Updated: April 12, 10 a.m., with names of previous historians:
City of Batavia Historian Larry Barnes is going beyond the written word to illustrate the significance of the Brisbane family and the mansion at 10 West Main St. that has served as the community’s City Hall and, currently, as its police station.
Speaking at tonight’s City Council Business Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room, Barnes (photo at right) said he realizes that Council members will want to hear from residents about the future of the Brisbane Mansion, which was completed in April 1855 at a cost of $25,000 (equivalent to $750,000 in purchasing power today).
“I know you will want them to be fully informed as you seek their input in the decision-making process,” Barnes said. “To help inform the public, I am working with the Landmark Society to present a play on the Brisbanes and their mansion. This play will be presented on three occasions in June and I encourage everyone to go see it.”
He said the Derek Maxfield, as associate professor of History at Genesee Community College and noted playwright, wrote the script. The cost of production is being underwritten by a grant through the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council.
Dates, times and locations of the play will be announced, he said.
Barnes said the Brisbane Mansion is a building that deserves preservation.
“The mansion … was erected as the home of George and Sarah Brisbane. This structure is historically signficant both in terms of the building, itself, and in terms of the Brisbanes who occupied it,” he said. “When the police department moves to its new facilities (on the Alva Place parking lot), you will be responsible for deciding the future of the mansion. Will it be saved and, if so, what function will it serve?”
Last year, Barnes updated his brief history of the building – a six-page document that provides details of the mansion as published in The Daily News in 1917-18, its use as City Hall and of the key members of the Brisbane family.
Following Barnes’ five-minute address, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. reiterated the board’s support of “repurposing” the building due to its historical value.
Barnes said he “totally agrees” with that stance, but reminded Council that “we’ve lost some pretty incredible buildings” over the years.
In a related development, Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to compensate Barnes with a $5,000 annual stipend.
Over the past 13 years, he has done the job on a volunteer basis, just as the previous historians for the city have done since 1919. The one exception occurred in 1962 when the city historian received a $100 stipend, payable in two equal, semiannual installments.
A list of previous City of Batavia historians, as provided by Barnes:
-- William C. Coon, 1919-1953;
-- Georgia Northrup Foote, 1954-1967;
-- Mary McCulley (later Mary McCulley Henry), 1969-1970;
-- Ruth M. McEvoy, 1971-1985;
-- Mary McCulley Henry, 1986-1995;
-- Corinne Johnson Iwanicki, 1995-2007.
Ellen C. Ruffino served as an assistant historian from 1966-1968.
Other resolutions passed tonight:
- Extending a contract for a School Resource Officer with the Batavia City School District for two more years, through June 30, 2024. Officer Miah Stevens currently has that position, which is paid for by the school district.
- Creating a temporary full-time detective position in anticipation of the retirement of a detective this summer. The temporary post carries an increase in pay of $15,000 to cover the promotion.
- Extending a contract with Client First Technology Consulting for six months at a cost not to exceed $44,600 for continued assistance with the city’s Enterprise Resource Planning system. The ERP integrates functions to ensure best practices, automated workflow and project management efficiency.
Photo of Larry Barnes by Mike Pettinella.