By Chris Hoffman
(Sherburne, NY – Oct. 2012) You have, I’m sure, heard the phrase “It takes a village …” generally meaning that for anything good to come about, everyone must come together and do what’s necessary, look at the big picture, and make it happen.
I am thrilled to tell you that, against all odds, that very thing has just happened in Sherburne. Last week I reported that Sherburne’s downtown historic district was about to be further devastated by the demolition of the Sherburne Inn (or the Bullthistle Inn, depending on how long your memory is).
No more. Thanks to a meeting of the minds between current owner Jim Webb and numerous community leaders, a new vision has taken hold. Webb accepted a down payment on the property on Oct. 16 from a nascent community group and agreed to wait for the balance until next Spring, giving us time to form a nonprofit organization dedicated to the refurbishment of the Inn. Included in the deal is the right of first refusal on the adjacent property that used to house the Big M Supermarket.
And just like that, everything has changed, and hope and inspiration and joy are in the air. Big plans are taking shape. People in the community with talent and expertise are on board to help with the refurbishment. Nonprofit status will allow us to apply for federal and state grant monies. We see a bar that is a community gathering place, an excellent restaurant that taps into the local food movement and thus helps support local farms, farmers, growers, and producers. Guests rooms upstairs, and event rooms for wedding receptions, graduations, and birthday parties.
Kathy Yasas, who grew up in Sherburne, moved away and then moved back to Sherburne a few years ago to “retire” here, spearheaded the effort to bring back the Inn, and perhaps explains it best on her blog, The Squeaky Pen:
“One of my favorite movie lines, from “A League of Their Own,” is when Tom Hanks is talking to Geena Davis about baseball: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everybody would do it; it’s the hard that makes it great.”
On Saturday I met with Jim, a “hometown boy” who has, over the years, done much for this small village, both publicly and behind the scenes. He toured me through the Inn, which is indeed begging for restoration. It is not, however (as many claim), falling down. The building is made of poured concrete and brick, built nearly 100 years ago by men who tired of fires that claimed its earlier incarnations. The Inn boasts 21,000 square feet … in a grand old building … listed on the National Historic Register, that is sleeping, its transoms and antique doors and wood banisters and silent fireplaces waiting for the right hands to come along and breathe in new life.
Jim Webb … considered the concerns of citizens this week, considered the importance of Sherburne’s past, and in fact does not want to see the Inn demolished.
Our citizens group, with a $10,000 down payment, has until April 1 to raise the balance of $155,000 to purchase the Sherburne Inn. We feel this task can be accomplished, and as of spring 2013, if not sooner, the Inn will be ours.
We are forming a consortium of investors and will operate the Inn under a board of directors. Our next task, a daunting one, will be to raise money to repair, restore, and reopen a thriving business on our four corners. The amount of money needed to restore has varied between experts: $1.5 million, $2 million, maybe more. The details … are under discussion. There is much to do and much money to raise.
We are launching a community project that will change Sherburne forever. … Downtown Sherburne’s historic district, which includes beautiful old homes, significant buildings, and, in particular, the Pillow and Pantry Bed and Breakfast tenderly and inspiringly restored by Jim and Peggy Jeffrey, will come alive.
And to the others, those who will tell us this project is too hard, try to remember this: it’s the hard that makes it great.”
This is community at its finest, when people come together to do what’s right, what’s best for the community, and make a miracle happen in the process. And a miracle just happened on Sherburne’s South Main Street.
Chris Hoffman lives in the village of Sherburne in her 150+ year-old house where she caters to the demands of her four cats, attempts to grow heirloom tomatoes and herbs and reads voraciously. She passionately pursues various avenues with like-minded friends to preserve and protect a sustainable rural lifestyle for everyone in Central New York.