Esperance Museum Educates and Inspires

By Lee Latimer

There was a time when if you need­ed but­ter, you milked the fam­i­ly cow and churned it yourself.

Cloth­ing was made from sheep’s wool, spun on a wheel and woven or knit­ted. Light came from kerosene lamps. While it may be dif­fi­cult to imag­ine such a life, there are places that keep that past alive.

One such place is the Esper­ance His­tor­i­cal Muse­um, a trea­sure trove of arti­facts, infor­ma­tion, and mem­o­ries. It opened in 1970 with Fred Lape, founder of the Lan­dis Arbore­tum, as its first cura­tor. Many indi­vid­u­als have since con­tributed time and effort in its plan­ning and con­struc­tion, includ­ing Ed Fuse and artist Gus LaM­on­i­ca. The cur­rent pres­i­dent (since 1978) is Ken Jones, a very knowl­edge­able man with an ency­clo­pe­dic mem­o­ry. The muse­um con­sists main­ly of three build­ings, the school­house, the chapel, and the car­riage barn.

The main build­ing is the school­house, ded­i­cat­ed in 1878 and used for grades one through eight. It con­tin­ued oper­a­tion of a kinder­garten through third grade until 1968. It now hous­es many exhibits of the way things were. It now hous­es items from the school­house and a local doctor’s office. There is a dis­play fea­tur­ing the mak­ing of base­balls, a com­mon occu­pa­tion for the ladies of Esper­ance includ­ing Emma Lape, Fred’s moth­er. In a cor­ner are many uni­forms and oth­er memen­toes of World Wars 1 and II. House­hold items are fea­tured includ­ing a wood­en cra­dle and items used to process yarn. One of these, called a weasel, is a 4‑armed spin­ner on a stand used to wind and mea­sure yarn. When a full skein had been wound after a cer­tain num­ber of rev­o­lu­tions, it made a pop­ping sound — hence pop goes the weasel.” Also on exhib­it are many exam­ples of toys, minia­tures, and folk art.

Attached to the school­house is a repli­ca of the Esper­ance Ceme­tery chapel. The orig­i­nal was erect­ed in 1902 for spring buri­als. In 2011, as it was being read­ied for trans­port to the muse­um, it was destroyed by the floods of Hur­ri­cane Irene. Using as much of the orig­i­nal as pos­si­ble, the copy was erect­ed and ded­i­cat­ed in June 2014. It’s used as a meet­ing room and library, hous­ing many his­tor­i­cal books and doc­u­ments, includ­ing all of Fred Lape’s books and poet­ry pamphlets.

Near­by is the car­riage house, a large enclosed build­ing hous­ing many arti­cles too large for the school­house. It con­tains small equip­ment rang­ing from a cream sep­a­ra­tor to large wood­en horse-drawn farm imple­ments. When­ev­er pos­si­ble, machines pro­duced in Esper­ance or the sur­round­ing area are obtained for the collection.

The muse­um is locat­ed at 123 Church Street, just off Route 20 in Esper­ance, NY. It is open Memo­r­i­al Day to Labor Day week­ends (Sat­ur­day and Sun­day), 1 to 4 p.m. Admis­sion is free, but dona­tions are grate­ful­ly accept­ed. A vol­un­teer is on hand to assist.

One vis­it isn’t enough to ful­ly appre­ci­ate all the muse­um has to offer. Take time to not only see, but appre­ci­ate the use and con­text of each item. You may find your heart urg­ing you to help sus­tain this insti­tu­tion. Vol­un­teers in any capac­i­ty are always val­ued. The Esper­ance His­tor­i­cal Muse­um Face­book page has fur­ther infor­ma­tion, includ­ing events and con­tact specifics.

Summer 2017

Volume 35 , Number 3

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