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Village of Penn Yan Responds to Cupola Removal Claims


The village of Penn Yan is responding to public claims that its Village Board reversed a decision made in December of 2022 to let the Cupola, which once sat upon the top of Yates County’s first winery, be placed in Angler Boat Park along the Outlet Trail. In a statement to Finger Lakes Daily News (see full statement below), the village said the Board, “did state it would consider that location for fundraising purposes, but never committed to placing the Cupola in that Park.”

In a news release sent to Finger Lakes Daily News on March 24th, the Empire State Winery Cupola Restoration Project of Penn Yan said:

“The Cupola that sat upon the top of Yates County’s first winery just got its walking papers. In an unexpected and unprecedented move, The Empire State Winery Cupola Restoration Project of Penn Yan has been told it is no longer welcome in the village where it has spent all of its 135 years. The Village of Penn Yan Board of Trustees reversed their December 2022 decision to let the Cupola be placed in Angler Boat Park, along the Outlet Trail. The Village Board not only withdrew their support, they also, in a letter dated March 19, 2024, gave the Cupola Board until April 19th to get the historic, iconic structure off village property where it sits, awaiting restoration.

“When the Penn Yan Village Trustees gave us a location and letter of support, we were thrilled and began fundraising immediately. We have made great progress and results. And now this. How do you do this after making a public commitment to the placement of a restoration? ” said Mary Worth, Board Member.

Echoing the disappointment across the entire Cupola Board, member Marsha Devine said: “This is just so disheartening to each and every one of us who knows what a beautiful, little gem of history this structure will communicate for generations. We are a great board…a hardworking one…and we will prevail. We are currently looking at other options that will comply with the purpose of our organization and the requirements of our charitable tax status.”

Foremost among the options is to have the Cupola placed within the realm of a non-profit 501C3 entity. Grant funding typically requires that the structure not be placed on private property and that it be available for public viewing, enjoyment, and education.

With concerns for the physical structure itself, Board Member Chad Peek said, “Given the current condition of the Cupola, I would hate to see us have to move it twice. It may take some time to locate a new home and with this new Village directive, we may not be able to meet their deadline unless we move it to private property first. We are working to have this be a smooth transition.”

Steve Knapp, president of the Save the Cupola efforts, could only shake his head in dismay, stating: “They stated in their rejection letter that the Cupola was a target for vandalism and intrusion by young people. We have not had one act of vandalism in all the years it has sat there unprotected. I feel sorry for the Village residents because they could have had something wonderful on that site. We will keep at it.”

The village of Penn Yan issued this response to Finger Lakes Daily News:

“There have been a number of public statements and news reports regarding the Cupola. Many of those statements are misleading at best and false at worst. One report states that the Village Board of Trustees revoked “…. their previous decision to host the Cupola at Angler Boat Park….” It is a false statement that the Village made a decision to host the Cupola at Angler Boat Park. The Board of Trustees did state that it would consider that location, for fundraising purposes, but never committed to placing the Cupola in that Park.

Other related aspects are:

1. The Cupola’s present location at Fireman’s Field was to be a short-term location for storage. It has now been in that location for several years. In that location, exposed to the weather, it continues to deteriorate.

2. The Village is further concerned that in its present location, the Cupola is an “attractive nuisance” as such it is a liability concern.

3. There is also concern over vandalism to the Cupola. That lack of vandalism to date does not mean it could not occur in the future, more so perhaps due to the Cupola being in the news.

4. The Board of Trustees had requested that the representatives of the Cupola organization keep the Village informed of plans and progress. There was a lack of communication from the Cupola organization to the Village until February 2024. During that time there were public announcements indicating the false narrative that the Village had already approved the Angler Boat Park location.

5. Further, the Village does not have complete authority to commit to the site in a public park. The Cupola is private property belonging to the Cupola organization. The use of public parkland for a site of the Cupola requires an act of the New York State legislature.

6. Although a grant has recently been received to be used towards the restoration of the Cupola. The total costs for this project have not been adequately presented to the Community.”

According to the Save the Cupola website, the Cupola Restoration Project of Penn Yan, NY is committed to the restoration and placement of the Empire State Winery Building Cupola near its historic location in the vicinity of the junction of Keuka Lake and the Keuka Lake Outlet. Our preferred location at Angler Boat Park along the Keuka Outlet Trail is ideally suited to tell the history of the grape and wine industries and will attract boaters from Keuka Lake, tourists, and customers to Penn Yan and its lodging and retail businesses – as well as local residents and school children – contributing to the economic growth and vitality of Penn Yan and the surrounding area of Yates County, New York.


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