June 6, 2012


Viewing history

CNY Living History Center opens Friday


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Susan Landes and Peter Grimm look over a display of Civil War-era currency on Monday at the Central New York Living History Museum. Grimm was a major benefactor to the museum, which holds its grand opening on Friday.

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — After years of planning, the Central New York Living History Center is set to open Friday, said Doreen Bates, the museum’s chief operating officer.
Over the last few weeks, Bates has been crossing off items on a broadsheet checklist in her office with tasks that must be completed before the grand opening, from advertising and promotional materials to the laying out of the exhibits.
“It keeps me sane,” she said of her checklist. “But we’re just about there and ready to go.”
The Central New York Living History Center on Route 11 between Cortland and Homer will hold its grand opening ceremonies at 1 p.m. Friday. The event will be free and open to the public.
Bates said the final exhibits and signs are being put into place.
The museum has been nearly a decade in the making. The Central New York Living History Center board purchased the former A.B. Brown department store property in 2006.
“I think everyone is excited about it,” Bates said. “It’s been a lot of work to this point. There’s been a lot of volunteers here every day, into the late night hours, making sure everything is just right for Friday.”
The center features three main museums: the Brockway Truck Museum, the Tractors of Yesteryear collection of antique farming equipment and the Homeville Museum.
The Homeville Museum section will have items from the estate of Ken Eaton, a Homer resident who collected military and railroad memorabilia nearly all his life. Eaton died in February 2006 at the age of 80 and his children, Charles Eaton and Diana McGee, decided to put his collection on a permanent loan to the museum.
“I think we’re down to the nitty gritty, just finalizing everything, making sure it is ready to go,” Bates said. “I think everyone is excited. It’s been a long time in the works, now the dream is going to be a reality.”
The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
“There’s been a lot of people putting in a lot of hard work to make it happen,” Bates said.
Peter Grimm of Troy, the museum’s largest benefactor, walked through the Homeville collection on Monday and said he was happy to see the project nearing its grand opening.
“To see all these items together is really amazing,” Grimm said. “It’s all coming together.”
Grimm has donated more than $750,000 for the museum since 2006. He said he did not initially plan on giving that much, but that recession stalled the center’s other fundraising efforts.
In 2006, Grimm donated $375,000, which allowed the center’s directors to purchase the property on Route 11.
On Memorial Day, Charles Eaton and McGee helped lay out their father’s collection.
It was their father’s wish that his vast collection of military and railroad memorabilia and local history be kept intact and displayed locally.
She said she had fun unpacking the collection at the museum and remembering different items, particularly the ones from the Civil War era.
“Without this complex I don’t know how we would have made this happen,” McGee said. “We’re so grateful that we were able to do this.”
McGee said her father would travel to estate sales, auctions and scour collector newsletters and magazines looking for pieces to add to his collection.
“That’s what he did,” McGee said. “That was his hobby .That was his enjoyment.”
She said the only thing that made the center’s opening bitersweet is that her father is not alive to see it.
“They have wonderful plans for the complex,” McGee said. “I think it’s going to be even more than dad could have hoped for. I wish he could be here.”


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