June 2, 2012
DeRuyter creates civic center
$2.5 million project refurbishes former school building
DeRUYTER — The former school building at the corner of Utica and Seminary streets stood in terrible shape for many years but now has a new life as the Genevieve Staley Civic Center, thanks to a family’s financial gifts.
The brick building houses a community food pantry and clothes room on the ground or basement floor, the town of DeRuyter offices and courtroom on the first floor and the DeRuyter Free Library on the second floor.
The four-year, $2.5 million renovation project was funded mostly by George Staley, a wealthy Lincklaen Center resident who went to high school at the former school with his wife, Genevieve.
A dedication ceremony is planned for Sept. 8.
Town officials are not sure exactly how much the family contributed since the couple’s son, Claude, did much of the work through his Rye-based restoration company.
Town Supervisor Dan Degear said the family donated at least 60 percent or $1.5 million in funds and labor.
“We’d have workers show up for three days at a time, and we’d find new carpets in the library,” Degear said. “So we know the family gave at least 60 percent of the total, but it is probably more.”
George Staley founded CAMCO, an aviation repair company, and was a major donor to the Northeast Classic Car Museum in Norwich. He died in April 2011 at age 92. His wife predeceased him.
The building was constructed as a high school in 1907-08, according to town history. One-room schoolhouses served as elementary schools. It became the elementary school when DeRuyter High School was built in the 1930s, then stopped serving as a school in 1952, when all students moved to the expanded high school building.
The town offices and library have been located at the 1908 building for years but in different spots within it than now, while other sections of the building remained dilapidated and not fit for use. The total room space is about 10,000 square feet.
“About 35 percent to 40 percent was usable,” Degear said. “The basement felt like a dungeon. Now this building is 100 percent. When we started, the engineers we brought in said they were amazed how sturdy this was.”
The rest of the funding came from grants, which was 25 percent, and 5.5 percent from library funds, 4.5 percent from town money and 5 percent fundraising efforts.
Degear said town residents were surveyed in 2005 about the project, which at the time was estimated to cost $750,000 to $1 million. The survey showed 55 percent approved of paying for 25 percent of the project and 15 percent of respondents approved of paying for 50 percent, while 8 percent of the residents wanted no town funds to be used.
The town has spent about $114,000 of its money so far, from a reserve set up for that purpose.
Degear said that money covered architectural services, paving the parking lot, landscaping and the basement flooring.
A great deal of woodwork was done by Sherburne-based Heartland Forest Products.
The town moved its offices into the first floor last summer and the library took over its new space in April, Degear said.
The two upper floors have been refurbished with cherry doors and paneling made to match the old doors, new flooring, a new staircase and, in the library’s case, a new archway. The large windows cast more light into the rooms.
The courtroom has a bench wide enough for two judges, with a portrait of Admiral Michiel Adriaenszoon DeRuyter — namesake for the town and village, after its name was originally Tromptown — looking down.
A staircase and elevator were added on the west side, on what was the building’s outside.
Maryann Marr, president of the library’s board of directors, showed off the large children’s room and the local history room.
Out front, on Utica Street, two brick mounts carry the bell that rang in the village’s Union Hall, which burned in December 1946. The bell was found in storage in 1984.
Images and a timeline for the renovation project can be viewed on the town’s website at http://www.deruyternygov.us.
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