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Arts council donates $25K to Cheshire restoration

The Ontario County Arts Council board of directors recently awarded a $25,000 grant to the Cheshire Theatre and Meeting Hall project, supporting efforts by the Cheshire Community Action Team to open a venue for arts and cultural events in the hamlet.

The funds will help pay for the installation of a heating and cooling system in the state Route 21 building that was home to the first Grange chapter in Ontario County, said Fred Goodnow, chair of the Cheshire Community Action Team.

“The Ontario County Arts Council’s donation is a wonderful demonstration of support from the arts community, as well as a motivator to all of us who have worked so hard on this project for a long time,” he said. “This is a very big boost to the project as well as to morale.”

Built in 1898, the Knights of the Maccabees Hall — as it was known back then — performed plays, comedies and musicals by a group of local families who called themselves the Cheshire Amusement Co. Memorial Day commemorations started in the building before and after World War II, and the building served as the site of community dinners and dances through the 1950s.

An effort to restore the building began in 2007 with a $50,000 state grant secured by the team with the assistance of former state Sen. Dale Volker, R-59th District. The team restored the structural integrity of the building and the front facade. Architectural drawings are complete, and the team is awaiting approval of the heating and air conditioning plans.

Significant work remains before the building can open to the public. This includes restoration of the west wall, pouring a concrete floor in the lower level, completing bathrooms on both floors, replacing windows and insulating all outside walls. The team plans to reassemble the wooden boards in the lower level to preserve graffiti from the early 1900s.

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