The Whallonsburg Grange Hall in Essex, New York, announced that the Cloudsplitter Foundation has awarded the organization a $10,000 grant for the next phase of the project to renovate and repurpose Whitcomb’s, the building and riverfront lot that sits directly across the road. The Grange bought the property in December 2018 with the goal of developing it as commercial space for small businesses, artisans’ workshops, community space, retail store and parkland on the Boquet River. Cloudsplitter Director Chenelle Palyswiat delivered the check while touring the site.
The Grange itself was saved and renovated through a multi-year, volunteer effort and is now a thriving community and performing arts center, open year-round. Whitcomb’s Garage was a used car showroom and auto repair facility in the center of the hamlet of Whallonsburg from the 1950s to the 1990s. When longtime proprietor Clarence “Narni” Whitcomb passed away in 2017 and the building went up for sale, a generous donation enabled the nonprofit Grange Hall to purchase it.
“We are deeply grateful to the Cloudsplitter Foundation for their financial support and for the confidence they have shown in this project,” said Andy Buchanan, Grange board vice-president. “The Whitcomb’s project builds on the success of the Whallonsburg Grange and is a testament to the deep commitment local volunteers have to revitalizing our small communities. Renovating this structurally sound but long unused historic building gives us an opportunity to create a place where small businesses can grow alongside studios for ceramics, pottery, and other handcrafts. We’re hoping to see community classes, a café, and other uses for the space by residents and visitors.”
Buchanan said that the volunteer-led renovations have reached the point where two commercial tenants, a blacksmith and woodworker, will be moving into the building in early spring. Plans have been drawn up for the development of a retail store, studios, and a community room, and the next phase of renovations will get underway in 2020.