By Rick Miller
Five years ago, the Cattaraugus County Legislature was ready to approve the demolition of the former County Museum and Board of Elections across Court Street from the County Center.
Today, a not-for-profit group, Citizens Advocating Memorial Preservation (C.A.M.P.), owns what has come to be known as the Civil War Memorial Building. Its fundraising is geared toward maintenance and long-term capital projects.
On Sunday, Veterans Day, C.A.M.P. will conduct a dedication ceremony for a Pomeroy Historic Roadside Marker at 2 p.m. outside the building at the corner of Court and Seventh streets.
“It will let people know what the building is all about,” C.A.M.P. president Thomas Stetz, of Allegany, said of the familiar blue and yellow historic roadside marker.
“We had to submit quite a lot of information about the building, then we were limited to the number of characters on each line of the marker,” Stetz said.
Kind of like Twitter.
C.A.M.P. was the lone bidder for the building when county lawmakers decided to sell it last year.
The building was dedicated in 1914 as a memorial to Cattaraugus County residents who fought in the Civil War. It was used as the County Museum until the early 2000s.
Stetz became involved in the effort to save the Civil War Memorial after reading about it in the Olean Times Herald.
Later, Mark Dunkleman, an author and historian who has written extensively on Cattaraugus County’s 154th Regiment, which fought in the Civil War, shared C.A.M.P.’s fight to save the monument with descendants of the 154th in his monthly newsletter.
One descendent of a 154th Civil War soldier from Cattaraugus County now living in the Midwest has donated $3,000, Stetz said.
Spencer Morgan, an Allegany native now working in the SUNY Fredonia development office, is in charge of fundraising and grants. Morgan had a relative in the 154th, Oscar Wilber.
The annual meeting of descendants of the 154th Regiment was held this year outside the Civil War Memorial Building on the weekend of the Little Valley Bicentennial.
“That’s probably the largest group of people gathered outside that building since it was dedicated in 1914,” Stetz said.
Much of the current fundraising is going toward annual heating and insurance costs, Stetz said.
“We’ve got help from all different parts of the country, not just Cattaraugus County,” Stetz said. Much of that is thanks to publicity by Dunkleman, he added.
“We have a major grant pending from the state’s Consolidated Funding Application,” Stetz said. “It’s a mid-size capital project through the Council on the Arts for $50,000 for an engineering study.”
The study will be needed for subsequent grant applications, Stetz said. “It opens the doors for other grants, step by step, leading up to a big one.”
Other grant applications have been made to the Landmark Society of Western New York and the Cattaraugus Regional Community Foundation, he said.
“We’re trying to keep the spotlight on the building,” Stetz said.
There is an online fundraising section on the group’s website, cattcomemorial.com. The group’s Facebook page features regular events.
“When we first got involved, we stood ready to help the county,” Stetz said. When it became apparent that the county wanted out, C.A.M.P. stepped up.
“We’re reaching out to some longshots for funding too,” Stetz admitted. “Maybe one out of 100 of them will pan out.”
Stetz added: “At least it’s not sitting there waiting to be demolished.”