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Quilt to feature 200 years of Niagara history Tribute to county's bicentennial to have a permanent home in the Kenan Center

LOCKPORT -- Of the many activities that are part of the planning for next year's Niagara County bicentennial, one of the most colorful, and perhaps longest-lasting, will be the official bicentennial quilt.

Fifteen volunteers belonging to the Kenan Quilters Guild are crafting the quilt, which will eventually be placed on permanent display in the Kenan Center.

"We want something that's going to be a lasting kind of a thing," County Clerk Wayne F. Jagow said.

The quilt is to measure 80 inches square and will show an illustrated map of the county, project Chairwoman Carol Kinzly said.

Planning for the quilt even included research in historical documents to try to find interesting ideas.

"We finally came up with the fact that there were certain things that we definitely wanted," Kinsly said. "We wanted a cobblestone house. That had to be on there because it's so representative of the area. We wanted an international bridge. We finally decided this is the way we would use the logo. We have Niagara Falls. We have Fort Niagara. We have the Van Horn Mansion."

The Kenan House was not originally on the list of landmarks -- even an 6 2/3 -by-6 2/3 -foot quilt has its limits -- but Kinzly said it was decided that the Lockport landmark had to be included if the quilt was going to end up on display there.

Other depictions are to include:

* The Seaway, Freedom and Niagara Wine trails.

* Niagara Falls.

* The Flight of Five original Erie Canal locks.

* The Babcock House in Somerset.

* The Van Horn Mansion in Burt.

* North Tonawanda's Herschell Carousel Museum.

* The Golden Hill State Park Lighthouse in Somerset.

* The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

* Authenticated "safe houses" from the Underground Railroad.

Kinzly said the Underground Railroad square is particularly appropriate because quilts were hung in certain ways to show fugitive slaves where the safe houses were.

"There were many names we didn't use," said Kinzly, a Town of Lockport resident who has been quilting actively for 20 years, since she retired from her career as a nurse.

For example, it was reluctantly decided that there wasn't room for all the tiny hamlets that dot the county's map. Only the official cities, towns and villages will make it.

"I had a very large committee, and usually large committees don't work. This did," said Kinzly.

Work on the quilt began Jan. 30.

Judy Schryver of Lockport, a guild member, approached Jagow and Deputy County Clerk Wendy J. Roberson at last fall's Niagara County Historical Society dinner to suggest a bicentennial quilt.

Roberson, also co-chairwoman of the Bicentennial Commission, said, "The Kenan Quilters Guild is one of the first organizations that took up the cause of the Niagara County bicentennial. I'm just so pleased that they did that."

The quilters will next meet Aug. 16 to complete all the blocks that will make up the finished quilt. The patterns in every case had to be made from scratch, Kinzly said.

"I could use part of one, but everything else had to be made up," said Kinzly, who is working on a block showing the bicentennial logo on the side of a barn. It's not meant to depict any of the actual barns that have been painted with the logo.

"You should see Fort Niagara," she said. "They took pictures and then they brought the pictures home and made drawings, and from the drawings they made patterns."

Attempts also are being made to depict fishing and other water-related activities.

"We have 'now' things, too. They aren't all old," Kinzly said.

Stephanie Drehs, a document and mortgage tax clerk for the county and a guild member, said she's working on incorporating Native American motifs.

"I think we're so ignorant of the Native American culture we have here. So we have a block depicting a Native American. I take great beading classes from a Native American lady, and I want to add some of that to my banner," Drehs said.

That's typical of the artistic license the volunteers were given.

"Carol [Kinzly] gave us guidelines. From there we're on our own, so we're doing our own research, we're creating our own patterns, and we're creating the blocks," said Donna Kathke of Appleton, president of the Kenan Quilters Guild.

"You have no idea how difficult that is for me. I like to be in control of things, and when you hammer these things out, you aren't," said Kinzly. "You can't refuse what they hand back. You have to trust everybody."

Drehs said there will be a label on the back with the names of the artists, and she said she plans to assemble a journal of how the quilt was created.

The design work is to be completed this fall, hopefully in time for display at the guild's show, held every two years in the Kenan Arena. This year's show is Nov. 3-4.

It's possible, however, that the quilt might be kept under wraps until a major bicentennial event held in March, which Roberson said could be an elaborate ball.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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