OLEAN — Della Moore recently donned a hard hat and work clothes at the African American Center for Cultural Development in Olean after interior renovations got underway.
Moore, director of the African American Center at 214 N. Barry St., said renovations on the building began last Thursday and Friday after the permit had been issued.
“I saw (the building) Saturday morning, and the workers, of course, were gone but I saw all the work they had done because I missed Friday,” Moore shared. “I cried, I’ve been crying a lot lately. I was really beside myself.”
Moore said that even with donations and grants, the Center continues to need funds for the ongoing restoration work. She said the design for the renovation was provided by architect Tammy Hilmey of PLYWOODstudio in Allegany.
“I’m going to do my very best with the fundraisers,” Moore continued. “We’ll have a drive-through pulled pork fundraiser to help, since we won’t have Juneteenth this year” due to the pandemic.
The building, a beautiful Queen Anne home donated to the organization by local attorneys Ed Wagner and Jack Hart last fall, was constructed in the early 1900s and was recently reroofed. It sits adjacent to the Cattaraugus County Camps of Jamestown Community College and parking lot. This makes the Center’s museum and headquarters accessible and accommodating to college students and staff, as well as visitors who are interested in conducting research on Black history. Moore said some visitors have used the Center for this purpose over the past several months.
“I’m so grateful for the interest,” Moore added.
For her part, Hilmey said workmen have completely gutted the kitchen and will renovate the space.
“Another big renovation is that we are making it completely accessible,” she said of the building. “We are putting in an accessible lift which will access the first floor and basement gallery.”
In addition, the restroom is undergoing renovation to make it accessible. Partitions are being removed to open up spaces, old carpet is being removed and dropped ceilings are being taken out. In addition, the cover on top of an old fireplace has been removed.
“We’ll be redoing the fireplace and it will be really unique,” Hilmey remarked.
“Really, we’re keeping the integrity of the house. We thought that was really important to keep the history of the house.”
She added, “Basically, the entire house will be an art gallery and it will have rooms that are specific to the cultural center — there will be a lecture room, a small theater and a music space where music and oral history can be recorded.”
A classroom and library will also be added to the Center.
“The program itself is a very rich program to support the vision of this being a true cultural center,” Hilmey commented. “It will be able to host all different events, speakers and artwork.”
Hilmey said workmen and contractors at the house are from the local area.
In addition a new sign for the front of the house is under construction by Chautauqua Sign Company in Falconer.