Its History and Proposed Restoration
The first concrete highway in the area of Hornell was begun in 1923.
The road, part of present Route 21, was to run 22 miles from Hornell to
Wayland. The first stretch of new surface to be completed was a single-lane
slab from Hornell to Loon Lake.
Many Hornell families had cottages around the lake and their desire for
a smooth all-weather highway to travel to Loon Lake may have provided
much of the impetus for the project. A later newspaper report referred
to the highway as the first concrete road linking southwestern New York
with central New York. Connecting two regions of the state surely was
justification for a new concrete road!
The man who had the influence to get the state to build an expensive
roadway was Hornell brewery-owner, James E. Schwarzenbach. He was a popular
man in Hornellsville, very active in local politics, a promoter, and a
friend of Governor Al Smith.
Schwarzenbach's father had come to this country from Germany, and for
some years worked as a stone cutter in Washington, D.C., before moving
to Germania, Pennsylvania, and starting a brewery there in 1857. Later,
son James came on to Hornellsville, and with his brothers set up the Schwarzenbach
Brewery in 1895. They also established one at Galeton, Pennsylvania, but
quit the brewery in Germania.
James married a local girl and built a fine house (torn down some years
ago during the urban-renewal of downtown Hornell). Schwarzenbach was a
horseman and a member of the Road Drivers Association which had a driving
track for their horses. He also was a member of the Good Roads Association
which promoted better roadways.
Schwarzenbach died in 1925 in his early seventies. The next year the
Fremont section of the new concrete road was completed. The highway was
sixteen feet wide: two slabs eight feet wide, six inches thick in the
center, and seven inches thick at the outer edges. It was named the "Schwarzenbach
Highway" to honor the man who had done so much to promote its construction.
In 1927 a roadside fountain was built as a memorial to James Schwarzenbach.
His friends in the Good Roads Association were primarily responsible for
getting the road named for him, and for building the memorial fountain.
An article in the October 19, 1927, Wayland Register reported
that work was already well underway on the Schwarzenbach Memorial. The
paper said that a fund of $3000 dollars was being raised for its construction
and maintenance. Six hundred dollars had been collected. Fifteen to eighteen
hundred dollars of the anticipated fund was to be put in trust for upkeep.
Several acres of land along the highway below a flowing spring near Haskinville
were contributed by the Cold Springs Construction Company, the contractor
who had built the road. The Register called the Memorial Fountain
a "tribute to the man who was largely responsible for Loon Lake Road."
The Schwarzenbach Memorial fountain became a welcome sight to travellers
along the highway. Weary riders and thirsty children stretched their legs
and drank the spring water. John Clifford, who is the supervisor for the
Town of Hornellsville, grew up in Hornell, and remembers that it seemed
like such a long way from Hornell to Loon Lake. Whenever he passes the
fountain he thinks again of his youth and how his whole family were refreshed
by the water they drank from the fountain.
The fountain was badly damaged by an automobile in 1990. Clifford learned
that the New York State Department of Transportation intended to remove
the fountain and replace it with a marker. (The state now claims ownership
of the memorial, although at one time Governor Lehman had vetoed a bill
that would have permitted the state to take over the plot of ground and
the fountain, and made the state responsible for its upkeep).
John Clifford asked the Department of Transportation to delay removal
of the fountain while he sought local support to preserve the memorial.
A group was formed with Onalee Faulkner and Dr. John Kelly as co-chairs.
The restoration group was told that to carry out their project they needed
to operate under the auspices of a chartered organization. John appealed
to the Steuben County Historical Society to accept the existing group
as a committee of the Society. The members of the historical society voted
to sponsor the project and the committee.
The Schwarzenbach group is seeking private support from individuals and
organizations to restore and maintain the Memorial Fountain. John Clifford
says, "Our hope is to have the structure repaired and the fountain operating
Hornellsville Supervisor John Clifford provided the information
about the Schwarzenbach Highway and the fountain. Robert F. Oakes, who
the Village of Hornell historian supplied information about James Schwarzenbach
and his brewery in Hornell.