Changing Of The Guards

Preservation Group Takes Ownership Of Civil War Memorial

Members of Citizens Advocating Memorial Preservation (CAMP) are the new owners of the Cattaraugus County Civil War Memorial and Historic Building in Little Valley. The sale was finalized Oct. 4. Shown is Tom Stetz, CAMP president, signing the deed at the Cattaraugus County Clerk’s Office. The preservation group has held Memorial Day ceremonies at the Civil War Memorial for the past two years. Submitted photo

LITTLE VALLEY — It’s official. Citizen’s Advocating Memorial Preservation Inc. is the new owner of the Cattaraugus County Civil War Memorial and Historic Building.

Ownership took place Oct. 4 after Tom Stetz, C.A.M.P. president, signed the papers with the county and registered the sale in the County Clerk’s Office. Then, the deed for the building was transferred over to the CAMP organization. To finalize the sale, Stetz wrote a check for the remaining balance of the group’s $1,079 winning-bid from July 26, which was also the only bid.

Stetz was accompanied by CAMP members John Scarano, of Conewango, and Nancy Barger, of Lakewood, who both have family members who fought in the Civil War. CAMP attorney Evan Bussiere of Bona Schoeneck & King in Buffalo, was also present.

According to Scarano, as soon as the transfer was approved, they met with Cattaraugus County Administrator Jack Searles who brought a release for Stetz to sign, shook his hand and gave him the keys to the Civil War Memorial that once housed the County Museum, and the adjoining former Board of Elections building.

“As soon as the building was recorded and we received the keys, we immediately went across the street to the memorial and inspected both buildings,” he said. “As we walked into the building, Attorney Evan Bussiere said he was very pleased with the condition of the building. (Bussiere) has worked on many preservation projects in the Buffalo area and said he has seen far worse than this, which was very encouraging.”

Scarano said water infiltration has caused the main damage to the interior walls and the plaster has come down. He said the beautiful tile floor with octagon-shaped inlays seems to be intact.

After viewing the buildings, CAMP’s board of directors met that evening at the Allegany Area Historical Association, in Allegany, to discuss long-range planning. Scarano said the agenda included fundraising and grants but, more importantly, the board discussed their immediate plan of action – identifying the first steps and how to accomplish them.

“This changes everything,” Scarano said. “Now, we’ll be able to come up with a really good project plan, which will be how and in what stages or phases we will move forward to restore the building. We’ll start with the most important, which is the roof. There’s water leaking onto some of the interior walls and in-between on the common wall between the board of elections building and the memorial.”

Scarano said he met with Dan Dominick from Jamestown Roofing, Oct. 9, and they assessed the condition of the roof, discovering there is ponding water and it’s infiltrating at several edges of the roof. He said Dominick determined that was the roof can be repaired for now, until future replacement is possible. He said Dugan and Dugan Contractors of Allegany have offered to look over the building for any issues that need immediate attention.

This transfer of ownership comes after CAMP’s four-year debate with Cattaraugus County to save the memorial from possible demolition and to preserve it for future generations. The group initially encouraged the county to preserve the building rather than demolish it as planned. At the time, county officials were uncertain if the could legally transfer the memorial to a private group. After that issue was settled, the county legislature’s Strategic Planning Committee voted July 26 to recommend the sale of the Memorial and Historic Building.

According to Scarano, Clinton Brown, president of the Clinton Brown Company Architecture PC, made an estimate in Sept. 2015 to restore the building that was between $500,000 to $750,000.

Now, as owners of a Civil War memorial, the CAMP group credits the Landmark Society of Western New York for their assistance in getting them where they are today.

Descendants of the 154th “Hardtack” Regiment, made up of Cattaraugus County men who fought in the Civil War, have joined in the Civil War Memorial’s cause. Historian and author Mark Dunkelman, who has researched and written extensively about the 154th Regiment, plans to help raise funds for the memorial’s restoration and reuse.

Tom Stetz, CAMP president, thanks all CAMP members and others who helped get the project to this point. He said now its onto fundraising and restoration work to “Relight the Dome of Courage.”

Scarano said the organization’s new motto, “Relight the Dome of Courage,” reflects the group’s hope that the glass dome will be someday be reinstalled on the memorial building.

“It has been a very long journey for the members of Citizens Advocating Memorial Preservation,” Stetz said. “We are extremely pleased with the outcome.”

Anyone interested in restoring this important memorial that was dedicated to all Cattaraugus County Civil War Veterans on Sept. 7, 1914, may help out by volunteering and/or donating online at CAMP’s website,