As general manager of the Gateway Station, and longtime executive director of the former Downtown Jamestown Development Corp., Lee Harkness knows as well as anyone historic renovation projects take some time.
It's fitting, then, that it was Harkness who stepped forward with an offer to help Jamestown resident Bob Johnston restore Jamestown Street Railway Trolley Car No. 93. There is much work yet to be done, but it appears the restoration is getting a renewed bit of traction.
Restoring the trolley car has been a labor of love for Johnston for nearly 20 years, starting with a discussion with Sam Lucariello, a friend who mentioned his father had an old trolley car in the woods near Dewittville that had been used as a hunting camp. As it turns out, the trolley was one of several purchased by the Jamestown Street Railway Company in 1926 that ran on tracks around Jamestown until the company went out of business in 1938. The trolleys were stripped and sold - with some serving as cottages around the lake.
Since that conversation, Johnston has raised money and developed plans to restore the trolley. About $16,000 has been raised for the renovation project and a fund has been established at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation for those who want to contribute to the project. More donations will be gladly accepted, but what was needed more than anything was elbow grease, space and expertise - something which Harkness and his volunteers can provide.
The trolley car would be a worthy addition to any area historical society's collection or even as a display item in the area surrounding the Gateway Station. Such restorations aren't cheap and can take decades, but as Johnston so aptly said recently, "history is something you've got to fight to save."
For more information on the trolley car project, visit jamestowntrolley.org/trolrest/trolr5.html or mcclurgmuseum.org.