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Mt. Morris
New Family Theater project gains momentum

School building project underway

Jubilee grocery store lost

Veteran's Park takes shape

By A Dam Site with Tony D'Imperio


 

New Family Theater project gains momentum

Although the group formed in October, 1999, 2000 was the year the Mt. Morris Theater Advocates established momentum for the programs which will someday hopefully result in the reopening of the New Family Theater. The group envisions the theater hosting not only movies, but also musical performances and other live entertainment.

The deteriorated building had been closed since the early 1980s and owned by the Village of Mt. Morris since 1994. There were always vague ideas for restoration but, until the Advocates were established, the village was not very successful in securing contributions or interest for the restoration. The Advocates have undertaken promotional shows fours times yearly at United Church, as fundraisers and consciousness raisers for the theater project. The Advocates have also solicited theater pledges and donations from a number of local and outside businesses and individuals.

Currently the group is tabulating a survey of community interest in their project, conducted with assistance of SUNY Geneseo College of Business intern Kelly Marrone.

During 2000 Theater Advocates were twice given votes of confidence by the Village Board of Trustees, which fully endorses the group's efforts.

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School building project underway

Following the May 18, 1999 approval by district voters, Mt. Morris Central School commenced a major $25.2 million building project with a June 25, 2000 groundbreaking. Work is expected to continue until January of 2002 under the direction of general contractor Kirchner Construction.

When the project is complete, the school will have a new gymnasium (separate from, but connected to, the existing school complex by a skyway), eight new classrooms for math, English, social studies and foreign language, two new computer labs, a long distance learning lab and three new rooms which will accommodate special BOCES classes. Existing facilities will be upgraded with a library modernization, cafeteria expansion and separation, expanded and improved music area, an all weather track, new soccer fields, expanded pool area with bleachers, security improvements, electrical enhancements, roof replacement, a new heating plant, auditorium air conditioning and new windows. The overall parking area will be doubled, with much of the new parking near the sports facilities.

The new school building which will emerge from the project will be a more logically configured entity, concentrating administrative functions at a single entry area and having a natural separation of high school and elementary functions.

Construction activities have been coordinated to minimize impact upon 2000-2001 school activities. The new parking area was completely in place by September, while chain link fencing separates construction areas from active school areas. Bus and vehicular traffic have been able to utilize the Bonadonna access without interference from construction vehicles, which are utilizing the School Street access.

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Jubilee grocery store lost

Mt. Morris lost its only large grocery store in 2000 when Jubilee on Route 408 shut down. In February. Fleming Corporation announced it was looking for a buyer for the store because the company was henceforth going to involve itself in only the wholesale part of the grocery business.

When no buyer could be enticed, a June 9 store closing date was posted.

The plaza owners subsequently appeared before the Mt. Morris Village Board, expressing their willingness to cooperate with any program or policy which would encourage a new grocery store owner to occupy the building. Unfortunately, the building has remained vacant for the balance of the year, with no further rumors of a prospective tenant.

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Veteran's Park takes shape

2000 was the year ex-Marine Roger Yencer's vision for a Mt. Morris Veterans Memorial Park took form.

In the autumn of 1999, Yencer had started imagining the memorial occupying the strip of idle land alongside Main Street at the south end of the village. Before the snow flew, he had already made arrangments to purchase the parcel from Carol Monteleone and had set to work with his bulldozer.

The park would collect the community veteran's memorials from their widely scattered locations and bring them all—the honor roll at Town Hall, the granite memorial stone at the library, Roger's own Vietnam memorial at Erie Canal Park—to this one place. And there would more. Illuminated walkways, flags, podiums and a five point star all took shape in Yencer's mind, sharing the theme of the five branches of the U.S. military and the five great conflicts of the 20th century.

As the idea for the park was promulgated, individuals and groups got involved and contributed what they were able. RG&E and New York State arranged for a crucial strip of Greenway land to be incorporated into the park; the state Office of Parks & Recreation leant landscape architect Andrew Giarrizzo to formalize the walkway and monument designs; DOT provided a drainage culvert and engineering advice; the Village of Mt. Morris provided DPW crew assistance and subsequently agreed to accept ownership of the park; Myron Brady provided top soil and Red Kennedy provided the truck to bring the soil to the park; Ken's Tree Service moved the Vietnam Memorial to its new location; neighbors Bea Sank and Cliff Vanderveer made sure the new grass was watered; the VFW and Legion gave permission to move their memorials—and offered their enthusiastic support; Roger's own construction crew, including sons Roger and Robert, put forth their best efforts to make sure that the masonry work at the park was exceptional, and Roger and his sons created the five point star centerpiece—Yencer dipping into his own pocket for the $2,000 bronze letters.

At Thanksgiving time Mrs. George Riordan, mother of ‘Doc' Riordan, who is one of the four Marines named in Yencer's Vietnam memorial, drove from New Hampshire to pay a quiet visit to the new park.

Meanwhile, a memorial brick campaign is underway, in which supporters can assist with park expenses and at the same time memorialize a family member or friend who served in the military.

Everything is not yet in place at the new park—but will be by June, 2001, when there will be a dedication ceremony, Yencer predicts, which will be unprecedented in its magnitude and meaning.

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By A Dam Site with Tony D'Imperio

Reflections 2000

Mount Morris: A Rich Past, A Bright Future. This newly adopted motto exists alongside one created many years ago for obvious reasons—Mount Morris: The Best Town by a Dam Site.

Mottoes are designed to inspire and give some clue of what a community is all about. I believe Mount Morris has met the test.

Many Mount Morris residents were rich in the monetary sense during the first hundred years, beginning with incorporation of the village in 1794. Shortly after the Revolutionary War, in the early days of the village, most of the "new" people were British—integrating with the Seneca Native People. Stands to reason—many in England still had strong ties to the colonies, and many naturally assumed government leadership positions in our fledgling village. New people became wealthy with land purchases and subsequent sales. Witness the stately and beautiful homes in the South Main Street, State and Eagle Streets, and Murray Street Historic Districts; and in the Commercial Downtown Historic District, with buildings exhibiting a range of mid-to-late 19th and early 20th century architectural styles including Commercial Vernacular, Italianate, Neo-Classical, and Colonial Revival.

Predominantly a rural agrarian community during the early 19th century, Mount Morris grew rapidly during the middle of the century as a stopping off point along the now defunct Genesee Valley Canal. A number of grand hotels (some are now residences) flourished during this time.

Then, the poor but hard working Irish, who emigrated to our village in large numbers during the 1840s to escape the potato famine in their home country, attained positions of power, influence and economic comfort in Mount Morris over the following fifty years.

Southern Europeans dominated the immigration wave during the latter part of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th. Many poor but hard working Italians from Sicily and Southern Italy settled in Mount Morris, taking less skilled jobs—like the immigrants before them—in the booming railroad industry and vegetable canning companies. Those with an inclination toward entrepreneurship—again, like those earlier émigrés—opened businesses in furniture, clothing, and grocery with the same eye toward more economic power.

What a history to treasure in Mount Morris! A rich past—both in dollars and in the merger of European cultural traditions into a "Melting Pot."

And, at the end of the year 2000, we still have a lot of which to be proud! The Mills Mansion, home of our Historical Society, sponsors educational visits for students in area schools and hosts events that attract people from surrounding towns—a great showcase for Mount Morris. Our school system, now in the process of expanding its facilities in a building program to keep up with the demands of stricter state standards, is a progressive one. Our veterans have come together this year to create a beautiful, new Veterans Park. The New Family Theatre Advocates are now into their second year of planning, with enthusiastic determination, to rehabilitate and revive the Art Deco structure as a multi-use performing arts center. The property owners in the Downtown Business District who have made improvements in their buildings—restoring them to historic beauty with financial assistance from the Facade Program—should hold their heads high. Our Police Department, for balancing their vigilance in traffic enforcement and arrests for serious crimes with efforts in more developmental areas such as youth programs and officer training, deserves recognition. A Village of Mount Morris Web Site is up and running, with the potential for expansion in many areas.

At the end of the year 2000, we have a bright future! But we still have a ways to go right now in some areas. The streets and sidewalks in the Downtown Business District need to be on a regular cleaning, vacuuming and washing schedule. We need to see restoration of and improvements in the remaining storefronts of the Downtown Business District that are still eligible for assistance from the Facade Program. We need a grocery store replacement for Jubilee. We need to capitalize on our location and market our community as a center for tourism. We need a village board that projects a vision for our future.

Despite our challenges and differences, there is something unique about a small village—the feeling of togetherness, of belonging and the warmth of most people.

Happy New Year!

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