The LFHS had a very successful year in 2022. The Society’s membership base and finances are solid and our community continues to expand.
“Little Falls is a picturesque, historic city, the most beautifully situated of any town on the New York to Buffalo route.”
Nelson Green from his 1924 OLD MOHAWK TURNPIKE BOOK
The Little Falls Historical Society had a successful year in 2023 while returning to a near full-time Old Bank Building Museum schedule. The Society’s finances and membership base are strong, we continue collaboration with other community organizations on various projects, and our virtual footprint keeps expanding. The Historical Society is a fortunate 501(c)(3) not-for-profit community organization.
Board of directors and officer elections took place at our October 4th meeting in Moreland Park pavilion. Longtime board director and vice-president Scott Kinville resigned from both positions and was appointed building security officer. Laura Laubenthal was elected to fill Scott’s board seat, and longtime director Missy Smith was elected vice-president. All three of these individuals are quite qualified for their new positions.Additionally, Laura represents a promising step towards helping the Historical Society to “get younger” as we move forward. Fortunately, the rest of our officers and directors agreed to continue serving and all were re-elected.
Membership in the Society was solid in 2023. Over 92 % of our individual members renewed their memberships and 88% of our thirty-five corporate sponsors renewed memberships.
In 2023, we added thirty-nine individual members and five corporate members: Ann Street Deli, Jill Rae Signs, Joe Macri Realty, Little Falls Lumber, and Mohawk Valley Funerals & Cremations. Our membership dues have not changed in twenty years. The $10 regular membership is a great bargain, although most take family ($15), sustaining ($25), or patron ($50) memberships.
We now have ninety-two members from Little Falls, seventy from other locations in New York State, and one-hundred out-of-state members. The thirty-eight states represented are AL, AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MN, MO, NC, ND, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, TN, TX, WI, WY, VA, VT, and WA. We also have members in Canada, Germany, and New Zealand. Impressive for a small-town historical society in a city of 4,550 people.
Thank you for your continued support. Your enthusiasm and financial backing are the driving forces allowing us to capture Little Falls’ rich history for both current and future generations.
- Adirondack Bank
- Ann Street Deli
- Bassett Health Care Network – Little Falls Hospital
- Beardslee Castle
- Burrows Foundation
- Canal Side Inn
- Chapman-Moser Funeral Home
- The Creative Outpost, Inc.
- David Chlus: Morgan Stanley
- Dick’s Wheel Shop
- Empire Fibreglass Products
- Enea Family Funeral Homes
- Floor and Furniture Restoration
- Mohawk Valley Funerals and Cremations
- George Lumber and Building Materials, Inc.
- H. & H. Accounting
- Hummel’s Office Plus
- Inn at Stone Mill
- Jill Rae Signs
- Joe Macri Realty
- Kress Physical Therapy
- Law Offices of George F. Aney
- Little Falls Diamond Company
- Little Falls Lumber
- Little Falls Veterinary Clinic
- Little Falls Youth & Family Center
- Mike Evans Racing
- Mohawk Valley Funerals and Cremations
- One Leaf Genealogy
- Paca Gardens
- Pohlig’s Enterprises
- Price Chopper
- RD’s Mountain View Trucking
- Read Accounting / H&R Block
- Rodeway Inn
- Ruggiero’s Trattoria
- Salisbury Historical Society
- Stewart’s Shops
- Twin Rivers Paper Company
- Van Meter & Van Meter
- White Rose Bakery
- Mohawk Valley Funerals and Cremations
Dues and donations accounted for 90% of Historical Society 2023 income. Our major expenses were for website design and management, utilities and museum maintenance, security, and insurance. The goodness and generosity of our membership generated a revenue surplus which will be applied to future projects.
The Historical Society is financially sound, our scholarship fund totals over $4000, and all anticipated 2024 expenses will be manageable.
OLD BANK BUILDING MUSEUM
Museum attendance increased significantly in 2023 with the return to a more normal Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and alternate Saturdays schedule. Museum docents hosted approximately five hundred visitors from twenty-six states, Canada, and Australia. As usual, museum attendance spiked during Canal Days Celebration, Christmas in Little Falls, and Cheese Festival community celebrations. During the winter months, the museum is open by appointment.
2023 WRITING SERIES DEDICATED TO EDWARD J. COONEY
The Historical Society annual writing series began in 2010. To date, over one hundred and forty articles have been written and published. Two published books, TOWARDS OUR BICENTENNIAL (2014) and BEYOND OUR BICENTENNIAL (2022), contain all these articles, except those published in 2022 and 2023. Our editorial staff is always open to new authors and article ideas. If you wish to write an article, contact our editorial staff. Articles are published on our website and Facebook, on Mohawk Valley Today, on Mohawk Valley Museums, and in My Little Falls. Our 2024 writing series will be dedicated to former city historian Edwin Vogt.
- LITTLE FALLS PHILANTHROPY by Louis Baum
- 2023 WRITING SERIES DEDICATED TO EDWARD COONEY by Michael Cooney
- EAGLE DOWN by John Frazier
- THE UNDERGROUND RR IN AND AROUND LITTLE FALLS by Cynthia Holick Foley
- LITTLE FALLS PATRIOTS DAY PAST AND PRESENT by Jeffrey Gressler
- MAIN STREET LITTLE FALLS, N.Y. CIRCA 1955-1965 by Allen Kazmerski
- AN ELEPHANT NAMED BIMBO AND A FUNERAL by Missy and Mike Smith
- MY FIRST AND LAST TRAIN RIDES by Ann Schuyler
- “BELLCAMP” THE MAGICIAN by Ann Schuyler
- THE MYSTERY OF THE BOWIE KNIFE by Ann Schuyler
- LOCAL AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY REFLECTED STATE AND NATIONAL EVENTS Collaborative
Both TOWARDS OUR BICENTENNIAL ($17) and BEYOND OUR BICENTENNIAL ($35) are available for sale through our website and at the Museum. Add $5.00 for postage costs if mailed out.
TWO SCHOLARSHIPS AWARDED
In 2023, the History Society proudly awarded two $500 scholarships to graduating Little Falls High School students. One scholarship was awarded to Brayton Langdon who will major in history or a related field in college and our Charles P. Colby scholarship was awarded to Suzanne Begley for overcoming challenges to achieve academic success. This second scholarship was awarded through the generosity of an anonymous donor / Society member. Our board recently decided to increase both scholarships to $750 in 2024.
We have established a separate financial account for scholarship funds, additional donations to this account for future scholarships are welcomed.
SIGNAGE AND HISTORIC MARKERS
The Society partnered with several other organizations to design, purchase, and put in place a historic marker and three other historic signs in 2023.
The signage near the guard gate for the 1795 Western Inland Navigation Lock Canal was badly deteriorated until we partnered with both the Pomeroy Foundation and Little Falls Rotary to significantly upgrade this important historic site. The former provided funding for the manufacture of a beautiful New York State Waterways light blue and black historic marker, while Rotary provided part of the funding for the replacement of the two guard gate-related signs located at this site near the bridge to Hansen Island. An anonymous Society member donated the funding for the other sign in the memory of former Little Falls High School history teacher Ralph Van Horn. Various Society members coordinated their efforts to develop the verbiage and graphics for the marker and signs. City of Little Falls DPW workers provided essential assistance for the placement of the historic marker. Thank you.
The Society also partnered with the Cheese Festival board of directors to finance the replacement of the Cheese Market street-side sign located directly above the Old Bank Building Museum on South Ann Street. Several years ago, the Society orchestrated the replacement of the two other Cheese Market signs on South Ann Streetbetween Albany Street and Route 5.
The Society also donated a copy of an original mural for display in the Rotary Park Marina building. This Society-designed, beautiful mural uses a number of old Little Falls postcard images to capture four categories of community history – Parks and Nature, Waterways and Bridges, Buildings and Streets, and Business and Industry.
Bob Critser of DSP Images in Herkimer produced the mural and signs described above.
LITTLE FREE LIBRARY
Many Society members have likely noticed the beautiful addition to the portico on the front of the Museum. The small wooden structure was designed, built, and installed by Missy and Mike Smith resembling the architectural style of our Main Street buildings. We have developed an inventory of books for both young and old alike, and any number of books have been taken. The Little Free Library was painted bright green to match the three wooden museum signs. The Little Free Library was moved inside the museum for the winter.
2023 PATRIOTS DAY AT YELLOW CHURCH CEMETERY
The Society partnered with the Manheim Lutheran Church Association for the May 20 Patriots Day observance in the historic Yellow Church Cemetery where as many as fifty Revolutionary War veterans are interred. Short addresses were delivered by Sarah Israel, Nancy Cioch, Louis Baum, Pat Stock, Michelle Baum, Pat Frezza-Gressler, and Jeffrey Gressler. The DAR laid a commemorative wreath, Bob Schmelcher provided Colonial Era musical accompaniment, and Dr. Oscar Stivala closed out the program by playing “Taps.” This event was wellattended on this picture-perfect, sun-filled day.
SUNY ONEONTA COOPERSTOWN MUSEUM STUDIES GRADUATE PROGRAM
Year four of this collaborative partnership resulted in a bumper crop of eleven additions to the Society’s narrated driving tour of key local historic sites. Our combined work also produced the virtual version of the historic entry to Little Falls that Society members have long worked on.
These carefully narrated historic tours and other Society tours can all be accessed from the landing page interactive map on our website.
Year five of this collaboration will likely produce a Monopoly-like board game entitled Little Fallsopoly, featuring Little Falls streets and historic buildings and sites.
Since 2019, the Society has worked directly with SUNY Oneonta / Cooperstown professor Dr. Erik Stenglerand at least twenty-five of his students. Most of these newly minted graduate degree students have gone onto meaningful museum-related professional employment nationwide. They all should remember both Little Falls itself and the Historical Society quite fondly. Our newest board director Laura Laubenthal is herself a 2013graduate of this same master’s degree program.
CHURCH STREET CEMETERY AFRICAN AMERICAN BURIAL GROUNDS
As most of you are aware, the Historical Society has been an integral part of efforts to better recognize the old “Colored Burial Ground” section of Church Street Cemetery. In 2015, a monument was put in place, and in 2023, we worked with the city to put four granite cornerstone markers in place to more permanently establish the boundaries of this section. Society member Dan Enea helped with the acquisition of these markers, each engraved with a broken chain, signifying release from slavery.
The Historical Society once again hosted a walking tour of a number of significant gravesites in Church Street Cemetery during the 2023 Canal Days Celebration. The tour began at the African American burial ground monument highlighting five graves in that section before moving onto the balance of the cemetery tour. The event was well attended, despite inclement weather.
VINTAGE BASE BALL
For the past three years, the Historical Society has helped sponsor the vintage base ball team the Little Falls Alerts. In 2023, the Little Falls Alerts played four vintage base ball games, two in Meredith, N.Y. at the Dairy Festival, and two during Canal Days Celebration in Little Falls. Fourteen different players represented the Alerts. All four games were against a veteran team, the Delhi Polecats. Unfortunately, all four games resulted in Alerts losses. The Canal Days Celebration games were heartbreakers, as the Alerts were on the verge of their first wins. In each of these games the Alerts held the lead as the Polecats took their final at bat. But the gods of base ball prevailed, and the Delhi batsmen won each game by one run.
A modest schedule of games is expected for 2024, with a potential set of games to be played at Grant’s Cottage in Wilton, N.Y. The Alerts invite newcomers, male or female, to join the team.
The Historical Society is most fortunate to have a state-of-the-art website thanks to Ginny Rogers and a great Facebook and Instagram presence thanks to Missy Smith. Year-end data collection from this electronic media activity is quite revealing.
During 2023, our website was visited 395,443 times, our Facebook page had 377,412 visits, and our Instagrampage was visited 17,447 times. The Historical Society’s virtual footprint continues to resonate.
In collaboration, the Little Falls Historical Society, Mohawk Valley Today and Mohawk Valley Museums continue to work together to share local history. Mohawk Valley Today* and Mohawk Valley Museums** help other organizations in the region get the word out about the history, updates, and events that serve local communities and residents. Mohawk Valley Today serves the six Mohawk Valley counties and continues its commitment to offer front-page status for all news releases and writing series pieces that serve to educate and inform residents and friends of the Mohawk Valley.
The Historical Society is fortunate to have directors, officers, and other members who are dedicated and skilled researchers. The Society receives many research requests on topics including family genealogy, the names and locations of former City businesses and industries, the history of individual homes and historic buildings, and other areas of inquiry. Some of these requests get handled expediently, but others require hours of research effort.
The research committee has developed a professional, well-organized approach to serving these research requests, including comprehensive electronic and physical recordkeeping. The research committee serviced no fewer than sixty research requests in 2023.
PLANNED FOR 2024
As referred to previously, the Historical Society website already contains a virtual historic entry into Little Falls.The purpose of this historic entry is to route more incoming west-bound traffic onto and along East Main Street to drive past some of the City’s most important historic buildings – Benton Hall Academy, St. Mary’s Church, the Richard Ray Ward house, the Little Falls Public Library, the Loomis Burrell mansion, City Hall, and then onto the Old Bank Building Museum itself.
The next phase of this project is to put in place the physical signage. The Society is at present working with city government and DSP Images to create this signage which hopefully will be put in place in 2024. The City of Little Falls Board of Public Works and DPW, along with City Engineer and Society member Chet Szymanski,have provided invaluable service on this historic entry and other important projects.
Unfortunately, 2023 saw the passing of a number of Historical Society members. It is with sadness that we note the passing of Eleanor Buckley, Harold Cheney Jr., Ellen Sterziner Henry, Jane Bugaj Olesek, Joseph Vespasiano Sr., and Arthur Withington. Apologies if we left anyone off this list of departed members.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Louis Baum – past president
Jeffrey Gressler – President
Missy Smith – vice president
Anita Dulak – Secretary
David Krutz – Treasurer
Louis Baum and Pat Frezza-Gressler
THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR MEMBERS FOR YOUR STRONG SHOW OF SUPPORT IN 2023!
Please continue to support our organization in 2024.
Respectfully submitted, The Directors and Officers of the Little Falls Historical Society
“If you don’t know history, it is as if you were born yesterday. If you were born yesterday, then any leader can tell you anything.” ~ Howard Zinn ~
Previous Annual Reports
Top left: New Historic Marker.
Top right: Closeup of Historical Society Image on Historic Marker.
Middle right; Hansen’s Renett Sign on Loan from David Cassulo and Neil Rosenbaum.
Bottom left: Louis Baum Researching for “This Day in History”.
Bottom right: Old Bank Museum Historical Register Sign.
Top left: “Artist with Mask” Dr. Oscar Stivala*.
Top right: New Museum Sign in Front Museum Window.
Left middle: “Respect” painting by Joanne Morotti*.
Bottom row: July Board of Directors Meeting at Moreland Park.
*COVID-related art on display in museum front windows.
Top row: SUNY Oneonta Cooperstown Graduate Students with Historical Society Volunteers.
Middle row: Society Member Dick Gloo (Dick’s Wheel Shop)with Restored 1897 H.P. Snyder Bicycle, Closeup of 1897 Bicycle Insignia, October Board of Directors Meeting at WCA.
Bottom row: Dr. Erik Stengler with SUNY Oneonta Cooperstown Students at Route 167 Overlook.