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Travellers to the County Building, nestled away, in the Cattaraugus County Seat of Little Valley, will be able to see the result of what happens when history is neglected over time. This time, the result looks to be the razing of what was once proudly dedicated to the memory of the fallen soldiers and sailors of Cattaraugus County, while in service in the War of the Rebellion, also known as the American Civil War.
The building was built and dedicated for the purpose of housing relics of the past; pieces that tell the history of Cattaraugus County. That mission was ended about five years ago. Although that timeframe seems too short to this writer, for some reason. It was at that time that relics were moved to what was once the County Poor House, the Stone House, on the campus of The Pines of Machias, a County-operated nursing home, at least for now. That’s another story for a different glass of Scotch.
The move may not seem to be of too much importance, but for historians of the Civil War, it was a tremor that shook their world. That world has been rocked again with the news of the razing.
Noted Civil War and 154th New York Volunteer Infantry historian, Mark Dunkleman has sent letters to all 21 members of the County Legislature to call for a way to save the building that, 99 years ago stood as a monument to the sacrifice given by so many to hold our Union together. His claim is that, at a September 7, 1913 dedication, the building, officially known as the Cattaraugus County Museum and Historical Building, stands a war monument, a memorial, and as such should have some kind of protection.
I can see that. I really can. Coming from a family of veterans, being a veteran, myself, I understand the importance of keeping alive the memories of those that gave the ultimate for their nation. Dunkleman’s point is a valid one, however, after years of neglect that resulted in the crumbing of a foundational wall, even a leaky roof, leading to dampness that created a mold situation, according to County officials, has made the building unsavable, unfortunately.
At the time of this writing, nothing has been determined for the area that will be freed through the demolition of the building. Dunkleman points out that a paved slab of a parking lot on the area would be unacceptable. I agree. County Public Works Commissioner, Joe Pillittere, said the space has no plans, but will be seeded. I can also see this point as well.
I do see a solution that just might be acceptable by both sides. A green space is a great idea, but let’s have a park dedicated to the memory of the soldiers and sailors from Cattaraugus County that served in the Civil War. In that park, why not have a small building, built to the specifications and predominant architecture form a century ago, constructed. The plaque that stands above the door that greeted so many into the museum, that greeted over 200 Civil War veterans on that day in September, almost 100 years ago, that dedicated the building on that day, should be incorporated into a new design. The building would not have to be too big, maybe even listing those from the county that served and gave all on those battlefields, even those that passed in places like Andersonville. Yes, it would be pricy, but if a committee of dedicated citizens, even those that reside elsewhere with ties to the area, were to help in the cause, the memorial to these men will not fall with the building. It is important to remember our past so we, as George Santayana said, do not repeat it. There is a solution possible. The time is now to talk about it and find a solid solution.