The year is 1976, and the urban renewal scare including plans for demolition are behind us. The village of Palmyra is safe and secure once more, and came out of this federal program with a great plan leaving our unique village of Palmyra intact.
The organization spearheading this urban renewal battle, which lasted 12 years, was and still is Historic Palmyra, the Palmyra, New York, historical society. What was lost in this redirection of the village of Palmyra were the Johncox Livestock Auction House on Market Street, the old Lakey Warehouse on Canal Street and remnants of dilapidated Market and Canal Street buildings that had been vacant for decades. The overhanging signs protruding from the buildings having little to no care, causing a hazard on the sidewalks, were brought down. The Palmyra Jaycees worked tirelessly to assure this was done.
A local law from the village of Palmyra gave five years to remove all these signs and use signs flush with the buildings. No longer did we have signs for the laundromat, Millers, Rexall Drug, Lunch In, Newsroom, McPike, McQuire’s and so on. The Palmyra Laundromat was the last holdout in the main business district, made into the new historic district.
Shortly after Palmyra took steps to clear the overhanging signs, Brighton and Canandaigua followed, using our sample of the local law. This was 52 years ago. Today, with the spring trees flowering on Main, Market, William and Canal streets, the beauty of our village is amazing.
The first museum of Historic Palmyra was the Alling Coverlet Museum repurposed from the old Palmyra Courier-Journal newspaper office, book binding and type setting location. Today it houses the largest collection of handwoven coverlets. The change in collection is being hung today using the years of 1815 to 1875 and celebrating all the milestone anniversaries happening this year. Western Presbyterian Church celebrates 200 years, the 1918 flu epidemic celebrates 100 years, the Erie Canal celebrates 200 years including the barge canal and Wm. Phelps purchased the Phelps General Store in 1868, celebrating 150 years although it was built in 1826 as a rental property.
The front section of the Old Rifenburg tavern and hotel called the St. James Hotel addition was built in 1898 and still stands strong today after 120 years. Today, it is the Palmyra Historical Museum and celebrates our area, county, state and nation throughout its 23 rooms. Our newest museums are the Palmyra Print Shop featuring the machines manufactured in Palmyra by John M. Jones Co. and the old tenant house, all part of the Phelps Restoration Properties. Today, the Tenant House is the Palmyra Erie Canal Depot. The original opening was 2011, but this year it is expanded and more unique than ever with an inside mural of the packet boat Myron Holley”and the old power house. Come to this incredible location as part of your trail pass. See where the mules were kept until needed on the canal, and get your virtual ticket to ride the Myron Holley in 1821. This building is a true example of originality and education on the Erie Canal.
Come celebrate with us as we open for our summer hours until Nov. 1. Your tours will begin at Palmyra Historical Museum, 132 Market St. Call (315) 597-6981 for information and prices. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays-Saturdays.