Russell-Akeley Life

Photos submitted to Times Observer Buildings on the south side of Liberty St., looking from Conewango St. toward Main St., after the second floor had been put on 111 Liberty. The photo was taken sometime after 1915.

Robert Russell, the founder of our town, had a great influence on the layout of Russell’s streets.

In 1843, he commissioned Andrew Ludlow to designate the pattern of streets that still exist today. Moreover, he built more than a dozen houses surrounding what became the downtown business and residential district of Russell.

In the past two editions of Russell – Akeley Life, I have written about the businesses and homes along Main St., as presented during a Historic Lantern Walk in November 2019, by Thom Russell, Vickie Ferrie and Lisa Miller. In this edition, I will continue with the businesses and homes on Liberty St. between Main St. (old Route 62) and Conewango St., site of the present U.S. Post Office.

Let’s begin at the southeast corner of Main and Liberty Sts. with the brick Clark building, described in the November 19, 2019, issue of the Times Observer as a general store and movie theater in the 1930s. Later, it became the home of the Russell Volunteer Fire Department from the early 1940s until 1982, when they moved to their present location. After the Fire Department left the building, it became a cabinet shop for MCM Enterprises. Today, 10-4 Limited occupies the building.

Just east of the Clark Building, at 113 Liberty St., was the old Russell Town Hall. The two-story structure was built about 1907. From 1923 until sometime in the 1930s, Thomas Haines had a cobbler shop on the second floor of the building; the town office was on the first floor. In November 2010, the Pine Grove Township Office was moved to the present location on East St. In 2017, the old building collapsed and was demolished.

Photos submitted to Times Observer Buildings on the south side of Liberty St. looking east from the porch of the Adams Hotel, circa 1910. From right to left are the structures at 113, 111 and 109 Liberty St., the old Russell Union School (107) and Charles and Jennie Clark’s Grocery Store (105).

Next to the old Town Hall, at 111 Liberty St., is a two-story home. Old photographs show that the building originally had only one story. In fact, the structure was built by Robert Russell sometime before 1847. Twenty-six days before Robert’s death in 1847, he and his wife deeded the property to Rensselaer Chapman. Interestingly, the first floor joists are trees with bark still in place. Behind the house, a path led down to Robert’s mills on the island between a mill race and the Conewango Creek. From 1899 to 1922, the structure was the J. Houghwot Russell Barber Shop. Barber Marvin Walker occupied the building from 1926 to 1948. Looking at the structure today, it has two stories. The second story was added sometime after about 1915. Today, the building is a residence.

Next door, moving east, to 109 Liberty St., is another house built by Robert Russell in 1847. The house later was occupied by Hugh Young. Hugh was the son of John and Francis Young, who first appear in the 1870 census data. John Young was a shoemaker. In 1870, Hugh Young was one year old and the eighth child of John and Francis Young. In the 1900 census, Hugh is shown as a laborer.

Moving east to 107 Liberty St., there was a general store from 1884-1935. Built in 1834, the structure was Russell’s first frame school house until it was moved from East and Pine Sts. to Liberty St. in 1883. J. C. Hatton operated the store in the early days and was succeeded by Arthur Young in the 1920s. The “Home Telephone Company” (later the Bell System) occupied the second floor of the building from 1910 – 1937, when the Bell System erected its own building on Liberty St., just north of Main St. Fate of the old school/general store building is unknown (to me), but it is not there today.

The final building on the south side of Liberty Street, just before the Mill Race, was Charles A. and Jennie Clark’s grocery store at 105 Liberty St. The store operated from 1896 until sometime in the 1930s. Its ultimate fate is unknown (to me), but there is no structure there today.

Crossing Liberty St., at its junction with Conewango Ave., is the current United States Post Office, constructed by Gary Mead and dedicated October 29, 1966. The structure replaced the Post Office in the former Lane Hotel at the corner of Main and Liberty Sts. At one time another structure, since demolished, occupied a portion of the land on which the new Post Office was built, but at the present time it is known only that a “Mrs. Jackson” lived there.

Photos submitted to Times Observer The VanOrdsdale/Wiltsie Building on the north side of Liberty St. behind the Adams Hotel.

The land between the Post Office and the next structure is vacant and it is not clear whether anything ever was built there. Moving toward Main St., the next structure is located at 110 Liberty St. It was first deeded to a “Chapman” in 1838. This probably was Renssalaer Chapman, the only adult male Chapman listed in the 1840, 1850, or 1860 census of Russell; Chapman also was the owner of the undeveloped lot east of the 110 Liberty St. property. The house was built for his daughter, Lydia Marsh, who was 17 in the 1860 census. Skipping to the Twentieth Century, the Swanson’s had a gift shop in the house beginning in 1955. In 1983, the Stricklands operated the property under the name “Heritage House”, as both a restaurant and a catering business from 1983 – 1994. It is a private residence today.

The final structure fronting on the north side of the street was 112 Liberty St., the VanOrdsdale / Wiltsie Building, located behind the former Adams Hotel and next to the Chapman property. Beginning in 1878, it was a general store and from 1910-1934 it housed the Russell Post Office. D. J. Larimer opened a restaurant in the building in 1916, which eventually was taken over by John Timmis, who ran it until the early 1930s. Perry Mahaffy, and later Howard Yeagle, operated a meat market in the building. More recently, Pat Ferrie had a grocery store offering billiards. The building no longer stands.

Over the past 200 years, downtown Russell has served its residents well. The question for today is, how can we bring back our downtown for the future?

ROAR Meeting

January 13, 2020

Election of officers was held for the year 2020. The 2019 officers were reelected. They are Linda Farnsworth, president; Katy Walker, secretary; and, Linda Nelson, treasurer.

It was announced that the ROAR Committee’s 501c3 application was approved on December 4, 2019. The committee brainstormed a number of projects that could be undertaken in the Russell downtown area, if additional funds were available. Further discussion and 2020 projects will occur at the February ROAR meeting.

Committees were set up for upcoming ROAR events.

ROAR has taken over responsibility for spring planting of flowers around the Russell community, a task formerly done by the Russell Beautification Committee. Karen Martin will chair this ROAR committee.

Master Gardener, Freda Pyles spoke with the ROAR Committee about finding plots of land in Russell where Master Garden flower plots could be located.

Breakfast with the Easter Bunny was a very successful event in 2019 and will be repeated in 2020. A date will be set at the February ROAR meeting.

May 23 (Memorial Day weekend) was set as the date for Pine Grove Days number three, another highly successful ROAR event in 2019.

Supervisors Report

January 15

As required by state law, the Pine Grove Township Board of Supervisors must hold an annual organization meeting the first Monday in January of each year. This year’s meeting was held on January 6, at which time the board selected its officers for the coming year and made a series of appointments necessary for the administration and operation of the township’s governance.

Key among these appointments was the selection of Carmen Ferranto as chair of the Board of Supervisors, Doug Smith as vice chairperson and Julie Parmeter as secretary-treasurer.

Ken Porter was named roadmaster for the township, and Linda Farnsworth was welcomed back as a member of the Board of Supervisors. A complete list of all actions taken at the organization meeting and the business conducted at the Board of Supervisors meeting, which followed the organization meeting, can be found in the minutes of these meetings. These minutes will be available on the township’s website or at the township office once approved at the February meeting.

The supervisors have begun planning for the major projects to be completed in 2020. Among these are: reconstruction of Pine Street in Russell, reconstruction of lower East Street, repaving of Woodland Drive, seal coating of Egypt Hollow Road, bank restoration at the mouth of Johnny Run, and improvements to the parking lot at Larimer Park.

Other items of interest to township residents are: the storage shed for road salt and township equipment has been completed and is now being used. The replacement of old piping in the Russell municipal water system is about completed. Final clean-up, lawn and driveway restoration and street patching will be done as soon as weather permits. A contract has been approved to replace and expand some of the township’s guide/guardrails. Guardrails in poor condition will be replaced and a few hundred feet added in areas determined to need protection. This work will likely be completed in the next few weeks. One of the township’s plow trucks has been out of service due to failure of a hydraulic pump. The township crew has repaired the pump and the truck should be back in service soon. In the meantime, we have had to rely on a smaller, backup truck to plow outlying roads.

Delinquent water and sewer accounts continue to be a problem for the township municipal authority. Despite repeated efforts to collect on lengthy overdue accounts, few of these individuals have contacted the township to pay or make arrangements to pay on their accounts. This has left the township with little choice but to file for recovery with the district magistrate or, in severe cases, with the local court. If you have an overdue account, the township is more than willing to help setup a reasonable repayment plan for you. Contact the township office at 757-8112 to arrange such a repayment plan. The township does not want to take the severe action of shutting off services to overdue accounts.

The next Board of Supervisors’ meeting will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, at the Pine Grove Town Hall on East Street. Contact the township office if you would like to speak at the meeting. Also, township residents are reminded that minutes of all supervisor meetings are posted on the township website, as soon as they are approved. The website address is pinegrovetownship.org.

Benefit Dinner for the Jamestown Jackals

Basketball Team

January 25, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Russell United Methodist Church Ministry Center. Come and enjoy a great meal of pulled pork sandwiches, mac & cheese, coleslaw, beverage and brownie sundaes. By donation.

At 7 p.m. in the sanctuary, come and listen to Denny Maze and the Misfits.

Pine Grove Lions’ Club Report

The Pine Grove Lions Club distributed over 20 meals on each of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to families in the club’s service area. The club has done this for many years, as well as continuing to provide financial assistance for vision care needs and to families or individuals experiencing unusual hardships. The club extends a sincere thank you to all the individuals, families and businesses that contributed to this year’s successful mail campaign. The money generated from this fundraiser goes directly to helping those in need.

An upcoming fundraising activity for the club will be the annual spaghetti dinner. This event will be held Saturday, Feb. 1, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Russell United Methodist Church at 17 N. Main St. The cost is $10 for adult meals and $5 for children 10 and under. We also will have fabulous homemade desserts provided by both Pine Grove Lioness and the Russell United Methodist Church. Proceeds from this event benefit both the Pine Grove Lions’ Club and the Russell United Methodist Church.


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