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Preserving history in Theresa

Items found during renovations in Theresa
Items found during renovations in Theresa(WWNY)
Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 12:30 PM EDT
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THERESA, N.Y. (WWNY) - Desi Howard and Jessie Taylor had a dream to open a cafe in Theresa. So they bought property on Commercial Street and started renovating.

They weren’t expecting to find what came next.

“Square nails, you’ll see old medicine bottles, tons of gears.”

All left behind by William D. Chapman.

“We had no idea, so that was pretty amazing. It was a pretty amazing find,” said Desi, who co-owns Jezi’s Cafe.

The property was built in 1890 by Chapman, a fishing lure maker, publisher, and inventor.

“There wasn’t much that W. D. Chapman didn’t do,” said Timothy S. Minnick, town of Theresa historian.

The building is affectionately known to residents as “Mary’s Annex.”

“Mary was his wife. I think it was kind of like his, get away from the wife thing, so that’s why they call it Mary’s Annex,” said Minnick.

There was another thing on Commercial Street that caught the attention of the new owners: a collapsed wall.

What is now just a pile of stone is considered a big piece of Theresa’s history. It was built in 1883 by Chapman himself.

“It’s sad. I didn’t realize. I was up here a couple weeks ago and it hadn’t fallen, and now to see it go down,” said Minnick.

With the help of the Theresa Rotary Club, Desi and Jessie are looking to raise $2,800 to restore the historic wall. It’s a campaign they like to call “Build the Wall.”

“We’re interested in beautifying and keeping the history alive and well. We need to preserve the history of Theresa because this really is a gem of a village,” said Jill Van Hoesen, Theresa Rotary Club secretary.

As for the Jezi’s Cafe, the plan is to open by Memorial Day weekend. And those gears they found? They’re being put to good use, too.

Donations can be made to the Theresa Rotary Club, PO Box 543, Theresa, NY, 13691. Further information can be found on Theresa Rotary’s Facebook page or by phoning 315-778-4939.

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