I spent a lot of the last few weeks' worth of evenings making phone calls for the Dryden Democratic Party. While we did carry the districts I called (phew), we lost the election pretty soundly, roughly 3 to 2. Dryden has long been a predominantly Republican place, but this was a major setback for the Democrats. We lost both the Supervisor position and a Councilman position to leave the Republicans with a 5-0 majority on the town board.
The whole process has me thinking a lot harder about where I live and why, and a blog seems like the right place to do it. Thinking in public is kind of strange, and sometimes even embarrassing, but it also seems worth doing. There isn't a whole lot out there on Dryden, and it's taken us a few years to figure out where we are. Maybe this will help some folks find their way around, and heck, maybe it'll be interesting generally.
I live at 1259 Dryden Road, Ithaca, NY 14850. Does that address say Ithaca, when this blog is about Dryden? It sure does. The house is in the Town of Dryden, but is just barely in the Ithaca zip code, the Ithaca school district, and Ithaca telephone exchanges.
You can see exactly where I'm at in this map or the aerial photo. If you zoom out a bit, you can see where I'm at relative to Ithaca, the Village of Dryden, and other places in the county, the Finger Lakes area, New York State, or the USA.
I live on a rural highway, New York State Route 366. It's a 45mph zone, largely used by commuters going to and from Cornell University and downtown Ithaca, with lots of gravel and concrete trucks going by during the day. It's not exactly promoted as a scenic route, and I'm not sure too many drivers passing through think of it as anything other than a way to get from here to there.
Walking on 366 is very different, however. There are houses, mailboxes, trees, litter, and all kinds of things to look at. At a walking pace, you notice people's gardens, how full drainage ditches are, and the state of the trees along the road. Before winter sets in, I'm hoping to take a series of pictures of the views from the road around my house, and continue the series photos when spring arrives. (There are no sidewalks here, and walking on icy highway shoulders is not much fun.)
For starters, here's my own house, in a picture taken this morning from the opposite side of the road.
1259 Dryden Road (map)
The view out from our house is mostly forest, an odd corner of property owned by Cornell. It seems to be attached to a nature preserve, which bodes well for its future. This is a view of across the street from down the road a bit.
Forest with passing truck (map)
In looking around the Town of Dryden site, I found a brief scenic tour as well as an outline history. Dryden Road is a modern descendant of the Bridle Road, which that history notes was built from "1793 to 1795... from Oxford to Cayuga Lake".
According to the NOAA, the Northeastern United States has "equal chances" of a warm or cold winter this year. The Ithaca Journal notes that normal winters in the Finger Lakes range from "45 to 90 inches".
The winter before last, I bought ten fifty-pound bags of salt and didn't use any. Last winter, I used all of those and bought more. I only have twenty pounds of salt at the moment - guess it's time to buy more.
It's not quite the first snow, as we had a dusting in late October, too, but this feels a little more substantial.
It seems to have lasted a bit better on the wood of our deck and a table there:
It's good that I'm up early this morning, as I suspect this will be gone in a few hours of sun. Real winter will be here soon enough, though.
Teachers in the Dryden Central School District rejected a contract offer.
Earlier this week, the Dryden Town Board passed next year's budget. The Journal says that the town tax stayed at $1.47 per $1000 assessment, while the fire tax increased from $1.53 to $1.57. My tax bill for last year agrees with the town tax number, but cites a fire rate of $1.31, so I'm confused here.
(It's also worth noting that the town is getting $847,000 in property taxes this year, compared to $780,000 last year, despite having the same rate per assessed value. Assessments were revised last year. Mine went up - which I thought was reasonable.)
Update/comparison: - The Town of Ithaca kept both its property tax rate and its fire tax rate the same this year. Most towns are pushing upward on both, as well as assessments, though.
Just a few last pictures of houses on 366, before I get to the writing I'm doing for the rest of the day. Heading northeast on 366 (toward Route 13), the next two houses are:
1265 Dryden Road (map)
1269 Dryden Road (map)
I spent the morning working at the Varna Community Center's pancake breakfast, serving pancakes, french toast, and coffee to a fair number of people. I've never really done anything like that before, but it went pretty well. (I think I was lucky to start out on a slow day.) Tracey's on the Varna Community Association board, and had to organize the volunteers, so I went along for the ride. It was a great morning, meeting lots and lots of people who live near me who I'd never met before, and the bacon was excellent.
Varna is legally a hamlet - a place that appears on maps and has signs, but isn't formally incorporated. Unlike Freeville and Dryden, Varna isn't a village. This means that Varna's zoning is decided by the town overall rather than by Varna's inhabitants. The Varna Community Association is a non-profit community group, not a governing body.
Our house is in what I was describing today as 'Outer Varna', near the furthest boundary that the VCA calls Varna. Baker Hill Road, less than a quarter-mile from here, is the edge on that side. The actual road signs for Varna (what people call 'downtown Varna') are about a mile west of here. In some ways Varna feels far away, but in other ways it makes a lot of sense that this is still Varna. There are a lot of common issues, largely around Route 366 and development.
943 Dryden Road, Varna Community Center (map)
One of the more fiery issues in Tompkins County lately has been the decision of George Dentes, District Attorney, to pull out of the drug court that Tim Joseph, Chairman of the County Legislature, supports. (Dentes was responding to the reduction of his office budget by half a prosecutor, but has never been particularly fond of alternatives to New York's Rockefeller drug laws.) The Ithaca Journal ran an article on it last week.
Today, the New York Times (free for the next two weeks, registration required) has an article that notes:
"Nonviolent drug offenders who complete judge-supervised treatment programs are significantly less likely to commit crimes again than those who serve prison time, according to a new study by an independent research arm of the New York State court system."
Much to my surprise, the US Justice Department seems very fond of these, and supports them with grants. I don't know that the article will change any minds in Tompkins County, but it's interesting to see more data.
More information on what the Ithaca Drug Treatment Court does is available in this op-ed from Ithaca City Judge Marjorie Olds.
(Update, November 11: Corning, just down the road a ways and not particularly known for its radicalism, is also starting drug courts to "curb costs".)
I hesitated before adding the DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County to my "Organizations" links, since they're based in Ithaca, not Dryden. Unfortunately, the Dryden Historical Society doesn't have a web site, and the DeWitt folks do cover Dryden as part of Tompkins County.
I felt better about the choice when I found that the DeWitt Historical Society is the keeper of the Eight Square Schoolhouse, formerly Dryden District School Number 5, and that they have a site with a fair amount of information on this extraordinary bit of local architecture.
I decided to look around the US Census Bureau's 2000 data for more information on the Town of Dryden. I found information on people and housing. It's pretty general information, but there's some interesting inforrmation about things like the age and size of owner-occupied vs. rental housing, income distribution, and lots more. Total population in 2000 was 13,352.
Today's Ithaca Journal has a piece on taxes in Tompkins County, noting that assessments have gone up for many people as well as taxes. One comparison is especially interesting for Dryden:
"In the villages selected for this article, a Village of Dryden property went up 9.3 percent while its tax bill increased 16.2 percent. The Trumansburg property's assessment increased 2.2 percent, while the taxes increased 13.7 percent."
It looks from that like assessment increases were a bigger share of the tax increase in Dryden, while tax rate increases were more powerful in Trumansburg.That's just one house in each place, and it probably varies across houses here. It would be interesting to take a look at more properties and see what the patterns are overall.
Update: A correction notes that "The 2003 tax rates per $1,000 of taxable assessed property for the villages were: Cayuga Heights: 5.91; Dryden: 6.02; and Trumansburg: 4.47."
Also in Dryden, 4-H Acres hosted the Golden Retriever Rescue of Central New York Saturday night.
The Boxcar, an old bar and restaurant long since closed, sits rusting just down the street from me. Someone seemed to be using a chainsaw in the course of repairing it last week, and hopefully that went well. My father-in-law went to this place about thirty years ago, but I think all that's really left of its former spirit is this fine sign:
Of course, you're not supposed to drink when you're running a railroad any longer, but given that the front end of the restaurant is an old boxcar, this is just charming decor.
The Boxcar (map)
The Boxcar's parking lot has been very handy when we've been sealing the driveway or had a driveway full of contractors, as parking on 366 isn't much fun. I took delivery of my planer in that parking lot, since a tractor-trailer backing into my driveway would be a really bad idea. The Department of Transportation seems to use the parking lot as a staging area for road construction as well.
I have occasional visions of buying it and turning it into a very cool woodshop, but that isn't likely to happen unless I suddenly hit the lottery (I don't play). In the meantime, it's not exactly a symbol of the neighborhood's strength, but at least it's interesting.
There was a question at the Dryden Town Board debate held a few weeks ago at the Varna Community Center of what should be done with this property and the former state police station shown below, but the question wasn't too clear and didn't get answered in depth. The Boxcar site might work as a possible park-and-ride for the TCAT bus system as well, taking traffic off 366, but who knows.
Old State Police station (map)
I came back from the Varna pancake breakfast thinking there were a lot more Democrats in Dryden than it felt like on Wednesday after the election. Then the Dryden Republicans conveniently put up unofficial results, district by district, and the reasons for that were a lot clearer.
I took the total votes for Supervisor and concocted my own simplified table. I knew the Democrats had carried districts 4, 8, and 9, while the Republicans took the rest, but I hadn't counted on the severe polarization within districts. The table below shows my results. (District names are my own descriptions. For a map, see here.)
|District||Description||Trumbull (R)||Varvayanis (D)||% Democratic|
|6||Village of Dryden||280||87||23%|
|7||E and N of Dryden||299||75||20%|
|8||Snyder Hill, Rt 79||98||211||68%|
|9||Ellis Hollow Creek||84||240||74%|
|10||South Central Dryden||217||86||28%|
It's not just that the overall race results were 3-2; it's that nearly every district in the town went at least 3-2 one way or another. The only district where the race was at all close was district 5, which is unsurprisingly at the edge of where the heavily Democratic southwestern districts (4, 8, 9) meet the heavily Republican districts. The further north and east, the more severely Republican.
Politically, this looks like two separate towns. I guess that was probably obvious to a lot of the people on both sides, and I knew the general pattern, but I'm still surprised by the degree of polarization.
(If you want to do your own analysis, the table at the GOP site is HTML saved from Microsoft Excel, so you can select the whole table in Internet Explorer, copy it, paste it into Excel, and have an instant spreadsheet, complete with formatting and calculations. Be sure to get the whole thing (including the top row), however. If you don't, you'll get odd messages about circular references from Excel and missing data when you do the paste.)
County taxes seem to be the main local story in the Ithaca Journal today, with stories on a County Legislature public hearing on the budget, notes on other counties' tax plans, and a report blaming the state for high local taxes.
The proposed Tompkins County budget includes a 19.65% property tax rate increase. The Journal looks at where the budget money comes from overall:
"The $117 million total budget includes a $60.9 million local share, and a 27 percent tax levy increase. Taxable property assessed at $100,000 would pay about $772 in county taxes in 2004 if the budget is approved."
Tompkins County is hardly alone in this, however. Tioga County faces a 19.8% rate increase, Chenango County 22%, while Broome County faces 6.4% plus
"lawmakers have said the county will likely be forced to issue a budget note -- a special tax on the tax bill. Money to pay for the note comes out of taxpayers' pockets. Broome lawmakers haven't said what the note could cost."
I don't know what to make of that.
Meanwhile, the Citizens Budget Commission blames the state for New Yorkers' local tax woes. No doubt some of that is true, and Tompkins County is participating in some multi-county projects trying to get Albany to address that, but the Journal doesn't note that the CBC is "a nonpartisan group backed primarily by businesses that seeks ways to control government costs and taxes," as does the New York Times story about the same report. Non-partisan doesn't have to mean there isn't an agenda.
I'm planning to collect more information on local tax rates over time, and post them here, as unvarnished as possible. Not that I lack an agenda, of course!
Continuing our walking tour up 366, we have a greenhouse and a bar.
1279 Dryden Road, Saunders' Greenhouse (map)
We've done pretty well with Saunders' plants, though I think we put some in hostile territory. They also sell model railroads and have a fair number set up inside. If I had the space and time, I'd love to get out my N-scale Erie Lackawanna stuff... someday.
1285 Dryden Road, The Plantation Inn (map)
I'll have to get a night picture of the bar, for full neon effect. The main barroom of the Plantation has some beautiful decor, too - old refrigerators with glass fronts and a great bar. They used to have a great old jukebox that played 45s, but it's now a CD jukebox. Better sound, I'm sure, but not as interesting.
I've always been fond of maps, and can happily sit around reading them for hours. I just stumbled on the property tax maps for Dryden. My own house is at the far left of Map 52. If you know your tax map number (it'll be in your property tax bills, if you own the property), you can find your place in here pretty easily. If not, looking at random maps is still kind of fun. I suspect finding out assessed values still takes a trip to the Town offices.
There's also an extended piece on Republican smears over in Enfield. The race in Dryden wasn't friendly, but I'll hope the Enfield approach of filing complaints during the campaign (under laws repealed in 1971, no less), then publicizing the accusations as "under investigation", doesn't spread.
I won't be reporting on every Dryden legal notice. A lot of them are foreclosures, court judgments, and incorporations. I'll note upcoming meetings, however.
I've been taking pictures, hoping to get a fair number in before winter arrives. Taking pictures of houses is very strange, though, for a number of reasons. These are places where people - my neighbors - live. Taking pictures from the road doesn't require any releases, but I'd really prefer not to aggravate people while documenting the buildings that are here.
The photos are pretty much straight shots from the road. If the house is invisible from directly across the road, I'll walk up and down the road looking for an angle, but I'm not going up anyone's driveway or looking for tight telephoto shots. The pictures are hardly artistic impressions because of this, but it seems like the right balance. I'd like people to see what they're driving by, but I don't want to get any closer in than they could from the road.
If you live in one of these houses and don't like the picture, let me know. I'll be happy to take a different picture or, if you feel your privacy has been invaded, take it down. If you have questions, please contact me.
I hope people find this interesting, and I'm hoping to carry on with it for a while. Historical societies and similar groups spend a lot of time trying to find pictures of buildings, especially labeled pictures of buildings. Maybe this will someday make their lives easier, at least for around here.
Walking further up 366 towards its intersection with 13, we cross Baker Hill Road, and thereby leave Varna, as well as Election District 4.
Baker Hill Road, Intersection with 366 (map)
Right on the other side of Baker Hill Road, there's a fascinating one-hole golf course. It's been there as long as I can remember (about five years).
Golf on 366 (map)
Looking at the tax map, I think this golf course belongs to the property going up Baker Hill. Continuing on 366, we come to the next house.
1301 Dryden Road (map)
One of the best-named furniture stores I've ever heard of is just up the road from us at 1302 Dryden Road. They sell largely Amish-made furniture, and have two large buildings (one of them two stories) on a piece of land that reaches into the intersection between Routes 366 and 13.
Treeforms, 1302 Dryden Road (map)
Treeforms, from the 13/366 intersection (map)
The Ithaca Journal has a story on last night's town council meeting. While I'm disappointed in the results of the Town Board elections, and can't say I'm thrilled with views of the people now running the place, I can take some solace that Martha Robertson represents this part of Dryden on the county legislature. She seems have taken some flak during her presentation on the county budget over Alternatives to Incarceration.
I'd like to spend less of my tax money on expensive prisons which harden criminals further, and wish the "law and order" crowd would recognize how much they cost us every day. Councilman Michaels is welcome to come by here if he wants to hear how far out of touch he is with the people he hasn't talked to yet.
The Conservation Advisory Council is also taking steps to turn itself into a Conservation Board, which would "allow the group to review state environmental quality review, or SEQR, Type I actions and advise the Town Council on the review."
There's also a new Dryden Town Talk about Malloryville. in particular "the Nature Conservancy's O.D. Von Engeln Preserve" and the eskers there. Cathy Wakeman also notes that there will be an ecumenical Thanksgiving service at the Dryden United Methodist Chuch on Sunday, November 23, at 4pm.
Elsewhere in the county, Danby is raising its tax rate 1.8% for an 8% overall increase in the levy, while Enfield is lowering its tax rate 1.9% and increasing its levy 2.8%. Their fire tax rate is also dropping 0.5%.
The weather was pretty definitely the most exciting news yesterday. High winds, trees falling, lights flickering. The Ithaca Journal reports bricks blowing off a building in downtown Ithaca, while Dryden had more ordinary power outages. It was loud most of the night, kind of like airplanes were constantly coming in for landings. We also got our first real-ish snow:
There's not much other news here except a letter on Dryden school renovations.
I'd rather not dwell on this entry, but it's hard to avoid that Dryden's had a pretty rough time with crime over the last fifteen years, and every now and then I hear it described as the "Village of the Damned" when I tell people from elsewhere in the county where I live. That name seems to come from here. The Ithaca Journal discussed it after a more recent crime, and there's a reply from Dryden residents as well.
I'm pretty happy here. At least I don't live in the "City of Evil", though I don't believe that one either.
I had mentioned the Eight Square Schoolhouse in an earlier posting, but found more information on it in The Centennial History of Dryden (1898), which is available from the Dryden Historical Society. I've typed in the relevant chapter, as its copyright has long since expired. It's definitely writing from a previous century, but has lots worth listening to. If you're interested, read on.
Chapter XXXVII - The Octagonal School House
Doubtless every old school house in the township has a record and a history, which if properly reduced to writing, would be interesting and instructive reading. There is something especially fascinating connected with the education of children, and the story of the experiences of both the teacher and the pupil in their combined efforts to impart and develop, as well as receive and apply, instruction is always interesting; but we cannot undertake here to write up the history of every school-house in Dryden, and what we shall say of this one, which has some especially interesting features about it and which is, in a general way, typical of the rest, must suffice for all.
If the plain and dingy walls of the brick building, a likeness of which is here given, commonly but inaccurately called the "Eight Square School House" could but tell their own story in such a way as to be fully understood, they would furnish an eloquent history which the writer of this chapter can but imperfectly imitate. They could truthfully say that within their inclosure were taught at least four school children who became supervisors of the town of Dryden, viz: Jeremiah Snyder, Smith Robertson, Hiram Snyder, and Leni Grover; two, sheriffs of Tompkins county, viz: Thomas Robertson and Smith Robertson; one, a presiding elder, Wm. Newell Cobb; two, county superintendents of the poor, Jeremiah Snyder and Wm. W. Snyder; one, a millionaire, Orrin S. Wood; numerous others who became bank, telegraph, and insurance managers as well as railroad superintendents, and last, but not least, one pupil of the gentler sex, Mary Ann Wood (Cornell), who in after years was destined to become the wife of a millionaire philanthropist and the mother of a distinguished governor of our Empire State.
The age of this venerable but well-preserved school-house is about seventy-five years. We think that some one had given us the exact date of its construction and the name of its chief builder, but if so the memorandum of it has unfortunately been mislaid. However, the precise date is not essential. From the year 1815 forward until it was built, a period of about ten years, upwards of one hundred pupils of school age were annually registered upon the records of the school district (no. 5,) which, although occupying then, as now, a thinly settled agricultural section of the country, was remarkable in many aspects, and doubtless afforded during the first half of our Century Period the best educational advantages to the largest number of appreciative school children to be found together in the township, At one time there were eight families residing in the distict--coinciding in number with the eight sides of this unique form of a school building--which numbered among their members eighty-seven children, lacking only one in the aggregate of giving an average of eleven to each, and two single families at one time supplied the school with eleven pupils. Prior to about 1825 a small frame structure occupied the present site. Even then the greatest efforts were being made to secure the very best of teachers for this school, some of them being obtained from Cortland and further east. During this time William Waterman taught the school six years, Almon Brown one year, and David Reed, three years, Elmira (Bristol), the oldest daughter of Benjamin Wood, serving as assistant.
It was during Reed's administration as principal that it was decided that a new school-house must be built, the old building being so crowded with the swarms of pupils that some had to be sent out to play in order to give others a chance to recite. Accordingly, the frame building was removed to a point about eighty rods north, where it served temporarily while the new brick building was being constructed, and afterwards it was sold and became a part of the Elijah Vanderhoef residence near the extreme northeast corner of the district.
We may well believe that the parents of these school children who were to be so successful in after life were not of the niggardly, narrow-minded class of citizens and did not begrudge the great effort under the circumstances required to construct a building which should be, as it was for half a century, the best of its kind in the township. The prime movers in the enterprise were said to have been Col. William Cobb, at the southeast, and Benjamin Wood, at the northeast corner of the district, and they were the first to have children who, after graduating from this school, sought higher institutions of learning; but the trustees who had charge of the work and who together conceived of and carried out the particular design were Capt. Geo. Robertson, Isaac Bishop and Henry Snyder, the nearest neighbors on either side, who employed as chief builder one Balcom from near McLean or Cortland. The brick was then made near by at the Grover-Hammond-Metzgar brickyard corners and the Jeremiah Snyder brickyard corners, last operated by Russel Sykes. Many of the less able families had their shares contributed by their more fortunate neighbors. Thus with the greatest harmony, as it is said, and entirely free from the jangles and controversies which too often in modern times distract and disgrace communities in such undertakings, the eight-sided school house became an accomplished reality.
Reed as school-master was followed by Grinnell, Pelton, and others in early days and later by such excellent local teachers as Ebenezer McArthur, Smith Robertson, Merritt L. Wood, Levi Snyder, Joseph Snyder, Alviras Snyder, Orrin S. Wood, William W. Snyder and Artemas L. Tyler.
While the Octagonal School House is still serviceable as an institution of learning we leave the reader to supply its present success and surroundings from other sources, our object being in this as in all other matters to emphasize and preserve that which is old and in danger of being lost to local history.
Goodrich, George B. The Centennial History of the Town of Dryden, 1797-1897. Dryden: Dryden Herald Steam Printing House, 1898. Reprinted 1993 by the Dryden Historical Society. Pages 159-62.
(The Dryden Historical Society, which sells this book, may be reached at 607-844-9209.)
Continuing up 366 toward its intersection with 13, we have three houses. Two are well hidden, while the third is pretty prominent.
1309 Dryden Road (map)
1313 Dryden Road (map)
1317 Dryden Road (map)
Exxon gas station, 1321 Dryden Road (map)
Dryden Road continues, along 13 toward the Village of Dryden.
Most of the Dryden news today seems to be financial. The Ithaca Journal explores snow removal in a period of tight budgets. There is also a guest column from Rachel Dickinson, president of the Dryden Central Schools Board of Education about the elementary school renovation referendum Tuesday.
Looking further afield, the New York Times has a broad look at county tax increases across the state.
I stopped by the Dryden Historical Society today. They're at 36 West Main Street in the Village of Dryden, and they're open from 10-2 on Saturdays or by appointment. It's in a very nice building, one which was apparently moved from just down the street.
Dryden Historical Society (map)
I talked with Laurence Beach there, and found out all kinds of things, from grocery stores that used to be in the Village to confusions about the namings of roads in Varna that turned out permanent. The Historical Society has a room for displays and a room full of books and records.
I picked up a membership form, wrote a check, and put it in the mail today. I'll be back. Local history has always fascinated me, and I marvel at people who seem intent on moving forward without looking back.
Most people are interested in flight schedules because they help them get from point A to point B. Those of us who live in the airport's flight path learn flight schedules because the sound becomes a part of our daily rhythm. Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport (which seems to have a corner in Dryden) conveniently provides flight schedule cards at the ticket counters, and the information is also available online.
The airport has two primary flight paths, one for each direction of the single runway. They direct planes to land from over Dryden or from over Cayuga Lake depending on wind conditions, a pilot friend of mine tells me. At night, we always seem to get the 11pm flights. Must be something about prevailing winds.
We're too close to the planes going by for much plane watching - they're here for a minute of noise, half a minute of viewing. Further away in Dryden, especially if you're up on the hills, you might be able to watch the planes coming and going and see how well they match the schedule.
Hmmm... it doesn't look like we have jet service at the moment. There used to be a daily jet which went to and from Pittsburgh via Elmira, and then they had regional jets. Maybe now that US Airways is owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, they have less patience for us. It's not Mohawk Airlines any more, focused on upstate New York.
Today's Ithaca Journal brings an article on the Dryden school renovation referendum, as well as a brief letter to the editor on the subject. The vote takes place tomorrow from 7am to 9pm in the Dryden Central School auditorium. Apparently you don't need to be registered to vote - you "only need to be 18 years old, a U.S. citizen and have lived in the district for 30 days.".
There's also an editorial that applies to the northern half of the country, not just Dryden. Slippery roads aren't much fun when you have to share them with other people. Even last week's light snow was enough to put cars off the road in a few spots.
When you're driving down 366, odds are good that you won't notice F & T Distributing, which is at the bottom of a driveway between the Boxcar and the old State Police building. It's a food products distributor, and creates some strange truck turning patterns there, but it took me a while to figure out what trucks were doing there since the business is so well tucked away between routes 13 and 366. It's so well tucked away that I forgot I had a picture.
1278 Dryden Road, F & T Distributing (map)
The Ithaca Journal legal notices contain an announcement that:
the Town Board of the Town of Dryden and the Village Board of the Village of Dryden will hold a joint public hearing on the petition of Konstantinos Katsiroumbas for annexation to the Village of Dryden of Town of Dryden tax map parcel no. 38.-1-30.12 containing approximately 21 acres. The territory proposed to be annexed contains the site of a proposed New York State Department of Transportation garage and office facility. The parcel to be annexed fronts on Enterprise Drive and Ellis Drive in the Town of Dryden.
Mark your calendars for December 18, 7pm, at the Village Hall.
This one's not yet listed on the Town of Dryden Public Notices page. It's a ways off, though.
The news today is quiet, though there are at least two votes today that will have a substantial effect on Dryden. The Tompkins County Legislature is voting on next year's budget tonight. In the Dryden School District, the renovation vote is today from 7am to 9pm, in the auditorium of Dryden Central School.
Should make for a lot of news tomorrow.
Since I reached Route 13 with the lovely picture of the Exxon station, it's time (for now) to head down 366 the other way, through Varna. Here are the next two houses on 366 heading west.
1251 Dryden Road (map)
1243 Dryden Road (map)
When I reach the Town of Dryden line (Game Farm Road), I'm planning to go along Route 13, then 366 to Freeville, then 38, then 392. That'll take a long while.
Funding for renovations in the Dryden Central School District passed overwhelmingly yesterday.
The Ithaca Journal's reporting seems downright strange. While the margin was 2-1 in favor, they quoted three people against the proposal who were still fighting the battle to consolidate the schools, one who still longed for consolidation but voted for the renovations anyway, and one person who voted for it because he thought it was a good idea. Add to that that the article quotes George Totman's grumbling without noting that he's the Republican representative to the County Legislature for Groton and McLean, and also quotes the (at least noted) son of a Republican Dryden Town Board, and I really have to wonder.
Do they need a larger rolodex?
The County Legislature voted 9-5 last night to reject the proposed budget. Of the Dryden legislators, Martha Robertson voted for it, while Mike Lane and George Totman voted against it. The future of the budget looks pretty complicated, so I urge you to read the whole Ithaca Journal article.
In other county news, the Enfield Republican party seems to have suffered a setback, as it turns out that [Democratic] "Town Justice Jane Murphy has never been investigated as a result of complaints filed against her," contrary to claims made in a flier distributed right before the election. Even County Republican Chairman Mark Finkelstein seems embarassed by this one. The person who sent the flier, William Mather, Enfield's "then-acting Republican Committee Chairman", "declined to comment on the letter Tuesday night." Of course, the 397-338 Republican victory still stands.
Meanwhile, District Attorney George Dentes continues to howl about the costs of any alternatives to his prosecuting people and locking them up in expensive prisons paid for by our state taxes. Without noting the cost of incarceration - since the county doesn't pay for that - he picks out every number in the county budget that might in some way reflect costs of strategies other than sending people to prison. It's past time to find another DA.
(The Drug Court Evaluation study I mentioned last week is available if you want a full perspective on how and whether these work, with lots of tables comparing practices across the state.)
In today's Ithaca Journal, the lead editorial, "Dryden's Controversies" hopes that the new Republican supervisor and board members will "will enjoy success in bringing Dryden residents together and moving their town beyond the divisiveness that seemed to dominate politics this year."
That's a nice sentiment, but the Journal seems determined to forget that there are real issues in Dryden. The volunteer fire department issues aren't likely to go away as population patterns change, the cost of equipment increases, and fire taxes leap from $1.31 per thousand dollars of assessment to $1.57. I do expect that the town board will be able to bring itself together now that its supervisor, councilmen, and lawyer are all on the same page, but I'm not sure that reflects the town coming together in any substantial way.
There's some cause for hope. Marty Christofferson waxed enthusiastic about sidewalks in Varna during the debate at the Varna Community Center, and I hope he pushes forward on that. Maybe the Town Board can address the issues raised over the last few years with the fire departments in an open and equitable way. Maybe the Town plan that's been in the works might reflect the value of building stable communities rather than giving developers license to drop dense apartment complexes in areas where they make the road infrastructure and drainage a mess even if the water and sewer are there.
The Journal's opinion that the school controversy should be laid to rest is also a strange contrast with yesterday's reporting, which seemed to emphasize old wounds to the maximum extent possible.
The Journal could do worse, of course. At least we didn't get the Enfield treatment, which through all the nice words basically suggests that whatever the campaign shenanigans, the Democrats are the party that needs to rethink its message.
Both the Dryden and Enfield board comments also make odd contrasts with their endorsements before the elections.
Oh well. It's a Gannett paper, part of a chain renowned for appealing to those it sees as having power. It's what we've got here, and it's not likely to change.
Continuing toward Varna, we have a house shrouded by woods opposite an empty lot used as a turnaround.
1237 Dryden Road (map)
While Dryden has been slowly reforesting itself for the last century, there was a time when this was much more thoroughly forested. In the first chapter of The Centennial History of Dryden, George Goodrich describes primeval Dryden:
When first discovered by civilized man our town was a dense forest mostly of hemlock and hard wood timber, liberally sprinkled with large trees of white pine, which in some places grew to be so thrifty and thick as to monopolize the soil and overshadow and crowd out the inferior growth. How many generations of these undisturbed forest trees grew and decayed before being seen by the first settler is a matter of pure speculation; how this primeval forest appeared to the hardy pioneers who cleared it from the sites of our present homes, must be to us a subject for interesting reflections. (p. 2)
Goodrich's description of that early clearing, as well as of the many creatures who lived in that forest, is well worth exploring.
Chapter XII - Review of the Pioneer Period
We have now hastily passed over the first twenty-five years of the history of the town of Dryden, as a whole, commencing from the first settlement in 1797 and extending to the year 1822. We shall refer to it hereafter as the Pioneer Period, being the first quarter of the century of Dryden's inhabitation by her present race of population. To obtain a correct and reliable view of this period, we have been obliged to look back beyond the reach of human memory and to rely upon such information as tradition and the fragmentary records of those early times afford. Reliable memoranda of those times, when obtainable, have been quoted minutely as furnishing the most trustworthy means of obtaining a correct idea of the condition and habits of our ancestors in that distant period.
We can readily understand that the wilderness was not transformed into fine cultivated fields, such as we now have, during that time. The best of the farms must have been thickly beset with stumps and cradle knolls when the year 1822 dawned upon the new country. Farming tools and implements of husbandry were then few and of the rudest character. Mr. Bouton says that the first cast iron plow seen in the town of Virgil was introduced there in the year 1817, and we may assume that Dryden was not much in advance of her older sister town in that respect. Hitherto plowing had been done with a home-made wooden implement, held with a single handle, the original "mould board" being of wood instead of iron. Fortunate was the farmer in those days who possessed a sickle with which to cut by hand his grain standing in the fallow, a handful at a time, and when it had been threshed with the flail, the willow fan and riddle afforded the best means of cleaning it for use or market. Such roads as then existed through the woods would now be considered almost impassable and all means of transportation were so difficult and expensive that people lived as far as possible on their own productions. Log houses were the rule and frame buildings the exception, even at the end of this period. We have queried as to whether any old houses, first constructed in those times, still exist, without becoming much the wiser for the speculation; but we mistrust that the little red house, now used as a storage building on the Burlingame farm, near the reservoir of the Dryden Village Water Works, is among the oldest survivors of former dwellings. It was the home of Edward Griswold, Sr., when he was the owner of a large part, at least, of the (No. 39), a mile square, near the center of which it still stands. John C. Lacy, in his Reminiscences, states that within his recollection (he was born in Dryden in 1808) the Dr. Briggs house, originally built by Dr. Phillips, on South street, but now moved off and occupied by John McKeon, on Lake street was the finest house in Dryden village.
All of the dwellings of this period were lighted as well as heated from the fire in the open fire-place, tallow candles even at this time being a luxury only to be used on special occasions. Many a time has the thrify, industrious housewife of our ancestors, with the aid of the numerous small children who "played around her door," gathered in at twilight a supply of pine knots so that she might have them to throw on the fire as needed to enable her to spin by their light in the long fall and winter evenings. We regret that we are unable to do justice to the pioneer Mother of that period, for the reason that no record was ever made and kept of her hardships and privations, there having been no "strong-minded women" in those days to record them; and our only remedy is to give to her a full half of all the credit which belongs to the pioneer families for all of that which was accomplished.
Sheep husbandry prospered in the new country as soon as the sheep could be protected from the wild animals of the surrounding forests, and the cultivation of flax was early introduced. So abundant was the flax seed left after the fiber was worked up into cloth, that an oil mill to express the linseed oil was early in operation on what is now South street in Dryden village, the heavy frame of of which mill still serves to support a dilapidated barn, the covering of which was put on new since its use as an oil mill was discontinued. The plain clothing of the family was made from homespun cloth, coarse and heavy but at the same time strong and durable.
Joseph McGraw, Sr., already referred to as the father of the millionaire, John McGraw, came into the settlement in this period as a professional weaver, going from house to house to work on the hand looms of those days and to instruct others in the art; and his fellow townsman, Benjamin Wood, the grandfather of our ex-governor A. B. Cornell, at the same time was known and employed as a "read maker", manufacturing by hand from reeds the delicate parts of the looms by which the warp was manipulated in the process of weaving. Mr. Wood early resided near Willow Glen in the little wood-colored house recently taken down on the farm formerly owned by Charles Cady; but afterwards he became the proprietor of the premises near Etna, known as Woodlawn. A subsuquent chapter will be devoted to Mr. Wood and his family.
We have intentionally omitted from our narrative some hunting and fishing stories which have come down to us, suspecting that even the good and true old men of those times, like their descendants, might be given to exaggeration on these subjects, and preferring to leave them out altogether rather than to furnish exaggerated fiction under the guise of reliable history. We should, however, say something concerning the wild animals which were native here when disturbed in their haunts by the pioneers.
Of the larger animals the deer were very abundant and did not wholly disappear from the forests of the town until about 1835. It seems to be stated on good authority that Peleg Ellis, during the first autumn of his settlement in Dryden, killed eighteen deer so near his log house that he drew them all up to his door upon his ox sled. The woods were full of small game and the squirrels and chipmunks were so abundant that when the raising of grain was first attempted in the small clearings entirely surrounded by the forest, it was almost impossible to save it from destruction by these pests. It was only by persistent trapping and hunting and sometimes by the use of poisoned bait that the crop was secured. The bears and wolves were somewhat troublesome, but they soon avoided the neighborhood of the settlements. The only animal which seriously endangered human life, and that not except when hunted and at bay, was the cougar, or puma, or American lion as it was sometimes called, and ofter referred to by old people as the painter or panther, but improperly so, the true panther being a denizen of Africa. This cougar or puma was a cat-like carniverous animal about five feet long, of a reddish brown color above and nearly white underneath, being closely related to the leopard family of animals. It was King of Beasts on the American continent, nearly all of which it originally inhabited, and woe to the unsuspecting deer or other animal which passed under the tree from which it was watching to spring upon its pret. It had a peculiar cry which was sometimes mistaken for that of a human being in distress, and many were the thrilling stories told of it by the early settlers, though it was too cowardly to often attack mankind.
The American eagle, too, in early times made his home in Dryden, as appears from the following account published in the Ithaca Daily Journal of April 20, 1880, as copied from the Dubuque (Iowa) Times of an earlier date:
"In the years of 1828-9 a man discovered an eagle's nest in the top of a pine tree on the bank of Fall Creek in the town of Dryden, Tompkins County, N.Y., east of the town of Ithaca. The tree was cut and three young bald-headed eagles just ready to fly left the nest before the tree reached the ground. They were caught. One of them was presented to Roswell Randall, a wealthy and prominent merchant residing in Courtland Villa, Courtland county, N.Y. He caged, fed, and cared for the bird two or three years. It grew fast and became a very large, noble bird of attraction. Mr. Randall placed the caged prisoner by the side of the front walk leading to his beautiful mansion, in the foregrounds, that visitors and passers-by could easily enjoy the sight. Finally the bird caused so much trouble that Mr. Randall gave it to William Bassett, a near neighbor, who was an engraver and silversmith; in politics an old line Whig. In 1831 a Fourth of July celebration was had in the village. Mr. Bassett being a public spirited man, added largely to the enjoyment of the day by preparing a silver clasp with these words engraved on it, viz: "To Henry Clay, of Louisville, Ky., from Wm. Bassett, of Courtland Villa, Courtland county, N.Y.,' and riveting it loosely, around one of the legs of the eagle carried the bird and placed it on top of the cupola of the Eagle Hotel in the village, its head in a southwest direction. The military corps and citizens being drawn up in front of the hotel, the eagle was set at liberty. It stood erect upon the cupola, made three flaps with its wings, then set off southwest. The military were ordered to fire, the citizens, swinging their hats, gave three cheers for Henry Clay. The eagle continued its course until out of sight."
This was on the Fourth of July, 1831. The sequel subsequently appeared in the Western papers giving an account of a "large bald-headed eagle being shot by an Indian on a high, towering bluff on the west bank of the Mississippi, about three miles north of Dubuque, on the eleventh day of July, 1831, measuring seven feet three inches from tip to tip of his outstretched wings, having an engraved silver clasp riveted around one of his legs reading as follows, viz: "To Henry Clay, of Louisville, Ky., from Wm. Bassett, of Courtland Villa, Courtland, N.Y.,' In seven days from the time this noble bird graced the dome of the Eagle Hotel and set sail in the direction of Henry Clay's residence he was shot as above stated."
This incident was first furnished to the press by G. R. West, who was present at the celebration at Courtland in 1831 and saw the eagle take its flight from the old Eagle Hotel, which stood where the Messenger House is now located in Courtland village, and the promonotory on the Iowa bank of the Mississippi river, where the eagle was shot as above stated, has since been known as "Eagle Point" and is a land-mark for all steamboat men on the upper Mississippi.
But the most interest of the native animals which inhabited Dryden was the beaver. These industrious creatures were about the size of a small dog, and lived on the bark of trees, taking up their habitations in colonies of fifty or more each, in the streams, across which they built dams with wonderful instinctive sagacity. They formed houses of sticks plastered with mud so regular and perfect that they seemed almost to be the work of human hands. It was some time before the writer could ascribe to a certainty that the beaver inhabited Dryden. The name "Beaver Creek," applied to a sluggish, muddy stream in the northeast corner of the township, first suggested the thought and was followed up by inquiry which develops the fact that the remains of a beaver dam could be distinctly seen in the woods on this creek as late as twenty-five years ago. These interesting animals carried so much value in the fur upon their backs that they could not long survive the efforts of the pioneer hunters to capture them, and hence they early disappeared from this section of the country, so that their former presence here had almost been forgotten.
Goodrich, George B. The Centennial History of the Town of Dryden, 1797-1897. Dryden: Dryden Herald Steam Printing House, 1898. Reprinted 1993 by the Dryden Historical Society. Pages 35-39.
(The Dryden Historical Society, which sells this book, may be reached at 607-844-9209.)
The Ithaca Journal reports this morning that police captured three Texas residents at a seat-belt check in Cortland shortly after a robbery at the Song Tao restaurant in the Village of Dryden.
No one appears to have been injured, but five employees were tied up. One managed to escape and alert passers by, and witnesses had a description of the vehicle and its passengers.
The Town of Dryden is currently enumerating dogs, looking for dogs without licenses. I wonder if the enumerators have to visit every house in Dryden - that could take a while. A few more details are available in Town Board minutes right above resolution #71.
The fine if the enumerators find an unlicensed dog, apparently set by the state, is $5 plus licensing fees. That fine seems a little low given that total town and state fees are now $10 for spayed or neutered pets or $20 for unspayed or unneutered pets, especially since the chance of getting caught seems pretty low most of the time. (The town also collects fees for dogs impounded when they stray from home, laid out in Resolution #100 from the July 2 town Board meeting.)
Both of my dogs are licensed.
Continuing down 366 toward Varna, we come to another house, this one with a fine spruce in front.
1233 Dryden Road (map)
While looking through the Cornell Plantations Path Guide, I noticed the Cayuga Trails Club's 1971 Cayuga Trail map in the back. Though it clearly wasn't the focus on the map, two small labels stood out: "Ellis Hollow Rd. NY 393" and "NY 392 Forest Home Dr."
Route 366 and the New York Department of Transportation's control over the road, its speed limits, its passing zones, and its width seem to define Varna in a lot of ways, few of them fortunate. Somehow Ellis Hollow and Forest Home Drive escaped that, with Ellis Hollow becoming a county road and Forest Home Drive becoming a town road.
According to New York Routes (and Everything in Between), Route 393 ran from Route 366 (itself formerly Route 13) through the City and Town of Ithaca along Mitchell Street and then Ellis Hollow to the intersection with Turkey Hill and Quarry Road.
Route 392 "was assigned to Forest Home Rd. in Lansing and Ithaca until it was decommissioned in 1974", which is a little confusing since Forest Home doesn't go through Lansing. The Route 392 designation shifted to its current road, linking the Village of Dryden with US Route 11 in the Town of Virgil.
If anyone has more information on how or why this happened, I'd be very curious.
In this week's Dryden Town Talk, Cathy Wakeman focuses on the creation of "a vehicle for realizing dreams by encouraging ideas that are forming in the community." (An earlier article on the DYOF is available here.)
It looks like it's independent of both the school district and the town, though Paul Streeter, its chairperson, was President of the Dryden Central School Board during the failed effort to close the Cassavant and McLean elementary schools in favor of centralization.
I've got a letter to the editor in the Ithaca Journal today on George Dentes' fight against such notoriously soft-hearted liberals as the Bush administration on the matter of drug courts. Yesterday, there were two letters for the courts and one against.
A business dispute seems to have driven last week's robbery of the Song Tao restaurant in Dryden. It seems very strange - demand $150,000, take $500, end up in jail facing felony charges.
The Town of Dryden site now has minutes available for the November Town Board meetings. The November 5 meeting is a few public hearings followed by changes to and approval of the budget. The November 12 meeting deals largely with the conversion of the Conservation Advisory Council to a Conservation Board and discussion about the county budget.
There isn't much news about Dryden in the Ithaca Journal today, but the opinion page has a piece on sharing resources between towns in the face of county cuts, and apparently I'm not the only one who thought the Journal's coverage of the Dryden schools vote was odd.
The Town website now hosts the 2003 Draft Comprehensive Plan. This is a fascinating document with lots of pieces, but I'll be a while digesting before I comment on it in depth.
The draft (without maps) is 2.4MB long, so it'll take a little while even if you have a high-speed connection. If you're on dial-up, you'll need to be very patient; set up the download and take a break.
Also, the maps tend to be large files (most are detailed and in color), and are linked separately from the main plan. Here's a list, with direct links.
In addition to the Draft Comprehensive plan mentioned earlier, the 1999 "Future Land Use in the Town of Dryden: Alternatives and Recommendations" is available online. It was performed by Cornell's Department of City and Regional Planning. More food for thought.
Dryden-related holiday news in today's Ithaca Journal seems pretty light, and all from Freeville. The United Methodist Church there is having a free Thanksgiving dinner at 1pm today (844-3305 for reservations). Meanwhile, a concrete goose is getting dressed for the holidays.
I've noticed that since taking these photos I'm much more aware of the houses along Dryden Road. They have individual character, and aren't just scenery. I notice when things change, and I don't think I'm as prone to speeding either.
1227 Dryden Road (map)
1226 Dryden Road (map)
There's also the obligatory story on the start of the Christmas shopping season, which mostly reminds me how much I buy outside of the Town of Dryden. Hmmm....
In reading the Town of Dryden Draft Comprehensive Plan, I'm growing more and more concerned about things that I'm not seeing discussed, in particular the balance between rental units and owner-occupied housing.
The plan notes on page 40 that:
In Varna the lack of maintenance of rental properties owned by absentee landlords is resulting in the appearance of blight...
When we bought our house, it had been a rental for most of its seventy years. In some ways, that was okay with us, as it meant there weren't a lot of badly-considered renovations to be removed. On the other hand, we're spending enormous amounts of money to make it a more functional house, especially on things like a new furnace, insulation (there was only a thin layer between the second story and the attic), electrical and plumbing updates, replacements for worn-out flooring, etc. We still need to do major work on the roof, the paint, and the foundation. No one did good work on these for a long, long time.
Unfortunately, while the Draft plan notes that rental property can become blighted easily, it makes no recommendations for addressing this problem in the "Plan Recommendations", or particularly the "Hamlet Areas" section - where it could have touched on Varna in particular. Page 53 has "Some Guidelines for Multi-Family Development", but doesn't touch on landlord responsibility or approaches for encouraging owner occupancy in the least.
Before we moved into this house, we spent a year and a half on Birchwood Drive in the Town of Ithaca, paying exorbitant rent to live in a vinyl-sided house-behind-a-house in a neighborhood where all the houses looked the same, despite minor design variations. Apartment complexes with similar architecture and tiny driveways funneling cars on to overloaded roads seem to be springing up here. While I don't object to higher density on principle, I don't see this plan doing anything much to encourage responsible housing development and maintenance.