The Sherburne Inn: A Museum of Memories

I was reminded this week of something I hadn’t forgotten, but that had become buried under 3 a.m. handwringing and choosing light fixtures and relentless meetings with contractors and architects and board members. I was reminded that restoring The Sherburne Inn isn’t about money, though God knows we’ve been fortunate in this community’s financial generosity. Restoring the Inn above all else, I was reminded, is about emotion.

The Inn has dominated Sherburne’s anchor corner for one hundred and two years. Before that was The Sherburne House and The Medbury Hotel and other establishments such as taverns or rooming houses that all were a part of this community since 1803. The town of Sherburne itself is also about emotion. Not just a collection of homes and stores and roadways, but a network of people who know each other well, who recognize neighbors’ children, who return for reunions and alumni band gatherings, and who grieve at the passing of elders who were instrumental in keeping the village’s cultural fabric intact. A community, not unlike a democracy, is an idea, one where people go to the firemen’s Saturday pancake breakfast to visit with friends and to support the dedicated men and women who leap to their feet and out their doors at the sound of a late-night siren. The idea of a community is lending a hand, chatting with acquaintances at the Big M, knowing the names of all the NBT tellers, and spending an extra five minutes catching up with Peggy at the post office.

I heard once that someone, a person not born or raised here and who now, I understand, has left the village, referred to The Sherburne Inn as “that pile of bricks on the corner.” Our Inn is indeed made of brick. But like the community, The Sherburne Inn is also an idea. It is a museum of memories, and preserving this building not only preserves those on-the-corner brick walls but preserves as well all of the memories made within those walls over the last hundred years. We are preserving memories of celebrations, of weddings and birthdays and first dates, memories of those who worked there and ate there and slept there. Going forward, new memories will be made, new employees will be hired, new marriages will be blessed, and new first dates will gaze into each other’s eyes.

Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration is re-purposing the above etched-glass window, which we found leaning against a wall in the dining room when we bought the building. The window is a piece of history, installed in the 1980s/’90s when the business was known as The Sherburne Village Inn.

We at SSIRP are humbled that people continue to donate. Recently the Inn has received donations from families who want to honor parents and who wish to remember their lost loved ones. Others are asking how they might contribute to keep their family names a part of this building. Those names will be permanent fixtures at the Inn, carved on plaques or etched in glass. Going forward, we will preserve these new memories of people who are here today, of individuals who live right now, in 2019, people in this and surrounding communities who say to me, “The Inn is important it us, too.”

Seven years ago this week Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration Project, not yet named, was born. We felt then, and we still feel, that the Inn was worth saving. We’ve done that, although restoring the building has been neither easy nor quick. We’ve worked hard to raise money to turn the lights back on at Sherburne’s anchor corner, and we are succeeding. We have been awarded state grants that have allowed us to push forward this year with interior construction on the first floor, having already completed much of the exterior work. That interior construction is going well, on which we will continue to report in this space.

Wait staff service area at west end of the dining room. Original wood floors are being restored.
Future ladies’ room build-out.
East entrance.

More importantly, though, have been the contributions from people in this and surrounding communities, from former residents of Sherburne, and from local grants and corporations. Those donations have kept the project alive, for without them we would not be able to continue our efforts to get large grants that pay for major construction. Individual contributions have paid for overhead, and taxes, and accountants, and insurance, and unexpected expenses for which grants do not pay. Without exaggeration, had we not received individual, local grant, and corporate contributions, this project would have failed years ago.

There are so many people who care about this museum of memories, who have contributed volunteer time and energy and funds, from twenty dollars to many thousands. Yet every day for the past seven years, days when I have been at my computer or listening to a ringing phone or in endless meetings, days when I am exhausted from learning things I didn’t know that I didn’t know, I have thought of one woman. In early 2013 we sent out a fundraising postcard and remarkably received more than eight thousand dollars to jumpstart the effort. One woman from this postcard mailing sent an envelope that I personally opened. In it was five dollars attached to a pink post-it note where she had written, “I wish it could be more.” I will never forget that sentiment because that is what saving The Sherburne Inn was all about. It wasn’t – and isn’t – about money. It’s about emotion. It’s about an idea of saving something worth saving, an historic building in an historic village full of people who care about each other, who go to the pancake breakfast, who stand in line at the grocery store and whose ancestors, we hope, will go on for the next hundred years keeping this community vibrant and forward-thinking and more than just a dot on a rural map.

Nor has saving The Sherburne Inn been about us. It has always been about you, and your children and their children, and all of the memories not yet made. In days ahead when SSIRP itself is just a memory and those of us who served on this board are long gone, we hope that the Inn will still stand as tribute to the importance of saying no, we will not let this historic building be torn down, we will not let the idea of community be shredded in the name of what some folks seven years ago considered progress.

From the board of Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration Project, we thank you. We look forward to welcoming you to make new memories when our doors are open. And to the woman who sent the pink post-it note a special acknowledgement. That five dollar bill and note were more of an inspiration than you’ll ever know, and your wishing it could be more was plenty.

We’ll do the rest.     

Kathleen Yasas, President

General Contractor Hired, Phase II Interior Work to Begin at Sherburne Inn

[August 1, 2019] Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration Project, Inc. (SSIRP), has announced that McPherson Builders of Ithaca has been hired as the general contractor for Phase II restoration of The Sherburne Inn, which will include interior work on the century-old building. Work is expected to begin in August and will include renovation/restoration of the first floor and sections of the basement.

In July, SSIRP representatives met with Senator James Seward at the Inn to discuss forward planning.

“Senator Seward has been very supportive of the project, and we appreciate his taking the time to visit Sherburne for updates,” SSIRP President Kathleen Yasas said. Regarding the start of interior work, Yasas added, “We’ll be glad to get things moving again.”

Conceptualized as an economic driver for Sherburne and for the surrounding area, SSIRP plans to reopen The Inn with guest rooms, event space, conference space, a farm-to-table restaurant and bar, a tavern, and retail space.

“Now that construction on the inside is beginning, we’ll be offering sponsorship opportunities to individuals and corporations,” Yasas said. “Those opportunities will allow interested parties to have their names – or the names of their family and loved ones – permanently identified with this restoration effort. Watch the website for details.”

SSIRP is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All donations to SSIRP are deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Phase II of The Sherburne Inn project goes out to bid

[May 9, 2019 – Sherburne, NY] Phase II of The Sherburne Inn project, which includes restoration of the main floor and a portion of the basement, went out to bid today. General contractors are requested to have their bids in by June 6.

“We’re not sure when construction will begin,” SSIRP President Kathleen Yasas said. “That will depend upon the work schedule of the GC we select. But we’re very excited to be moving forward.”

SSIRP Preparing to Go Out to Bid

[March 29, 2019 – Sherburne, NY] The bid package for Phase II of The Sherburne Inn project has been completed by Syracuse architects Crawford & Stearns and is under review. Once our grantors give their approval, SSIRP will go out to bid for construction/restoration on the Inn’s interior. Stay tuned!

Photo caption: March 1916, following the destruction by fire of The Sherburne House, and pre-Sherburne Inn construction, looking north from South Main Street.

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$1,000,000 Awarded to Sherburne Inn Project by Restore New York, Round 5

[March 26, 2018 – Sherburne, NY] New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that the Restore New York Communities Initiative Round 5 will award one million dollars to the Town of Sherburne on behalf of Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration Project (SSIRP). The grant is part of 80 million dollars in funding awarded to New York State’s rehabilitation efforts. The Town of Sherburne, spearheaded by Town Supervisor Charles Mastro, acted as the lead agency for the grant request for The Sherburne Inn.

Mr. Mastro was informed of the award by a call from Senator James Seward.

“The Town of Sherburne is extremely grateful for being awarded the grant, and is excited about how this funding will change Sherburne’s downtown historic district,” Mastro said. “On behalf of myself and the Sherburne Town Board, we congratulate SSIRP and extend sincere thanks to the Restore New York program.”

“Five years ago in April, SSIRP’s volunteer board of directors purchased the Inn with the hope that we could raise funds to restore and reopen this historic building,” SSIRP President Kathleen Yasas said upon hearing the news. “Thanks to this grant, we can now fully match our second half million dollar grant from New York State Parks, and will have an additional $50,000 committed to us by the Howard K. Finch Memorial Fund. In bottom line numbers, this means that SSIRP will have at its disposal $1.6 million to proceed with the project. This amount includes our own required grant match of $100,000. We can’t thank Charlie Mastro and the Sherburne Town Board enough for helping us as lead agency to make the Restore New York grant possible.”

In 2015, SSIRP began work on the exterior of the Inn with funds from its first $500,000 matching grant from NYS Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. SSIRP was required to provide a 31% match, which it accomplished through community fundraising and matching grants from NBT and Chobani.

“The community support has been, in a word, phenomenal,” Yasas said. “This includes individuals and corporations from Sherburne and surrounding villages, former Sherburne residents, friends of the SSIRP board, and everyone else who supported fundraisers and who sent us donations from five dollars to five thousand dollars. The truth is Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration Project could not have survived to this point without every single one of those contributions.”

With the new grant and the subsequent release of other grant funds, SSIRP will now move forward with restoration of the interior of the building, which includes the west-side elevator addition.

“Stay tuned,” Yasas said. “There’s going to be some exciting activity on the anchor corner of Sherburne.

Conceptualized as an economic driver for the Village and Town of Sherburne, Chenango County, the Southern Tier, and New York State, SSIRP plans to reopen The Inn with sleeping rooms, event space, conference space, a farm-to-table restaurant and bar, a tavern, and retail space. Temporary and permanent part- and full-time jobs will be created both during the restoration and after The Inn has been re-opened. The Sherburne Inn, opened in 1917, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The project coincides with several of the focal points of the State’s economic development priorities: downtown revitalization, historic preservation, tourism, and local agriculture.

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