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Another piece of history: Larry Barnes to resign after 16 years as city historian

By Joanne Beck
Ryan Duffy and Larry Barnes
2019 File Photo of Holland Land Office Museum Executive Director Ryan Duffy, left, and City Historian Larry Barnes, with their amended version of the "History of the City of Batavia." Barnes has submitted his letter of resignation as city historian effective Dec. 31.
Submitted Photo

Larry Barnes — the go-to guru of all things related to the City of Batavia's history for the last 16 years — will be resigning his post effective Dec. 31, he says.

Barnes met with City Manager Rachael Tabelski Wednesday to personally deliver his letter of resignation and give an official 30-day notice. He decided to leave for a number of reasons, he said, including health issues and “it’s time to move on.”

“It’s been a terrific experience. I’ve learned a lot about the community in the process of doing the research for the books that I’ve written and the monographs that I’ve written, and just in terms of putting together talks and that sort of thing,” Barnes said to The Batavian Thursday. “State law requires that we have an appointed city historian.”

As of 2010, an official job description went into effect for the position, he said, which requires that the proper candidate live in the City of Batavia and is not allowed to keep city documents outside of the office maintained at City Hall.

City Code states that “there shall be a City Historian as required by Article 57 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law of the State of New York,” and thatthe City Historian shall be appointed by the City Manager with a term of office of four years. The City Historian may be appointed to consecutive terms by the City Manager. The City Historian must be a resident of the City of Batavia.”

Barnes has authored several books, and more recently scripted a play about Brisbane Mansion, which has been a hot topic of late. City officials are mulling options for the property, currently housing the city police department, and a consultant proposed two possibilities of selling it to a developer for use of a boutique hotel or market-rate apartments.

Barnes has been a proponent of repurposing the Main Street site and not letting it falter or be demolished, paths that other pieces of city history have taken in the past.

“That building definitely needs to remain, it shouldn't be torn down like many other historical buildings have been. And the proposal that has just been presented, either a boutique hotel or apartments or a combination of the two, would be ideal, I think.”

Barnes, a retired educator, has been quite active in the community, either serving or having served with several history-related groups, including the Landmark Society of Genesee County, Batavia Historic Preservation Committee, Genesee County Historians Association, Government Appointed Historians of Western New York and the Association of Public Historians of New York State.

For nearly his entire city historian career, Barnes has done the work as a volunteer. City Council just approved a yearly pay of $5,000 this past year. 

He and his wife Jerianne plan to stay in the community, Barnes said. 

Always one to offer up tidbits of history, he added that Jerianne’s first name has not always been this. In fact, it wasn’t until five decades later that she changed her original name to Jerry Louise, he said.

Her parents had planned to name their impending child Jerry Lewis for a boy and instead named their baby girl Jerry Louise. Hating all of her life, Jerry decided to give herself a 50th birthday present and had her name changed to Jerianne Louise.

While not really a part of Barnes’ retirement, Jerianne has been part of his life, and therefore the history indeed belongs with the historian.

History by the Hearth celebrates black Batavians

By Press Release

Press Release:

Richmond Memorial Library will host its Spring program of History by the Hearth on Thursday, June 8 at 7 p.m. 

City Historian Larry Barnes will share his research as presented in a new monograph:  "Black Batavians: Who they are, their local history, and aspects of our larger culture that have especially shaped their experiences."

Deborah Wood, Special Collections Librarian at Richmond Memorial Library, will finish the evening with Within the Collective Memory: Why now? And a sneak peek at the exhibit Juneteenth: A Day of Celebration, on display June 15-21.

Richmond Memorial Library is located at 19 Ross Street in the City of Batavia. Find the library online at

History in the making? City Council to vote on resolution to compensate chronologist Larry Barnes

By Mike Pettinella

If all goes according to the plan laid out by City Manager Rachael Tabelski, the date April 11, 2022 will be one for the record books.

That’s when the Batavia City Council will vote on a resolution introduced by Tabelski to compensate Larry Barnes for his work as the city historian – a job that he has performed with zest on a volunteer basis since 2008.

Speaking at Council’s Conference Meeting tonight at the City Centre Council Board Room, Tabelski acknowledged the fine work by Barnes, a retired educator who has written several books about local history. If passed at the next Business Meeting on April 11, Barnes would receive an annual stipend of $5,000 for his efforts.

“(Barnes) is an author who is working on a book now about Batavia during the (COVID-19) pandemic,” said Tabelski, noting in a memo to Council that Barnes recently was reappointed to a four-year term.

Council member Robert Bialkowski threw his support behind Barnes, noting that he is “a very conscientious person, and we’re lucky to have him.”

Barnes has been or currently is involved with several history groups, including the Landmark Society of Genesee County, Batavia Historic Preservation Committee, Genesee County Historians Association, Government Appointed Historians of Western New York and the Association of Public Historians of New York State.

In other developments, Council moved the following resolutions to the April 11 meeting:

  • An extension of the School Resource Officer contract with the Batavia City School District for two more years, through June 30, 2024, with Officer Miah Stevens expected to continue in that role. Provisions of the agreement call for the school district to pay 100 percent of the officer’s salary and benefits, including overtime.

“I believe the program has gone exceptionally well,” said Tabelski, referring to the communication with school officials over parking and traffic issues. “The officer (also) provides services to the students, administration and faculty.”

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said that Stevens “loves her job … and they love having her. It’s a win-win on both sides.”

  • Creation of a temporary full-time detective position to keep the police department fully staffed when a current detective retires, likely this summer.  The temporary post carries an increase in pay of $15,000 to cover the promotion, Tabelski said.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. applauded the idea, stating that “it will save us time, effort and money” while the new detective works along side the current one to learn the ins-and-outs of the job and create a smooth transition.

Another resolution – awarding a contract with Pace Analytical for analysis of potable water and wastewater -- was approved during a Special Business Meeting tonight.

Pace, the lone bidder, will receive $9,414 for laboratory services at the Water Treatment Facility and $10,010 for similar services at the Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Holland Land Office Museum hosts free lecture

By Billie Owens

The Holland Land Office Museum has announced a free lecture series beginning Saturday, April 16.

Starting at 1:30 p.m., author Larry Barnes will discuss his book "Batavia Revisited." To reserve your free seat please call the museum at 343-4727.

Donations to the museum are always appreciated.

Local historian invited to 'revisit' Batavia with new book

By Daniel Crofts

Representatives of Arcadia Publishing have been traveling to communities across the country for at least 10 years for their "Images of America" series, and last winter they approached Larry D. Barnes, Batavia's resident historian.

According to Barnes, the South Carolina-based publishing company, which published another book on Batavia -- simply titled "Batavia" -- about 10 years ago, wanted to "take another look" at the city and its history.

Barnes' book, "Batavia Revisited," will explore different topics and feature different photos -- of which there are about 220 in all -- from the first book. It covers many of the major events that reshaped the city's appearance, including:

  • The relocation of the railroad tracks to the outskirts of town;
  • The construction of the Oak Street Bridge; and
  • The Urban Renewal of the 1960s and early 1970s

As a book that relies heavily on the use of photographs, "Batavia Revisited" is mainly focused on the period from 1860 onward. However, Barnes includes an introduction dealing with Batavia's earlier history, which goes back to the early 1800s.

"I also try to straighten out some misinformation over the years (about Batavia's history)," Barnes said. "For example, I've found over and over again in my research, that the person most people think built the Old City Hall had been dead for two years (before it was built). It was his son who built it."

Barnes is a retired Genesee Community College professor and a volunteer with the Genesee County History Department. He taught psychology, but describes history as a "second career."

"It's a personal interest of mine," he said. "I do a lot of (historical) writing and research."

The book will be on sale starting Jan. 17, and will be available for purchase at Present Tense books on Wasington Avenue (and probably at the Holland Land Office Museum as well).

For more information on the book, please visit its page on Arcadia Publishing.

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