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Museum offers look into Lyon Mountain's past

LYON MOUNTAIN There is new life for the former Delaware and Hudson Railroad Station in the sleepy hamlet of Lyon Mountain. The Friends of Lyon Mountain Mining and Railroad Museum opened its doors last Saturday for its first full season, inviting the public to view artifacts from the hamlets once most booming industries. While the freshly-painted Standish Road building stands four rooms teeming with history, the process to get it to this point has been a long and arduous one. It was more than 10 years ago when members of the Chateaugay Arts Council expressed interest in creating a museum in Lyon Mountain specifically focusing on railroading and iron ore mining. Rita Kwetcian, who has been credited with being an instrumental player in the plan to develop the museum, said there was such an interest when the council would hold historical celebrations that it was only natural to pursue a formal museum. There was so much interest and so many people came, we thought we should preserve whatever we could, said Kwetcian. This building became available and we knew it would be perfect. But, it had to be restored. The Friends of Lyon Mountain organization was formed in 1999 and the former railroad station building was purchased in August 2000. The past eight years have involved holding various fundraisers and asking for donations in order to preserve the building to a quality in which the museum could occupy. The building itself was in good condition, said Kwetcian. It was mainly bringing the 1903 structure into the 21st century with various improvements. We had to have a new roof, we had to have everything painted, we had to have some of the outside redone. We had to put in new cement, a new furnace, wiring. There were lots of things. It really was extensive, said Kwetcian. Nothing had really been done to it. During their mission to restore the station, Friends of Lyon Mountain members also succeeded in placing the building on the state and national historic registers, opening up the projects eligibility for state and federal grants. The organization is still receiving funding from the New York State Historic Preservation Office through an $80,000 matching grant it received for the project. While that amount has helped the project, constant donations from the community and the support of fundraisers held by the group have kept the restoration continue, said Kwetcian. Weve been at it a long time. It seems like forever, Kwetcian said with a laugh. But, weve had a lot of support. The museum, which opened briefly last August, consists of a mining exhibit which occupies the main room visitors encounter upon entering. In the adjoining rooms, there are displays of photographs and other items collected from the railroad station, including maps and a telegraph machine. The far room includes items from the communities of Lyon Mountain and Standish, which were once company towns, said Kwetcian, as they were owned by the Chateaugay Ore & Iron Company. That company was eventually taken over by the Republic Steel Corporation, which was once the third largest steel producer in the country. In the far room is a bobsled designed by the late local residents Howard Pigg and Robert Linney. The sled was made from materials mined in Lyon Mountain and the runners were cast in Standish during the 1940s. The sled saw several competitions and wouldve gone onto the Olympic Games, said Kwetcian, but plans were scrapped when World War II began. Theres quite a bit of history here, Kwetcian said. There are additionally some exhibits which are kid-friendly, including a mini-iron ore mine and a wooden train set display. Eventually, the group would like to developing an existing freight room into a childrens exhibit, though that will ultimately depending on receiving more funding. The room is currently used for storage. This really is an ongoing project, said Kwetcian. Theres so much that can be done. What the public can do to help that effort, said Kwetcian, is to make a donation or purchase a membership in the organization. The Friends of Lyon Mountain offers two types of memberships an individual may join for one year at a cost of $15. A lifetime membership may be purchased for $500. When the museum is open, members are admitted at no charge, while the general public is asked for a donation upon admission. In addition, members receive a periodic newsletter to keep them up-to-date on various organization activities and events. For more information about the museum or to make a donation, call Kwetcian at 735-4314 or write Friends of Lyon Mountain, P.O. Box 230, Lyon Mountain N.Y. 12952. The Friends of Lyon Mountain Mining and Railroad Museum is open now through October, on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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