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Jefferson County Historical Society seeks to raise $25,000

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If a lot of people can give a little, the Jefferson County Historical Society will be able to improve its structures and operations.

Through the Historical Society 500, with the help of the Watertown Daily Times, the society hopes to get 500 people to donate $50 each, for a total of $25,000.

“We’re looking (for support) to help us operate,” said William G. Wood, executive director. “We have $1,000 a month that we have to pay for utilities. We have volunteer labor for things, but sometimes we need materials for it. What we need is more money to do the basic things we’re doing.”

One example, he said, is a steam pipe that sprung a leak a few weeks ago. The pipe has a temporary patch, but will need a permanent fix before winter.

Immediate jobs to be funded by the $25,000 include repairing the back outside staircase, which has rotted, and replacing a small section of roof above the library of the Paddock Mansion. That repair will be the fourth time in three years a section of the roof has needed repair.

“Where there’s missing mortar and bricks, that can easily collapse,” Mr. Wood said. “One of our members set it up so a volunteer might do that. We look for a low-or-no-cost option if we can get it. There’s a need for restoration all around.”

The funds also will support existing and new programs.

The Historical Society had raised $1,200 as of Wednesday; the Times printed an advertisement for the campaign on Sunday.

“The Historical Society is a great community asset which needs the help of the community,” said John B. Johnson, general manager of Northern New York Newspapers, publishers of the Times. “These historic buildings need investment so that future generations of children can see and learn about our local history. We are lucky to have this museum in Watertown and we are honored to partner with our readers to help ensure a bright future.”

Funds are used prudently, Mr. Wood said, as the agency keeps tight operations. Payroll for its four employees hasn’t increased in a few years.

Mr. Wood said that although the Historical Society 500 is a one-time fundraiser, the need exists for some sort of income every year; the $25,000 for a few months’ worth of repairs and operational costs is just the beginning.

Mr. Wood said he and David T. Coleman, museum caretaker, have developed a wish list of items not involved in the campaign: fixing water leakage in the basement of the Paddock Mansion; giving the carriage barn a new foundation; restoring the interior of the pink schoolhouse; replacing the furnace of the Massey house, restoring the walls of the log cabin and installing an electronic monitoring system for humidity and temperature.

All buildings on site are more than 100 years old.

Mr. Wood said he wants to focus on the Historical Society 500 and see that the agency’s most immediate needs are met before embarking on a full-fledged capital campaign to fund wish-list projects.

“Our immediate goal is to make sure as an organization we can continue to keep the doors open, as a way that’s both safe and educational,” he said. “We definitely need the help of the community. We’re a nonprofit working to preserve 100,000 items in our collection.”

There will be a behind-the-scenes tour Aug. 11 for supporters of the Historical Society 500. Anyone who pledges $50 before May 15 will be given free admission to the agency’s June 5 Heritage Days, and donors also will have their names printed in the Times.

Cash or checks made payable to Jefferson County Historical Society, with “Historical Society 500” written in the memo line, are being accepted. Funds may be dropped off or mailed to the Watertown Daily Times, 260 Washington St., Watertown, N.Y. 13601, or the Jefferson County Historical Society, 228 Washington St., Watertown, N.Y. 13601.

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