September 13, 2008


Marathon renovating building for historical society

Town raising money, seeking grant to convert a former church into a museum


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer  
Members of the Marathon Historical Society David Light, left, and Cleon Bush stand inside the 1861 Building which is under renovation. Once restored, the building will be a museum for the Marathon Historical Society.

Staff Reporter

MARATHON — The town’s historical society wanted to preserve pieces of the area’s past but never had a place to house its collection of antiques.
To solve this problem, the Marathon Historical Society has begun renovating a building that was constructed in 1861 and served as _a church, post office and beauty parlor. It was on Main Street before the town moved it to its current location near the Marathon Civic Center.
“A lot of people have memories from these buildings,” said David Light, a former village mayor who oversees the historical sites for the Historical Society. “Once people get to a certain age, they start wondering about their roots, and we wanted to have something here for them.”
So far, the organization has raised $19,800 through selling food at local events such as the Central New York Maple Festival and donations from former Marathon residents.
“There’s a lot of interest in our local history, and people pay their dues to the Historical Society from all over,” Light said. “We put out a newsletter every three months, and there’s lots of people who look forward to reading it.”
Before the museum can open, the town needs to run power lines to the building, wallboard needs to be installed, and the steel roof needs to be patched, said Cleon Bush, who organizes the renovation project.
Light and Bush said the renovation’s completion depends on the project’s funding, and Light estimated the Historical Society needed to raise another $50,000.
The organization plans to apply for a $15,000 grant through state Sen. Jim Seward’s office, but Light said he was not sure about the details or when the application would be submitted.
In the past four years, nine Marathon volunteers have installed insulation and electrical wiring in the building, along with making the windows smaller, and this year alone, the volunteers have clocked about 170 hours working on the renovation, Bush said.
During the construction, workers removed a circular brown piece from the ceiling, and once dirt was removed, a circle of red, white and blue stripes became visible, along with a picture in the middle of two American flags with crossing poles.
Light and Bush said they were not sure about the picture’s meaning, and after counting the flag’s stars, they figured it originated around 1889 when Montana became a state.
Now, the picture sits in a frame inside the 1861 building, and in about three years, the Historical Society hopes to move in the other dozens of antique items donated by former Marathon residents.
The items range from a wooden footrest used by Marathon Independent publisher Walter Grunfeld to dishes from the Three Bear Inn.


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