Albion is working hard to attract people to our lovely, historic downtown area. Shop owners have been painting and sprucing up their buildings, new shops are coming in to the empty store fronts (click here for more info on this), and there has been several additions to the streetscape that adds artistic beauty while inviting walkers and bicyclists to enjoy downtown. I’m talking about the recently installed benches and bike racks along Main Street and Bank Street. The benches are beautifully adorned with murals painted by local artists and placed so that visitors may stroll through downtown, enjoy the shops, and rest awhile to make it easier for them to spend more time downtown. The bike racks commemorate the Erie Canal Corridor and allow bikers to secure their bikes while they either stop to shop or rest on one of the lovely benches. (Click here and here for the Orleans Hub articles with more information on the bench and bike rack project, as well as other projects)
I have enjoyed looking at the benches since the first ones were installed in early June – just in time for the Strawberry Festival. But, have not taken the time to stroll around town and look at each one close up until today! This morning was a lovely, sunny, cool morning – a perfect day for a stroll downtown. So, I parked in front of the Presbyterian Church on Main Street and started my bench viewing adventure!
Come along with me as I take you on a downtown stroll to visit each and every one of the new benches and bike racks:
First stop —- the coolest of the bike racks and the beginning of our stroll. I parked there in front of the historic Presbyterian Church located on the northeast corner of Main and State Streets. The first of the benches is located here beside the bike rack designed to look like a bicycle with a “Gateway to the Erie Canal” logo. The bench has a cobblestone theme, which has a significant historic value for our area. In the 1800’s one of the most popular construction materials was cobblestone – perfectly shaped, smooth stones formed by glaciers and found in abundance throughout the area. Childs NY, located on the historic Ridge Road just a few short miles north of Albion, is home to the oldest cobblestone church in North America, built in 1934, and the Cobblestone Society Museum. Other points of interest here at this stop are two hitching posts, a carriage step, and a story board to tell the history of hitching posts and carriage steps in our area.
Now, let’s stroll north along the east side of Main Street and make a stop at the next bench, which is located in front of the Main Street Store. This bench commemorates Charles W. Howard and his world famous Santa Claus School. The Charles Howard Santa Claus School was located in Albion on the Phipps Road. Charles Howard opened the school in 1937 and ran it until his retirement in 1965 – teaching thousands of men to be Santa Claus for big department stores and other purposes around the world. He was also the official Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Santa for 17 years and consulted on the movie “A Miracle on 34th Street”. He WAS Santa Claus and he lived right here in our town! (Click here for more on Charles Howard and his Santa Claus School and park).
We’re continuing north on Main Street to the corner of Main and Bank Streets, where we will make a left turn onto Bank. The next bench we come to is on the southeast corner of Main and Bank Streets facing Bank. The theme of this bench is Grace Bedell, a young girl who spent most of her childhood in Albion. When Grace was 11 years old, she wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln, who was running for President at the time, to tell him that he would look much better with a beard and that it would help get him elected. Mr. Lincoln took Grace’s advice and the rest is history!!! (click here for the Orleans Hub article on this bench and Grace’s story)
Let’s cross Bank Street – watch out for traffic, now! Directly across the street we find our next bench, located on the northeast corner of Main and Bank Streets facing Bank. This one is called “Albion has heart! And, deep roots.” and focuses on the abundance of fruit orchards around the area. (click here for the Orleans Hub article about this bench)
Let’s get back on Main Street to find the last stops on this side of the street. We head north to the canal and find another bike rack – this one is an arch with a tug boat logo representing the tugs that service the canal – located at Waterman Park on Main Street between Bank Street and the canal. (There is another just like this one located on Bank Street in front of the Village Hall that I didn’t walk down to photograph, but wanted to mention it is there.) Also located in Waterman Park is a mural painted by a local artist in honor of our sandstone quarrymen heritage – another major construction material used throughout the area in the 1800- early 1900’s. (The mural photo was taken a few months ago during the winter, hence the snow along the edges – it was a nice, cool day, today, but not THAT cool!)
After we leave Waterman Park and continue just a few steps north toward the canal, we find the next bench. This bench is located in front of Krantz Furniture Store and highlights the fishing attractions found throughout Orleans County. Lake Ontario, Lake Alice, the Oak Orchard River, and other waterways found across this part of Western NY are world renown for salmon and trout fishing – fishing is a major tourist attraction for our area.
Now, we’ll cross Main Street and head south on the other side of the street. Again, watch the traffic – we don’t want our visitors to be injured!!! The first bench on the west side of Main Street is found in front of Morrison Realty just a few steps south of the canal. This is one of my favorite benches — I love them ALL and each one has its own unique appeal and are VERY well done, but I am partial to the two canal themed ones (we haven’t come to the second canal themed one, yet) and the one above located in front of Krantz Furniture Store! This one pictures a tug boat on the Erie Canal. Tugs replaced ox and horses to pull barges that carried goods from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes. Tugs and barges are still in use on the canal today, although the canal is mainly used for recreational purposes rather than the highly used commercial purposes from the early days of the canal’s history.
Continuing south on Main Street, the next bench is located in front of the Five Star Bank building on the northwest corner of Main Street and Bank Street. This one pictures a fisherman on Lake Ontario with a fresh catch of what looks like one of our prized salmon!!!
After we cross Bank Street, we continue south on Main to our next stop. This is the second of the two canal themed benches and the one that I think is my top favorite – although, it just barely edges out my other two top faves!!! This one is a rural canal scene with one of the many canal bridges that can be found all over the area in the distance – you can’t hardly go anywhere without having to cross at least one canal bridge! Ironically, my favorite bench is found in front of my favorite downtown shop – The Hazy Jade Gift Shop! I would have taken you for a peek inside the store and had hoped to see if owner Lisa would take our photo with this bench, but sadly it was closed, today – next time I take you on a downtown stroll, we will be sure to do this!
The last, but definitely not least on the stroll is this bike rack and bench located in front of Haines’ Albion Agencies Insurance office. Here we have another bike rack strategically located near a bench so that a tired biker can secure his bike, rest on the bench to enjoy the gorgeous day, or stop in for a bite to eat at the newly opened Mexican Restaurant – El Gallo – that is located almost directly across the street from this location. This bench has a fishing theme, as well — the guy in this scene looks like he might be fishing for trout – maybe in the Oak Orchard River??? I don’t know – I don’t fish, but that is what I’m going to imagine he is doing and where he’s doing it – sounds good to me! Also seen in these photos is the brick boarder along the sidewalk that distinguishes this section of Main Street and the historic sandstone walkway from the main sidewalk up to the Haines building – lovely!!!
Well, that ends our stroll. I’m heading back across the street to my car, so we’ll say goodbye here. I hope you enjoyed the walk, our lovely downtown area, and all the beautiful new features along the way. Come visit us in person sometime……we’d love to have you and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with downtown as much as I have! Have a great rest of your day!