PERU - The centerpiece of Peru's ongoing park development project has just received a little more attention from the national level.
The Heyworth-Mason Building, situated on the banks of the Little Ausable River, was recently named to both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The circa 1836 structure, which once housed A. Mason and Sons Lumber Company, was credited for having "greatly impacted the building industry in Clinton and Essex counties."
Town Supervisor Peter Glushko commended the efforts of town historians Ron and Carol Allen for being the driving forces behind pursuing the recognition, adding the landmark status will "open up more avenues for grants to preserve the building."
"It gets us into a few more areas where money's available," said Glushko, who added the recognition will also draw more attention to the development of Heyworth-Mason Park.
The town has been formally pursuing development of a park at the site since 2005, when it applied for and was awarded a New York State Council on the Arts grant to cover the cost of design work for the project, said Adele Douglas, grant coordinator for the town and coordinator of efforts to develop the town park. The process of moving forward has been slow, she noted, relying heavily on the distribution of state funding. Milestones to date have included securing an appropriation through Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, for the installation of a new roof on the Heyworth-Mason Building and a state Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation grant to develop the park.
The town started development of the site two years ago, said Douglas, utilizing town resources and volunteers to perform the work. However, the work was deemed too labor intensive and was approved to go out for bid during the town board's May 23 meeting.
The main work to be performed at the site includes developing walking trails throughout the property, making improvements to the park's access road and the creation of a parking area.
Behind the Heyworth-Mason Building, a welcome plaza and drop-off look will be developed and a bicycle rack will be installed.
Interpretive signs featuring historical information about the site, will also be installed throughout the park.
"We hope to have everything wrapped up this year," said Douglas. "It's been a long time coming."
Ron Allen said he would eventually like to see a complete restoration of the Heyworth-Mason Building, utilizing it as a museum for town history, community meeting room space, and office space for he and his wife and future town historians.
"But, the stonework needs to be repointed and windows and doors need to be put in the entire building on all three stories, before we even begin to worry about the interior," he said, adding having the building on the national register will now make the structure more attractive for grant funding.
The overall cost to develop the park is estimated at $240,000, said Douglas. Half the cost will be covered by state grant funding with the other half to come from money set aside by the town for the project for the past four years.
The building's history
The Heyworth-Mason Building is a stone building built in 1836, originally used as a starch factory. The building was eventually purchased by A. Mason and Sons Lumber Company, which owned it for nearly 100 years.
"The whole complex, when it was owned by A. Mason and Sons Lumber Company, was the heart and soul of Peru," said Ron Allen. "It was the main employer. People lived by the whistle that blew in the morning, at noon and at 5 o'clock at night. So, there's a lot of history there."
The original saw mill and grist mill that were once on the site - built by John Cochran, founder of the former village of Peru - were demolished when the state highway bridge was constructed in 1974.
The Heyworth-Mason Building will now join Peru's other two buildings on the national register, the Bluff Point Lighthouse on Valcour Island and Peru Community Church. The Heyworth-Mason Building and Peru Community Church, noted Carol Allen, were built by the same man, Robert York.