Sainte Marie to Reopen in July with Local “People Power” and a Grant from Honeywell
The Sainte Marie Among The Iroquois Living History Museum will soon be welcoming visitors again.
On May 6, Onondaga County Executive Nicholas Pirro announced that Honeywell had responded to the community’s effort to reopen the museum, making a pledge of $100,000. The money will pay the salary of the museum’s new volunteer and program coordinator for four years, facilitating the success of the volunteer initiative.
The museum belongs to the Onondaga County Parks system, but has been closed for more than a year due to cuts in the county’s budget.
Since the autumn of 2003, a local group – initially inspired by John Luebs, a Camillus retiree who is active in Syracuse-area historical organizations – has been organizing volunteers to try to reopen the museum. About 200 people have expressed an interest in helping, and leaders of the reopening drive hope to recruit additional volunteers.
“Responding to a true grassroots effort, Honeywell will work with the County Parks system and museum advocates to make the total Onondaga Lake environment a better, more enjoyable, people-friendly place,” said John McAuliffe, Onondaga Lake project manager at Honeywell’s Remediation and Evaluation Services group in Syracuse. “John Luebs has inspired us all with his dream to reopen the museum with volunteers.”
The museum commemorates a short-lived, mid-17th-centry effort by French religious missionaries from Quebec to reach out to the Native American tribes in Central New York. The museum has been nicknamed “the French Fort” because of the wooden, open-air section’s apparent resemblance to a frontier-style fortress.
Linda Pacelli, the museum’s new Volunteer and Program Coordinator, has been a teacher for 33 years. Local schoolteachers have been among the strongest advocates of reopening the museum because, in the past, its primary beneficiaries have been the region’s public school children. A field trip to the museum had been one of the highlights of many a school year.
The main building, built in 1986 with money from a New York State bond issue, seems structurally sound. Since the museum has been closed, county maintenance crews have kept the building in good repair. Robert Geraci, Onondaga County’s parks commissioner, said the museum wants to reopen on a limited basis in early July. Organizers hope to open on Fridays and Saturdays. By the fall, the museum is expected to be open during the week for classrooms and groups to visit.
“Whenever we can make a contribution to the Onondaga Lake environment, all of us at Honeywell who are working on the lake cleanup feel gratified. It makes our work more meaningful,” said McAuliffe.
“Honeywell is pleased that the community looked to us for support, and we are delighted to respond to its request,” said Kate Adams, Honeywell’s Vice President and Deputy General Counsel as she handed the company’s first contribution to Pirro. Thanking the County Executive for his vision and leadership, she added, “Reopening the museum will provide an important educational and recreational resource for the entire community, and it’s linked historically and physically to Onondaga Lake. It’s the perfect place and perfect way for Honeywell to be involved.”
According to Pirro, the efforts of the volunteers and the financial support of the Honeywell Corporation ensure that volunteer power can be harnessed for the next four years in a fashion that will return Sainte Marie to its role as both an educational and tourist asset for Central New York.