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After eight years, more than a million dollars and nearly 12,000 hours of volunteer work, the historic Opendore will reopen its doors to the public on Saturday.

Isabel Howland’s former home in the hamlet of Sherwood, in southern Cayuga County, will be the site of exhibits, guest lectures, a historic dedication and ribbon cutting this weekend. end.

The festivities are part of Centennial +1, a celebration of the 101st anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment hosted by the nearby Howland Stone Store Museum. The museum, which oversaw the restoration of Opendore, will also host a performance of suffrage quotes from the New Perspectives Theater Company on Saturday night at the Morgan Opera House in Aurora.

For Larry Bell, historian and secretary of the museum’s board of directors, the weekend represents a milestone in an important mission.

“Our mission is to tell the stories of Sherwood,” he said. “And there are some fascinating stories to be told here. Wonderful stories that we can learn from, I think.”

Niece of famous suffragist Emily Howland, Isabel inherited the 1837 house at 2978 Route 34B from her father in the early 1900s. She expanded it and, earning her name at home, opened the doors to the community, including the suffragists and other reformers. After the ratification of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing the right to vote for women in August 1920, the house remained in the Howland family until Isabel’s death in 1942. It then changed hands several times and remained vacant from time to time. 1970s until the museum bought it in Cayuga. County by paying its back taxes in 2008.






A painted portrait of Isabel Howland in Opendore, the recently restored house where she lived.


Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen


By this time, the house had deteriorated so badly that it was dangerous to enter. But the museum quickly got $ 5,000 from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, as the Sherwood Equal Rights Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum also obtained $ 400,000 from the State Environmental Protection Fund by raising a corresponding amount itself.

In 2013, the first phase of restoration of the house began with the stabilization of the north wing. Much of the structure was too deteriorated to even be restored and had to be demolished.

A few years later, the museum launched a call for tenders for the second phase, the west wing. But the board took a break when they got higher than expected, Bell said. That’s when the directors decided to source as much as possible from the public. A former historic restoration carpenter himself, Bell knew he and his fellow volunteers had the ability to help bring Opendore back to life.

“It was a labor of love,” he said. “We are people who just love to be together and work together.”

More specialized jobs, such as electricity, plumbing, flooring, roofing and masonry, remained in the hands of contractors. Otherwise, volunteers logged 11,800 hours of work on Opendore, Bell said. This helped the museum cut the project’s budget, which it estimated at over $ 1 million. Volunteer hours counted towards the museum’s counterpart of the $ 400,000 grant, he added.

The house is fully restored and ready to be occupied, as it reopens for this weekend’s grand opening. Only some work remains on the rest of the 9-acre property, Bell said. The museum plans to install a parking lot next year and complete the landscaping. This includes a nature trail on the property which needs to be developed before it can also be opened to the public.

For now, however, Opendore himself is giving the museum the exhibition space and facilities he envisioned when he purchased the historic property.

That will be evident this weekend, when the house opens exhibits on its own story and that of Emily Howland, who will be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls in October. Isabel and her ties to the Letchworth family are the subject of another. Upstairs, Bell said, there will be a recreation of the Sherwood Political Equality Club based on photos taken around 1917. The posters shown in the photos will be re-hung, as they are still part of the museum’s collection. He also hopes to recreate other period details from the reunion, such as the typewriter and telephone.

The house’s meeting room will accommodate up to 65 people when it hosts the museum’s programs, Bell continued. Its storage area has climate control, which is crucial for preserving the posters and other historical items that the museum has. And Opendore has been restored with modern toilets, a kitchen and full accessibility, helping to bring the house and the museum to life in the present.

“This time it was such a glorious estate,” said Bell. “Restoring it is more than any of us could have done.”

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