BROCTON – The old adage “everything old is new again” would certainly sum up the weekend’s biggest news in the village of Brocton.
In just a few hours, skilled ironworkers from Buffalo Iron Corporation reassembled Brocton’s signature landmark – the 100-year-old four-corner arch at the center of town. Barely stopping to rest, company vice president Patrick Hanley and his workers scaled their scissor lift and made the work look effortless Sunday. Many of the spectators were donors to the project’s matching fund quota, and included D.J. Hixson Abram, a Brocton son and spirited fundraiser for the arch who trekked 275 miles from Harrisburg, Pa., to the center of the arch. Hixson Abram and others watched from below as the four and a half hour job progressed.
Many gathered on the front steps of surrounding businesses like the St. Stephen Hotel, Wood’s Repair Shop, The Bread Box, Cave’s Deli and Arch Sports Cards & Memorabilia to see their town’s landmark stand back up. While gusty winds neared 15 miles per hour, few clouds filled the sky allowing for a perfect spring day to bless the arch’s return.
Brocton’s Mayor Dave Hazelton noted the wind was a concern for the airborne crews, but “it was obviously something they felt they could deal with as long as there were no gusts above 50 miles per hour.”
The mayor and other leaders from Brocton and Portland spent the day thanking the countless donors who came out to watch the progress in between snapping photos for the historic happening.
“I’m just so glad to see them come back up,” the mayor said.
“This was truly a community event where everybody came together to refurbish Brocton’s arch and allowed it to be put back up. Now we can look forward to having it lit, which should happen before July and having it rededicated.”
The Town of Portland will celebrate its 200th birthday officially as of Saturday, when the Bicentennial Celebration will officially kick off with a special town dinner to be held at the Brocton Legion. Many at Sunday’s event discussed what this day 100 years ago may have looked like as the arch went up in commemoration of the Town of Portland’s first 100 years.
“I’m sure there were in fact a number of people gathered around, just like there are today, but it’s funny to think what the actual scaffolding and technology would’ve consisted of,” added the mayor.
The project was made possible not only by the award of a sizeable NYS Historic Preservation grant, but through the efforts of CHRIC, which facilitated the grant for the village; the engineers and contractors who put modern craft to a historically aged structure; the decision making and planning of the entire village board and Village Clerk Karen Ardillo; $25,000 of inkind services put forward by village streets and electric workers; countless donors (who were still giving to the project as late as Friday) who surpassed the $25,000 they needed to raise bringing the total to over $36,000; and strong arms of support from individuals and organizations like Hixson Abram; Martha Smith (organizer for Support for the Arch); and the Fredonia Beaver Club.
“To see the outpouring of the community of Brocton has been just wonderful,” said Debra Grien, Finance Director for CHRIC.
“This is so exciting how this came together so quickly. It’s just great.”
Grien was on hand to watch as each upper arm of the arch, the center stabilizing plate and the halo were riveted back into place.
“When CHRIC first started, our focus was on rehabbing houses, now we’ve shifted focus to community projects such as these. The Arch project is truly about community redevelopment. We often find that projects like this one in Brocton, cause people to really jump on board as so many have for the arch. It has been great to work with Karen, both of the mayors and the board and everyone at Village Hall.”
Ardillo, who watched from East Main Street with her family, could hardly take her eyes away from the work. But as Brocton resident Ferris Woleben passed by, she extended her hand to him and thanked him for his recent donation to the project.
“I just want to thank you on behalf of the village for your donation, and let you know how grateful we are and that this day is happening because of you. You helped make this possible.”
Woleben smiled and added “I’m just glad to see them going back up.”
“This is a day we’ve been waiting a long time for. And it’s great to see it happen.”
Ardillo and Streets Supervisor Tom Allen were both asked if they ever imagined they would be part of something so special in their years of service to the village.
“I never imagined it,” Ardillo said.
“On windy days, we used to sit in our office and watch it sway with the wind. It’s good to know that it will be here, strong for another 100 years.”
Allen, who worked all weekend with a watchful eye over everything from traffic control to all ground work never thought he would see this day in his 40-year career with the village.
“I never imagined I’d be doing this. I always figured they would be here forever.”
Buffalo Iron Corporation crews had a long night ahead of them even after the last bolt was secured into the center plate of the arch. At least one coat of paint had to be applied before nightfall and a drop in temperature, with the rest remaining to be applied over the next two days.
Once LED lights are ready, lineman for the village Joe Majkowski will step up to the plate to officially relight the arch and hang the original “Brocton” sign from the arch’s halo. Many agreed that will truly bring the refurbishment and restoration of the arch full circle.
The Portland Bicentennial Committee, chaired by Dave Travis, will begin planning the rededication portion of the project as their celebration gets under way next week. Funds allowed for a brick monument to be placed downtown where an official time capsule will be enshrined, sealing the history of the arch’s last 100 years literally into the heart of Brocton. All funds raised above the $25,000 mark will be strictly dedicated to the care and maintenance of the arch.