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Recipients of historic preservation grants say they help preserve New York's heritage

Posted by Karen DeWitt on

30 historic sites in 21 counties in New York received $239,634 dollars in preservation grant money, and they say it makes a difference in a region where the economy is struggling.

The grants, distributed by the Preservation League of New York State, along with help from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, awarded groups ranging from an antique boat museum to a dance center,  to help with preserving cultural heritage across New York.

Peter Lopez, an Assemblyman from Schoharie who represents a wide swath of upstate New York, says the grants can mean a difference to regions that have suffered economic hardship for decades. He says his district is full of pastoral beauty and historic sites dating from before the American Revolution, but it needs help.

“Much of my region is northern Appalachia,” Lopez said.

He says the grants can also “serve as a rallying point” and help leverage other resources.

Janet Acker is the chair of the board of the Rensselaerville Library, in southwestern Albany County, a village in Lopez’s district.  She says the library, which received $9104 dollars, is housed in two connecting historic buildings, which require quite a bit of upkeep and serve as a community center.

“We have a beautiful, multi-tiered garden in the back,” said Acker. “For people to come to read, to meet with their neighbors, to enjoy programs that we provide.”

She says many come for the high-speed Internet access, which is not readily available in the rural area.

 “It’s one of the really vital resources,” Acker said.

Other grant recipients include historical societies and sites. Among them, the William Seward House in Auburn. It received $10,000 dollars to expand its exhibit space into a barn on the property.  

Mitch Maniccia, facilities manager,  started as an intern and was hooked when he learned more about one of the most prominent New Yorkers of the 19th century. Seward was a former governor of New York before the age of 40, as well as a US Senator. He was President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State and was also severely injured by a would-be assassin and co-conspirator on the same day that Lincoln was shot.

“I was blown away by the amazing history,” said Maniccia. “And I think everyone who visits goes through that same transformation and they realize just how special the place is.”

Seward stayed on as Secretary of State under President Andrew Johnson, where he negotiated the purchase of what is now the state of Alaska. This year is the 150th anniversary of the event.

Maniccia says Auburn’s economy is improving, aided by another historic site in the town, the Harriet Tubman Home, which became a national historical park in January.

Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo announced on Friday that he’s giving $10 million dollars to the City of Auburn for a new Equal Rights Heritage Center, which he said will highlight the efforts of New York’s “equal rights pioneers”.

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