News in Cortland NY

Downtown Celebrates National Historic Preservation Month

Tuesday, May 8, 3 to 5 pm, Reception at the Beard Building Gallery, 9 Main Street.

The Cortland Downtown Partnership is working to preserve and enhance the culture and commerce of historic downtown Cortland. Partnering with SUNY Cortland students, downtown has been turned into a living laboratory for the research of historic properties, the development of a high-tech 3-D model of historic downtown and the artistic documentation of historic buildings.

"Downtown¹s historic buildings are a true asset," said Lloyd Purdy, Executive Director of the Cortland Downtown Partnership. "We are stewards of cultural and historic resources that other communities around the country are trying to mimic."

Tuesday, May 8, in recognition of Historic Preservation Month, a history exhibit of downtown Cortland will be on display at the Beard Building Gallery, 9 Main Street. A week-long exhibit will showcase the research of 24 SUNY-Cortland history majors.

Working with SUNY-Cortland Professor Kevin Sheets and Mary Ann Kane from the Historical Society students spent the Spring semester researching the history of more than a dozen sites in downtown Cortland. Based on their research in the county records office, the Cortland County Historical Society, and other collections, these students produced fourteen short documentaries, each lasting from three to five minutes, describing various moments in Cortland's long and interesting history.

"The educational value of a historic downtown like Cortland really helps students make connections between research and modern life," said Dr. Kevin Sheets, SUNY Cortland History Professor. "Students enjoy learning more when there is a tangible connection ­ downtown Cortland provides that."

Student-created projects include a history of the Court Street firehouse and its transition to motorized engines in the early twentieth century. Others include the history of Sarvay Shoes and another describes the fire at the Wallace Building (now Jack Danielson's Restaurant) that destroyed the top two of what was once a four-story building. Several documentaries feature the architectural significance of buildings in Cortland's historic district, including one which describes the stained glass in the former Wickwire mansion (now the 1890 House Museum) and another highlights the architecture and design of the current SUNY-Cortland Alumni House.

Students undertook research using a variety of sources including public records, newspapers, photographic collections at the Historical Society, and interviews. Using this information, students then wrote scripts, identified images, recorded narrations, and produced documentaries using the college's iMovie software.

Adding a high-tech touch to historic research, these documentaries will be on display at the Beard Building Gallery beginning at 3 pm on Tuesday May 8. In addition to preparing short video documentaries, students have alsocreated poster displays highlighting key points in their presentations.

Historical Methods, a required course for history majors, aims to introduce students to the practice and profession of history. The course is designed to help history majors at the beginning of their college career learn the methods of historical research. The course also prepares them for the history department's capstone course for majors, the Senior Seminar. In theseminar, history students undertake a major research project based entirely on primary sources and write a 30 page original piece of scholarship.

Façade improvements to historic downtown buldings made during the past year were based upon research into the historic character of downtown¹s buildings. In 2006 and 2007 more than $700,000 has been spent on historicrenovation of downtown buildings.