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History is on the move as museum takes possession of 1825 building

SANBORN – A sturdy, 189-year-old wooden building holds the memories of thousands of local residents.

It served as home to five different churches in its earlier years and for the last six decades has been the headquarters for local war veterans.

In the coming days, it will find a permanent home and new purpose on the grounds of the Sanborn-Lewiston Farm Museum.

The white, vinyl-sided, rectangular structure was originally built as a meetinghouse in 1825-26 for the First United Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the Towns of Lewiston and Cambria, just south of a home at 5050 Cambria-Lewiston Townline Road in Pekin, according to Gerald E. Treichler.

Treichler is secretary of the Sanborn Area Historical Society, which operates the Farm Museum, and he co-chaired the building relocation project with William Sterner.

“This adds to our museum complex,” said Treichler. “It meets our mission to preserve, interpret and promote the heritage of rural Niagara County for residents and visitors alike.”

The building was first moved sometime between 1865 and 1874 from Pekin to 5866 Pearl St., where it served for the past 60 years as home to the Sanborn Post 969, American Legion, according to Treichler, who is also a Legion adjutant.

The Lewiston Town Board secured a Niagara River Greenway grant of $175,000 for the historical society to relocate the building again to its Farm Museum site at 2660 Saunders Settlement Road.

The 56-foot-by-25-foot structure was recently hoisted up on wheels and soon will make a slow and careful trip down Niagara Street, crossing Ward Road, onto the historical society’s museum property alongside the CSX railroad tracks to its final home.

Historical society officials said plans call for the front of the building to be restored to look like the original church, while the rear will become a small museum with historical exhibits, including those concerning local war veterans.

Matthews House Movers of Rochester raised the building off of its Pearl Street foundation and inserted the necessary beams supported by wheels at the rear and a tie point for the towing vehicle at the front.

Jay Wendt Construction of Sanborn poured the foundation footer at the new museum site in preparation for the move and will complete the foundation wall so that the building may be dropped into place and the rigging removed.

Museum officials said the church steeple at the front of the building and leveling of the floor at the rear will take place in coming months.

The aging members of the legion post decided to downsize and donated the building to the historical society in March 2012. The 40-member organization now meets in the historical society’s schoolhouse museum on Niagara Street in Sanborn.

Treichler found in his research that the First United Society of Methodist Episcopal Church was formed on Dec. 18, 1824, when Pekin was known as Mountain Ridge.

Later, the building was used as a Presbyterian church. Then the steeple was removed and the building was moved sometime between 1865 and 1874 from Pekin, using log rollers and horses, to the Sanborn site, where it became the Sanborn Union Hall.

The Union Hall Association allowed the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Sanborn to use the building as a temporary place of worship while the congregation’s new church was under construction in the late 1860s.

It reverted to a full-time church again in 1888, when the Reformed Mennonite Church of Williamsville began its 48-year ownership of the building.

A current historical society member, Janet Hoover Latham, recalls seeing the Mennonites traveling to the worship site from Lockport, Tonawanda and other local communities and parking their buggies in back of the building. The Mennonites sold the building to the First Baptist Church of Sanborn in 1936.

Records show that four years later, Gertrude Hoover Kline bought the property and the American Legion received it as a gift from Kline’s estate in 1953. The legion later had the front steps removed and extended the original structure 16 feet, to house a kitchen and restrooms.

The legionnaires operated the building as a community hall to provide a meeting place for their own members, as well as the Lions Club, Friendship Club, Scuba Divers Club, Cub and Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts and Brownies, and other community and family gatherings.

The legionnaires donated the building to the historical society, which has spent the past two years acquiring funding to complete the project.

“We were very fortunate to get this grant,” Treichler said.