Distinct native sandstone celebrated at Sandstone Festival Sept. 18-22 in Potsdam
Saturday, September 14, 2013 - 5:27 pm

By LISA HOOVER

POTSDAM -- The Sandstone Festival will celebrate the legacy of Potsdam sandstone Sept. 18 to 22, with tours, history programs, and activities to show off Potsdam’s iconic red rock.

This will be the fourth year for the festival, although “we skipped a year,” said organizer and Potsdam Museum Curator Mimi Van Deusen. “I’m kind of the sole person” organizing the event, she explained.

Van Deusen said the event originated with a Canadian stonemason named John Bridges. “He was our inspiration,” she said. “We had a person who was an historic sandstone mason, came through Potsdam, he was trained in Canada at a stone masonry – Heritage Masonry – and he had worked on the Ottawa Parliament building library, which has a lot of Potsdam sandstone incorporated into the building.”

“He worked on restoring it, and he was the one assigned to the Potsdam sandstone,” she said. “He really wanted to come to Potsdam and see the Potsdam sandstone.”

“He came to the village office and they sent him over here, and we met,” she said.

He was “someone with an interest in sandstone, and I had an interest in sandstone,” she said. “He ended up living here…and helping us research the sandstone industry. He came up with tons of information that I didn’t know, and had never really been brought to life.”

“We kept doing tours and then I think it was his idea, and he said ‘You should do a festival!’”

“He gave the first demonstration on how to cut Potsdam sandstone in the old way,” she said.

Events will kick off Wednesday with a 7 p.m. talk on the sandstone industry and the Clarkson family at Clarkson’s hill campus, CAMP 176. Museum Curator Mimi Van Deusen will present.

Thursday’s events will include a noon organ concert at the First Presbyterian Church, followed by a talk with organist Laura Toland and a discussion on the stained glass windows by David Martin.

A tour of the Zion Episcopal Church in Colton will be offered at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Friday’s events will begin with a walking tour of Clarkson’s downtown campus, starting at Old Snell Hall. A tour of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, with a talk on stained glass window restoration, will be offered at 2 p.m.

Friday will wrap up with happy four at Maxfields from 5 to 7 p.m., complete with a 50/50 raffle, live music, and photographic exhibit by Jane Lammers. A walking tour of Potsdam’s downtown district will begin at 6 p.m.

Saturday will include a 10 a.m. walking tour of the red sandstone trail in Hannawa Falls with geologist Jim Carl. A tour of the Parmeter Hal House, 166 County Route 59, will be offered at the end of the walking tour.

The festival will kick into high gear Saturday afternoon at Trinity Episcopal Church. Offerings will include a talk on mortar repair of sandstone structures by Roy Perry at noon, a tour of the church with historian Betsy Travis at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and a workshop on stone cairns with Rebekah Wilkins-Pepiton at 2 p.m. A tour of Clarkson’s Land office building, Maple Street, will be offered at 4 p.m.

Other Saturday highlights will include the sandstone map project, a Renew Architecture chat with Rebecca Weld, Bayside Cemetery records with Adam Barns, the North Country Children’s Museum’s traveling exhibit, and a sale of books, maps, and cards by the Potsdam Museum.

The Potsdam Museum has been working on the sandstone map project for four years, according to Van Deusen. “It has most of the buildings that we know of in Canada, Potsdam, Utica, Albany, New York City, the Thousand Islands, and Washington, DC,” she said.

“The Clarkson’s were instrumental in shipping it out all over the country,” leading to buildings all over the northeast that contain Potsdam sandstone.

The museum is also working to include a survey done by some SUNY Potsdam students in 1977 that found more than 700 homes with Potsdam sandstone foundations.

In addition to the foundations, “at one point there were I don’t know how many miles of sandstone tiles” for sidewalks, Van Deusen said.

The museum map tracks the sidewalks, home foundations, bridges, dams, houses, fireplaces, and outdoor landscaping made of local sandstone. “Light up the little dots on the map and it’s like ‘oh my word!’” she said.

The evening will wind down with a dinner at 6 p.m. at The Cantina, 11 Raymond St., an historic sandstone structure.

The festival will wrap up Sunday with a walking tour of Bayside Cemetery with Susan and John Omohundro at 2 p.m. Adam Barnes will share his Bayside Cemetery Project work. Van Deusen will give offer a cemetery grave walk for a $5 donation to benefit the museum and the Cemetery Association.

The festival will culminate in a live music fundraiser dinner at Mama Lucia’s Sunday at 5 p.m. Church and State will perform. Dinner will start at 6 p.m. Entry will be a $10 donation to benefit the museum and the Sandstone Festival.

The festival started out small, but has grown over the years. “We had a target of, in our wildest dreams that it include all of these things,” Van Deusen said, “We’re really starting to do a lot of things.” Next year she hopes to add a tour of Herring-Cole Hall at St. Lawrence University, which is under construction this year.

“Last year we had people from Canada, Tupper Lake, Malone, and Ogdensburg,” she said.