Seward House restoration making slow progress

are commercial, cultural village attractions coming 'soon'


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  • This file photo from October 2012 shows Bob Scott, John Kimiecik and Joyce Willis outside the Mapes house on Main Street in the Village of Florida. William H. Seward, secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln, was born on the site.




  • William Henry Seward



FLORIDA — William Henry Seward's 1801 birthplace has idled in neglect off North Main Street for decades so, perhaps, the seemingly slow pace of the recently unforgotten landmark's restoration should be viewed in patient context.

But according to members of the Seward/Mapes House Restoration Committee, significant progress is being made and the day when both historical structures are open to the public as significant commercial and cultural public attractions is coming "soon."

Seward/Mapes House Restoration Committee members Joan Kessinger and Roger Dowd updated the Florida Village Board of Trustees on the unfolding restoration on June 11.

The restoration has been underway since the property at 35 North Main St. was deeded to the village in 2010. The village received a $400,000 state grant orchestrated by Sen. John Bonacic (R/I/C – Mt. Hope) that same year to initiate the project. Also in 2010, the Seward/Mapes Homestead Committee was formed to coordinate volunteer efforts to clean up and maintain the site.

The ultimate goal is to restore the Mapes house on North Main Street so it can be used for community groups and events. The Seward birthplace behind it, originally built in 1797, would become a museum and an educational center and the land surrounding it a park with cobblestone walkways and benches.

Kessinger told trustees that the committee has staged "three successful fund raisers" over the last two years to augment the state grant and has recently secured federal 501.3(c) non-profit status, enabling it to accept donations and give the individuals a receipt for tax purposes. She said securing the federal non-profit status was part of an administrative revision that includes a new mission statement, bylaws, board of trustees and public meetings - the fourth Thursday of each month at the Warwick Town Senior Center.

Dowd said the $50,000 state Municipal Facilities Capital grant the village secured in 2013, also via Bonacic's office, will be spent on the 217-year-old structure's roof. He said volunteers recently lifted what they thought were walkway flagstones only to learn they were "badly inscribed" tombstones that could be hundreds of years old.

For more information on the Seward/Mapes House restoration, go to www.http://sewardhomestead.org.

- John Haughey


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