenters, and young children working alongside each other. Notably, the ranks of volunteers swell on Saturdays in late August and September as organized brigades of college students show up to lend a hand with the project.
The Save the Wall project has become much more than a preservation organization’s effort to save a stone wall. This project has become a vehicle for building community and encouraging active engagement in the civic life of a community. On any given Saturday, during the work season, between 12 and 20 volunteers converge on the wall and spend three hours working, socializing, and rebuilding the wall and building community ties. The complexity of this project creates opportunities for everyone in the community.
The end of Season Four (2015) marked the end of Phase One of an eight-year restoration plan. The wall is constructed in three distinct styles: dry stack, double sided capped mortared, and single capped mortared (see photo insert). Phase One focused on the most time-consuming section of the wall to rebuild. This section of wall, running from Main Street to Elm Street, was in the worst condition and being a double sided capped mortared wall, it required that both sides be rebuilt. The remainder of Phase One involved slow but steady progress on the section of wall between Main Street and Elm Street. This section of wall was completely rebuilt by the end of Season Four.
Phase Two of the project will involve two seasons working on the mortared capped single wall running from Main Street towards Mount Morris. The last two seasons will involve the restoration of the dry stacked section of wall running from Elm Street to the top of the hill, ending just shy of Crossett Road.