Visits to Museums

About NSG NSG Index CLR Index Museums Authors Site Map Contact Us


NSG Visit October 15, 2005

The Morgan Hook and Ladder Co.

and other Historic Museums in Naples


Donovan A. Shilling

It was a mostly sunny Saturday in October when members of the New Society of the Genesee arrived in Naples at the site of the Naples Historical Society's meeting in the former Morgan Hook and Ladder Company building at 15 Mill Street. We were greeted by Beth Flory, New Society of the Genesee member and president of the Naples Historical Society. She told us the history of the building and about its restoration by society members.

Mrs Flory told us the structure was built 175 years ago in 1830 as a residence for Simeon Lyon who was also the owner of a water-powered mill less than a block away. After the Lyon family moved away the building was used as a boarding house called "The Beehive." Later it housed the town offices with a jail in the basement. The Morgan Hook and Ladder Company, formed in 1884, moved into the building in 1892 after adding a tall hose-drying tower.

The Morgan Company had a hook and ladder wagon and two hose carts in 1898, and, in 1906, had 14 members. By 1911 there was no organized company although the equipment was still in the building. In 1916 the Maxfield Hose Company organized, acquired better equipment and then needed more space. After it left, the building was occupied by a succession of businesses, later used for storage and eventually abandoned. Local people undertook to preserve the building with their own efforts in 1970. The Naples Historical Society purchased the building in 1992 for $13,000 and began a project to save the building. They planned to use it as home for the society and a place to present Naples history. On May 15, 2002, Wayne County presented an award to the Naples Historical Society for their restoration.

On the main floor and second floor, the Society has refurbished the interior and installed displays of historic papers, letters, pictures and stories of Naples' early settlers and prominent individuals and families. One table was filled with material on early area railroads. On display is an early hand-pulled hose cart on loan from the Maxfield Hose Company and other old tools and equipment.

Beth Flory had made all of the arrangements for the day and also made sure that we all received brochures highlighting notable local landmarks. Go to Beth's report of the whole project in her article "The Morgan Hook and Ladder Company Building" in Crooked Lake Review, #116, Summer Millennium Issue, 2000.

Following our visit to the fire hall we traveled to the Redwood Restaurant where we met Bill Vierhile, appliance store owner and Town Historian. I enjoyed a delicious tune-melt sandwich and ate a piece of grape pie, and learned from Bill much about the valley, the vineyards, and the village. Naples hosts an annual grape festival, paints all of its fire hydrants a nice shade of purple and is the home of the celebrated Widmer Wine Cellars.

Mr. Vierhile explained that he was the owner of the old mill museum we were to visit after lunch. He told us that after paying $2200 for the wooden mill in 1975, he found it necessary then to spend another $10,000 to make it ready for his large collections of local and area artifacts. It was called the "Naples Mill" and also the "Red Mill" because it was painted red at one time. Now the ancient wood is very dark. The present mill was built in 1850 on the site where Simeon Lyon ground grist and flour between 1815 and 1849. Bill explained that water power was first used to turn the mill stones. The water came through a sluiceway from Grimes Creek Glen at the end of Vine Street. The stone pedestals that carried the shaft bearings of the water wheel can still be seen in the basement above the deep stone-walled pit in the raceway where the wheel rotated. By the 1870s a steam power plant was installed, probably because it was more reliable year ‘round.

Entering from a platform on the south side of the building, visitors are nearly overwhelmed by the number of large and small signs identifying former village and area enterprises hanging on all the walls and interior support posts. Beneath the signs and filling most of the space, leaving only narrow walkways, is an amazing mixture of antiques and collectibles. I spotted a tin can packed by the Curtice Brothers of Rochester that once held "Yankee Beans." Another Rochester product was a hot-chocolate fudge kettle labeled "Hungerford - Smith." This was a part of a dusty but elaborate soda fountain saved from a former Naples establishment. And right next to it was a remarkably well-preserved poster of a movie starring Hoot Gibson. There were other posters, a rack for storing wine bottles, many hand tools for farm and home, and all kinds of early washing machines, one even powered by tap water through a hose. Washing machines must have been collected over the years, not surprisingly, through the household appliance business established by Bill Vierhile's father and still continued by Bill.

From the main floor we went up a long stairway to the second floor and more items of the past. Standing against one wall was a half-scale model of a storefront with weathered-gray clapboards and a recessed entrance door between two windows. Near the top of the model was the name Sandford Lord. Mr. Vierhile said he thought it was modeled upon a store in Honoeye. When asked later, John Sheret looked through his records and found that a Sandford Lord at one time lived in South Bristol and later returned to Mendon Centre. He was the father of Alonzo Lord who ran a store in Mendon for years.

Also on the second floor of the mill was an "O" gauge train layout set on benches and taking a lot of space. In one corner was a small room filled with books including old, bound copies of Harpers Monthly, volumes of the Century Cyclodepia, novels of Captain Marryat, even some French language books along with popular novels from a century ago such as the Henty Series. Also in this room was a patented student's chair that had a desk surface in front for writing or supporting a book and a box by the side of its seat to hold papers and books. It had been manufactured in Rochester. Along the wall on the opposite side was a living room set up with upholstered chairs placed in front of a mock fireplace.

We took our time examining tools and relics of Naples past and often called to Bill Vierhile to ask, "What is this?" One item was an elaborate heavy-duty apple peeler he told us was used in rural apple-processing enterprises. Mr. Vierhile is planning to retire in a year or so and then he is looking forward to spending more time working with his collection of Naples and local relics in the old mill. We all enjoyed poking through his amazing treasure chest from yesterday.

Before leaving Naples, I stopped at 5 Academy Street and purchased one of Cindy Trzeciak's truly delicious grape pies!

© 2005, Donovan A. Shilling
CLR Blog | Site Map | Contact CLR