Grange Renovations
The Portville Historical and Preservation Society
17 Maple Avenue
Portville, NY 14770

www.portvillehistory.org
This page was last updated on 11/04/2013
We got right to work with the first stage of the project, demolition of the rotted bathrooms.  We all
agreed that it would cost too much to replace everything there and there was nothing that could be
salvaged except a couple of old cast iron sinks and a storage cabinet.

It took several days to tear down, but Ron and Bob Nolder and Bob Bish hauled away all the debris
and the building was starting to look a little better.  As the building came apart, we noticed that there
had been a fire in that section years ago.  The charred studs and rafters were just reinforced with
new wood and covered over but there really was not much holding that section up.  It must have
been a significant fire that caused a lot of damage and the leaky roof helped to finish it off.
If you had been traveling through Bedford Corners about a hundred years ago, these are two of the
buildings that you would have passed, the Bedford Corners Cheese Factory
(above right) and the
Bedford Corners Schoolhouse, Joint School No. 7
(above left).  We have Clarence Evans to thank for
many of our old pictures of Portville buildings.  This photograph was taken in 1917.  Bill Husband
shared a copy of Clarence's photograph with us many years ago.  

Fast forward - to September 2013 - and this is what the old building looked like before our
renovations started (see below).  The stairs are a little different and the cupola is gone, but the main
structure is just about the same as it always was.  The road is a little less muddy too.
Our Western New York weather has not been kind to the building over the years and it has suffered
from major neglect.  The Trustees and Officers met in August 2013 for our annual board meeting
where we approved the expenditure of $13,000 to do repairs and improvements.

The big ticket item in the budget was a new roof but not until the damaged portions of the building
could be addressed.  One of the reasons we waited so long in working on this building was due to
the amount of contents in the Grange.  PHPS had been given the building back in 2001, however,
out of respect for Col. Eshelman, we left it alone and he continued to use it for storage until he
passed away in January of 2010.  With the building loaded and deteriorating fast, the situation was
daunting, to say the least.

We spent many dirty days this past summer cleaning out a lot of the refuse in the Grange.  Back in
the 1970s and 1980s, Col. Eshelman acquired an enormous amount of printing equipment and paper
supplies.  From the evidence he left behind, it appears that he purchased most of it from auctions
and he called it the “Bedford Eagle Press”.  
The next task was to deal with the floor.  As they tore out the rotten parts, we discovered that there
was a concrete slab under the entire back section.  So they removed all of the wood flooring in that
area and shoveled out all the dirt that had accumulated over the years.  This effort added more than a
foot of vertical space under a rather low ceiling and we were able to dry the slab up overnight.

Back in the day, the carpenters that worked on the old building certainly cut some corners, as well as
wall studs.  Every other stud had been cut out!  Once the floor was gone, we could see how poorly
the addition was constructed.  In fact, the walls had never been attached to the foundation.  We
jacked up the back wall and added a header to remove the sag, supplemented all the missing and
existing studs, added a sill, and bolted the walls down.  Come hail or high water, this building is not
The area under the inside stairs had been used as a woodshed so all that had to be cleared out.  It
provides quite a large space for storage, so we repaired a gap in the foundation to block out any
water or moisture, and boarded over the door to the outside.

Next, we had to address some more structural issues.  Water had penetrated the area between the
two sections of the building, seeping in from around the chimney.  The damage was significant and
we realized at this point that we were fixing it in the nick of time and that sheer magic has held it
together all these years.

After three weeks, it was time for the roof.  Increasing the pitch of the back half and removing the
chimney below the roofline has insured a water tight seal.  For extra protection and longevity, we
added ice shield as well over brand new plywood sheeting.

Now look at our “new” Cheese Factory/Grange
(below). We are very proud of the work Ron Nolder
and his crew have accomplished so far, especially knowing that we saved our historic building from
certain ruin.  We will be square-dancing in there again in no time.
Factory/Grange building.  It was a busy summer so we had our annual board meeting in August this
year instead of in the Spring.  The decision was made to put on a new roof and do the necessary
repairs to save the structure before it was too late.

Our October 2013 newsletter, "The Homespun Collage", included the following article about our
renovations during September and October.  We are presenting it here for anyone who does not
receive our newsletters.  We usually publish three newsletters per year for our PHPS members.  
Click here to find out about joining and supporting our organization.  

New Life for the Grange
Charles was astute at machinery and engineering principles, tinkering with his printers and making
them operational again.  As much as we hated to dispose of the card stock and paper, the moisture
content of the paper was not conducive to printing any longer.  And it smelled like a damp
basement.  The only solution was to take it down to the Westons Transfer Station and recycle
everything.

With the help of
Hannah Kichman's Americorps girls, Bob Fischer, and the usual PHPS helpers, we
cleaned out old wood and broken glass, old magazines and cardboard, and loads and loads of paper.  
It took us 3 separate loads to the dump just to get rid of all of the paper.  

With all that paper out of the way, we could see what had been underneath some loose plywood - a
big hole in the wood floor!  The critters had been living in the Grange for quite some time and this
was one of their entrances as evidenced by the gnawing around the edges.  Years ago, an old printer
had fallen through the floor.  We finally understood why - there was a big hole in the roof that had
leaked water down through both stories.  The incentive to deal with these problems was intensifying!

We actually started the discussion of what to do about the Grange in 2012.  At that time, we were
not sure how much of the building had a true foundation underneath.  Upon further inspection, we
discovered that a different part of the roof had been leaking for quite some time in the area that used
to be a small apartment.  Originally for the manager of the cheese factory, the Grange converted the
rooms to the ladies and mens rooms, as well as a small storage area off the kitchen.  With damaged
ceiling, walls and the floor disintegrating in the ladies dressing area, it was easy to see there was no
foundation under that part but also, surprisingly, that there was a decent foundation under the larger,
lean-to section of the back.  Maybe this would not be as bad as we thought (see below)!
Treadle Powered Printer - circa 1880
Linotype Printer - circa 1925
Additional Notes on this Project

In our newsletter article, we failed to mention a very generous deed of Bill Stern and Terry Keeley.  
Terry trenched and installed a french drain all around the back of the building to drain water to the
creek.  The building sits down so low, actually below grade, that it was difficult to keep the
foundation walls dry in some places.  The trench needed to be back-filled with gravel so Bill used his
own truck to haul tons and tons of gravel from the gravel pits up on Barbertown Road.  

We may decide to put a drain on the front side of the building but that project will be done at a later
date.  The main goal of keeping the water out of the building has been accomplished and we can
move on to the next project!