The buildings at the Erie Canal Village are in various states of disrepair with most, if not all, failing the city’s basic code requirements. The artifacts — those that remain salvageable and have not succumbed to mold or decay — are still being cataloged with ownership being determined.
And yet, those with a vested interest in the property and its assets — owner Rick Rios, of California; the Rome Historical Society; and members of the city’s Common Council and municipal government — remain undaunted in their efforts to move forward and restore the village as an attraction worthy of visiting and of carrying on Rome’s legacy as the place where the first shovelful of dirt was turned to create the venerable Erie Canal.
Although there are plenty of obstacles, both those mentioned above and others — including the bureaucracy involved in designated the site as a historic district to provide it with some additional benefits — we hope they do.
While it is true the Erie Canal is no longer the economic engine that opened up western New York and the Great Lakes region, it is still a marvel with a rich history that deserves to be preserved.
Likewise, Rome’s role in the process, should also be celebrated.
We understand the financial difficulties involved in restoring the parcel and its buildings from the Victorian home to the Cheese Factory, which will require extensive work and funding. We also are cognizant of the Herculean effort to sort through the artifacts at the village, to salvage what can be salvaged and to develop appropriate methods and facilities to preserve and exhibit them.
We also understand, perhaps the largest obstacle to overcome, is skepticism in the region over whether it actually can, or should, be preserved.
We will choose, in this instance, to be hopeful. Hopeful that its new ownership is willing to make the substantial investments necessary, as it appears it is poised to do; encouraged that the city councilors have thoroughly investigated the needs and benefits of establishing a historic district at the site and proud that a small, but fiercely dedicated group of local historians are fully engaged as partners in the process.
We wish them smooth sailing in this effort.