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Used books are money-maker for Cobblestone Museum

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 September 2016
Former Voting House has become popular spot at historic site in Gaines.

Photos by Tom Rivers: The former Voting House in Hamlin was moved to the Cobblestone Museum in Gaines in 1999. The Voting House was built in 1909 by the Monroe County Board of Elections. Monroe County made many of the voting houses that were placed in voting districts in Monroe. The gray tote in the lower right is a spot to place donated books.

GAINES – Twenty years ago the Hamlin town historian offered the community’s old Voting House to the Cobblestone Museum Hamlin had a local history museum but it went defunct and the Voting House was available.

Bill Lattin, the museum’s director at the time, didn’t think there was room at the museum for the small building. But Lattin kept thinking about the Voting House. He knew there used to be some in Orleans County, but they had vanished from the landscape.

The museum also had an annual used book sale on the Fourth of July weekend. It was always a chore to set up for the book sale, and to put leftovers back into storage.

Lattin thought the Voting House would be a good fit as a permanent location for used books. In 1999, the Hamlin and Gaines highway departments moved the building to the museum.

It’s behind the brick house, next to the Crosby’s gas station. The Voting House was cleaned up and repainted to resemble its original colors.

It also is stocked with books, and is popular in the community. Hardcover books sell for $1 and paperbacks are 50 cents. A metal box is mounted inside the site and people pay on the honor system.

Last year the used book sale raised $1,000 for the museum. It generated $550 in sales through the end of August.

“I originally didn’t think we had room for it,” Lattin, now retired as museum director, said today. “But it’s been a nice little addition for the community.”

Sue Bonafini, the volunteer coordinator for the museum, restocks books inside the Voting House.

There are two plastic garbage totes by the voting house for people to donate books. Museum volunteers go through them and organize by topics.

Two volunteers, R.J. Bannan and Erica Wanecski, have been instrumental in keeping the Voting House replenished with books this year, said Sue Bonafini, the museum’s volunteer coordinator.

“We get really good merchandise,” she said.

The Cobblestone Museum has donated books on the shelves in the former Voting House.

Popular authors such as Stephen King, Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts are quickly snatched up, and many classics also are popular, as well as coffee table books and the latest best-sellers. (On Wednesday, I bought “The Boys in the Boat” – the story of the 1936 US Olympic rowing team.)

The used book sale is open during regular museum hours, and often later. Bonafini noted many of the sales happen after hours.

She thanked the community for donating their books, and the customers for buying them on the honor system.