By Derek M. Otto
The Concord Historical Society is celebrating its seventy-fifth year of preserving the history of the Town of Concord.
Founded in 1941 by civic-minded individuals who were looking to preserve the town’s past, the society received its official charter as the Springville Historical Society. It’s amazing the timing of their founding— the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II, war rationing, metal and paper drives—it’s amazing how much was saved.
The first society president was Glenn Woodward and the collection of artifacts began to grow from the onset.
One of the most important early members was Lucy Bensley. As town librarian, she saved everything, but also researched much of the town’s early history. She was recognized by New York State as the official historian, and is considered the first town historian.
The early collection of the society was housed in Dr. Brooks’ house on Main Street. It still stands across from the Joylan Theater.
For several years, many of the members of the Society petitioned renowned football coach Glenn “Pop” Warner for funds to house a museum. In 1954, the Warner Estate left $15,000 to the society to buy a house for a museum. The Warners also left more money in 1961, when Mrs. Warner died.
After considering several houses, the historical society decided on the 1847 Crandall House on Main Street. Other houses that were considered included the Bensley House on the corner of Franklin and Central. The Crandall House was preferred for its location and its carriage house.
At this time, in 1953, the charter to the Springville Historical Society was changed to The Concord Historical Society.
When the museum opened, it was home to the Warner Room, which became the home to Pop Warner’s Collection of Indian artifacts. It also included the Mahl tool collection, the Jennie Dell collection and loom, the ox bow bender and a pioneer kitchen. It was claimed in the 1950s that the Concord collection’s oxbow bender was the only one in New York State. Later, pictures were sent to the Smithsonian Institution and it was found to be the only one of its kind in the United States.
The Society operated for 50 years with little or no changes. That would change in the late 1990s, when M & T Bank left the Concord Society a piece of property on the corner of Main and Mechanic Streets. Eventually the society gave the parcel over to the Village of Springville.
In 1998, the old Public Library, which had been used as a senior center and alternative education school since 1994, was offered to the society for use as a genealogy library and historians office. The Lucy Bensley Center opened and served as a meeting spot for many of the clubs in Concord, such as the Calico Club and the Twentieth Century Club, as well as the Concord Historical Society.
Also in 1998, Springville suffered from its great flood and another property opened up to the Historical Society.
For years, the Historical Society had wanted to create a mock general store. During the flood, the property that housed the old Fish Bowl pet store was severely damaged. The society eventually bought that property and built the Concord Mercantile building on the Warner Museum Campus.
Since it opened in 2010, over 17,000 people have signed the guest book. Not only does the Concord Mercantile offer a historical display of a general store, it offers musical entertainment twice a week, and a place for crafters to sell their wares and educational opportunities every second Saturday.
Realizing just after it opened that the Mercantile had become very cramped, in 2014, the Historical Society began the capital project to build the Heritage Building annex to the Mercantile. At present, about half the money has been raised. Amazingly, so has half the building.
Remember that parcel of land on the corner of Main and Mechanic Streets? In 2013, the Concord Historical Society raised $50,000 in eight weeks to construct the iconic clock. The village at the time had the park reconstructed and the official M & T Park was opened in November 2013.
The Concord Historical Society has proven to be a civic organization that gets thing done. Its current mission is to preserve the historical records of the Town of Concord, NY, promote and encourage an interest in local history and in historical research, operate the Warner Museum, Concord Mercantile, Lucy Bensley Center and preserve its collection, gather and preserve books, manuscripts, papers and other artifacts significant to the people of the Town of Concord, acquire by gift or purchase, devise or otherwise, the title to artifacts of historical interest, cooperate with other groups and individuals in the promotion and preservation of the history of the Niagara Frontier and the Southern Tier of WNY, honor persons of achievement and recognize the activities of the ordinary people and everyday life in the Town of Concord, NY and identify places of historic interest with suitable monuments or markers.
If this is of any interest to you, The Concord Historical Society gladly welcomes you. The Concord Historical Society meets the second Wednesday of the month. The Concord Mercantile is open Tuesday and Thursdays 7 to 9 p.m., Wednesday and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Lucy Bensley Center is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday s 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the Warner Museum is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.