Geneseo Genealogy: APOG renews local history through restoration

From Court Street to South Street and beyond, the impact of the Association for the Preservation of Geneseo over the past 39 years is not just visible - it’s defining.

APOG has worked on a variety of community-driven projects including restoring the Geneseo Bear statue and the Geneseo Town Clock, duplicating a statue in Gettysburg, Pa. of Gen. James S. Wadsworth erected in front of the County Court House, rebuilding the South Street wall as well as establishing Geneseo’s status as a National Historic Landmark District.

According to APOG’s 1976 publication, “A Distinctive Village: A Survey and Evaluation of Geneseo’s Main Street” APOG is an organization of “people who care enough about the future to preserve the best of the past.”

According to associate professor of sociology and Chair of the Sociology Department Kurt Cylke, a member of the APOG Board of Trustees, “It’s really not APOG, it’s the community. APOG is really just another name for the community.”

Created in 1973 as a meeting of 75 Geneseo residents hoping to save the Big Tree Inn from imminent destruction, APOG quickly expanded and began work on preserving Geneseo as a whole. The organization now works on a multiplicity of historically conscious preservation and restoration efforts that focus on keeping the community vibrant and aesthetically pleasing.

Cylke said that APOG’s role is to seek out relevant projects and find a way to accomplish them, and to give the community an avenue to raise donated funds.

Vice President of the APOG Board of Trustees and Geneseo alumnus Ben Gajewski ‘07 said APOG’s work is “projects that don’t really fall to anybody else or that no one individual could accomplish.” Gajewski added, “To have a whole nonprofit dedicated to finding those little things and fixing them, that really has a big benefit for everybody.” The projects cater to individual homeowners as well as wider local audiences. For example, APOG assists those living in historic homes with small grants for renovations. Cylke said the grants are meant to help homeowners make the most historically accurate and attractive choices in their exterior renovations, even if they may be more expensive. APOG also hires a historic architect to do consultations for renovations free of charge to homeowners.

In catering to a wider audience, APOG provides Historic District walking tour pamphlets, hosts a lecture series and has contributed funds to a wide range of events from the summer concert series to the Geneseo Farmers Market.

While APOG’s “Save the Wall” initiative will continue this spring, another of its community projects will soon come to fruition. Gajewski headed an effort to develop new street signs that will delineate Geneseo’s Historic District. The signs, which, according to Gajewski, may be erected as soon as this fall, will indicate each street’s historic status with a picture of the Geneseo Bear.

Cylke said it is the active engagement of local volunteer organizations that helps to keep the Geneseo community vibrant. “It’s more than just a collection of old buildings. Geneseo is a living community … It’s not a museum, it’s a place where people live and work.” Cylke said that APOG welcomes student volunteers to support its projects. He cited 49 student volunteers who assisted with the “Save the Wall” project this fall.

“It’s really important to have a common identity as Geneseo,” Gajewski said. “[With] residents here in historic homes, businesses on Main Street and students down in the dorms, it’s sort of all together as this package that makes this a unique place. So preserving that and recognizing it and appreciating it is the really the only way to keep it that way going forward.”