By Kathleen M. Yasas, President, Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration Project, Inc.
There was no Jimmy Stewart. No basket full of cash spilled onto a table to get George Bailey out of trouble. No little girl telling her daddy that every time a bell sounds an angel gets his wings. But there is no question that angels were close by on December 6, 2013, when The Sherburne Inn opened its doors for the first time in more than decade to welcome over a hundred people to gather and celebrate the rebirth of a century-old landmark.
Those of us at Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration Project, Inc. (SSIRP) have spent the past 16 months thinking, meeting, talking, planning, and convincing others that the future we see for The Sherburne Inn, located in New York State’s picturesque Chenango Valley, is a bright one. However, on December 6 not much convincing was needed. Since buying the building in April 2013, SSIRP held its first fundraiser at The Inn, a building that only months before had been slated for possible demolition.
People from Sherburne and its surrounding communities walked through The Inn's doors to see a holiday wonderland. White twinkle lights on a live Christmas tree, gold and silver balloons, crackling logs in the fireplace, white vases filled with pine, garland and candles and all manner of winter delights were only part of what made the evening so special. The lights of The Inn glowed both inside and out, although those lights had great competition: The faces of guests glowed even more with the realization that The Sherburne Inn is in fact coming back to life.
Video by Krazed Kat Media
It should be easy enough to thank an entire community, especially one as small as Sherburne; SSIRP could simply take an ad out in the paper and say "Thank you!" Such an ad, though, cannot begin to express our true appreciation for what has transpired as donations of money, services, and goodwill have poured in. Consider everyone who is making it possible:
- One person from Long Island has sent not one, not two, but three checks, the last arriving in a Christmas card where she wrote, "Thank you for taking such good care of my hometown!" Another lady watches our progress in The Sherburne News and has sent two checks with notes of glad tidings. And plenty of folks send notes of encouragement through the mail and on Facebook, or call to say "Keep up the good work!"
- Many people have shown up with mops, brooms, and muscles, donating their time to clean, decorate, and fix the building. Still more -- including a graphic designer, webmaster, auctioneer, mason, and businessmen -- have all taken time away from paid work to help us go forward.
- Politicians commend us, historic preservation representatives tell us we are an example for others who want to save important landmarks, local contractors are eager for us to start work, and local farmers wait with great anticipation for us to open a restaurant where food will be tasty, healthy, and local.
- The board of The Howard K. Finch Memorial Fund approved a $50,000 grant to SSIRP in July; and the State of New York’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation awarded SSIRP a $500,000 economic development grant in December.
The outpouring of support has exceeded our wildest dreams because The Sherburne Inn is part of everyone's dream. We at SSIRP weren't sure of that in the beginning, but we are sure of it now. And while we still have far to go, we have saved the building and have raised nearly $750,000 toward our $3 million goal.
People of this wonderful community stepped up that night and said "We believe!" They were there for us at SSIRP, and for others who will someday dine and sleep and rejoice within the walls of a building that is anything but just "a pile of bricks” (as a detractor once said). Moreover, they were there for themselves, making new memories in a place that guards and celebrates the memories of a century, a special place in the physical heart of Sherburne -- and in the emotional hearts of our townspeople -- that was almost lost.
As guests drifted away from the fundraiser, gentle snowfall began decorating our village. It was the perfect ending to a perfect night, and the beginning of a wonderful new life for the historic Sherburne Inn.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.