INSTITUTIONAL HISTORY

The cobblestone building which houses the Howland Stone Store Museum was built in 1837 by Slocum Howland for use as a store. In 1848, Slocum’s son, William, became a partner in the business. Upon Slocum’s death in 1881, William built a new structure as his place of business. The Block, a wooden building still standing, is immediately north of the cobblestone building, which then became a storage area. In 1883, William’s daughter Isabel, and Hannah his wife, created Sherwood’s first Museum of Curiosities, compiled from the world travels of the Howland family, and located on the second floor of The Block. Upon the death of Isabel in 1942, Alice and Charles Koon inherited the cobblestone building which they used as a small local library. At an unknown later date, the museum collection previously upstairs in The Block was moved to the upstairs of the cobblestone building.

Prior to her death in 1966, Alice Koon transferred the ownership of this building to the Cayuga Museum (in Auburn), with the stipulation that it should continue to operate as a public library on the first floor and a museum on the second floor. Unfortunately, after a few years, the building was closed. In 1987, the Cayuga Museum considered selling the building, but held a public meeting to gather input from the local community which revealed strong support for local control of the building and its collections. Negotiations with the Board of the Cayuga Museum resulted in the transfer of ownership to the NYS provisionally chartered Friends of the Howland Stone Store Museum. In 1996, this group was awarded an absolute charter by the Board of Regents of the State of New York under the name of Howland Stone Store Museum (HSSM). HSSM is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a single listing as well as a significant contributing parcel to the Sherwood Equal Rights Historic District, also on the National Register. This building has been documented as an authentic Under Ground Railroad site (UGRR), based on Slocum Howland’s extensive involvement in UGRR and abolitionist activities.

In September, 2008, HSSM acquired a second building, the home of William Howland and his wife, Hannah Letchworth, and later of their daughter, Isabel. Built in 1837, remodeled by William in 1888, then extensively rebuilt by Isabel in 1910, this site is also a contributing property to the Sherwood Equal Rights Historic District, primarily for its connection to the Women’s Rights movement. By 2008, Opendore had been neglected for many years and was collapsing. After extensive study with a historic preservation consultant, the Board voted to restore roughly half the original building. Construction began in 2013 with major funding from State grants and matching private funds. Original work consisted of “stabilization and abatement,” removing the portions of the building beyond salvage including hazardous materials, and shoring up and reroofing the portions to be saved. A dedicated group of volunteers then constructed the “West Wing” infilling a missing corner. Contracts were completed for roofing and chimney restoration. To date (January 2018), volunteers have provided over 2500 hours of labor, all eligible for grant reimbursement. Contracts for mechanical, electrical and plumbing work have been let, with completion due in spring 2018. When complete, Opendore will provide much needed gallery, office and meeting space, as well as archival storage in a climate controlled environment.

 
I would rather help other people to be spectacular than to be so myself. But I do appreciate the honor which has come to me. All my friends are happy over it, so I am too. But I suppose I shall be the same old lady afterwards as before.
— Emily Howland