CANTON — A signature blue-and-yellow historical marker from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation has been staked for the first time in Canton.
Town and village officials gathered Wednesday morning to commemorate the history of what is now the municipal building, 60 Main St. Last year, Canton Historian Linda A. Casserly started the application process to mark the site of the former Town Hall and Opera Theatre, which was built between 1878 and 1879 and housed a bell tower, a second-floor opera house and performance venue, government offices, a news stand and community spaces.
The Opera Theatre hosted traveling and local troupes, and the original wooden seating chart still hangs upstairs in the municipal building. A surviving playbill from Sept. 16, 1912, lists Victorien Sardou’s three-act comedy “Divorcons” as the main event, with vaudeville performed between acts. Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” was slated for the following night.
The civic hub was destroyed by fire in February 1962, and the current municipal building was completed by 1964.
“This keeps history alive,” Ms. Casserly said of the marker.
A few dozen historical markers erected by various organizations and agencies dot the town and village of Canton, according to the online Historical Marker Database, which tracks markers of all kinds in the United States and around the world.
A few Canton spots have been added to the National Register of Historic Places; local mill and industrial sites are marked; and notable people are commemorated. But the Town Hall and Opera Theatre marker is Canton’s first to be funded by the Pomeroy Foundation, which manages eight different marker programs, including the New York State Historic Marker Grant Program.
The New York program reviews applications for commemorating people, places and events relevant between 1740 and 1921. Since its 2006 founding, the Pomeroy Foundation has funded more than 1,300 markers across the country. Through its New York program, more than 700 markers have been established in 58 of the state’s 62 counties.
Foundation funding is available to local, state and federal entities, nonprofit organizations and nonprofit academic institutions. Ms. Casserly applied for the Town Hall and Opera Theatre on behalf of the town. Applicants can submit up to five proposed markers every annual grant round.
The application process involves extensive primary source documentation so historical facts can be verified, and documentation accompanies an initial letter of intent before a full grant application is provided. If awarded, the costs of the aluminum marker, 7-foot aluminum pole and shipping are fully covered.
In December, the town received a Foundation check for $1,140, to be paid to Sewah Studios, the Ohio-based manufacturer of historical markers.
Ms. Casserly is now working on an application for the DeGrasse River Paper Company in Pyrites, at the southern town line. The paper mill was active from 1904 until 1930.
In St. Lawrence County, the Pomeroy Foundation has funded a total of 30 markers — for burials, legends and lore, the National Register and the New York program. Sites are concentrated in Potsdam, Ogdensburg and Morristown, with a handful in the DeKalb and Hermon areas. Jefferson and Lewis counties have been awarded Foundation funds for 31 and 25 markers, respectively.