DANSVILLE — The Truck Stop Collection on display at Dansville Artworks offers some insight into the history of Dansville and the surrounding areas.
In the fall of 1991 Travel Ports of America Inc. Restaurant Operations Vice-President Ray Stratford contacted professional photographer and Dansville-Native, Don Sylor on doing a project for the newest travel plaza in Dansville. The idea was to decorate the attached Buckhorn Family Restaurant with historic photos of the area.
Sylor jumped on this chance to honor his hometown, and with some help of town historian, Quentin Masolotte, he borrowed photos from the historical files and began reproducing them.
The result was about 200 historical photos that hung on the walls of the restaurant with hometown pride. They hung on the walls even after the company was sold in 1999. The photos are entitled “The Truck Stop Collection” because they lived there until 2008 when they found a new home at the historical society.
Genesee Country Express met with some members of the Dansville Area Historical Society to hear about how this collection has impacted the community.
DAHS Vice-President Paul Constantine, DAHS members Nancy Helfrich, and Sue Sylor said these photos were rescued from the dumpster and handed to them for safekeeping.
“The truck stop was getting rid of the photos, and a custom saved them and brought them to us,” Constantine said. “They brought boxes of photos to us. Some of them were identified and that made it a lot easier.”
Photos of great importance to the area such as Blum Shoe Factory, Kelly Brothers Nursery, Foster Wheeler, and many others.
Sue Sylor, Don’s wife, is the keeper of her late husband's legacy now, and is happy to see the photos are saved and on display.
“Ray Stratford appreciated Don’s help in having the photos displayed at the restaurant,” she said. “The restaurant had the most photos on display in the area. Don passed away in 2013, but he was very proud of this project. Don had a passion for his home and history.”
Helfrich added that Don was there whenever they needed him, and he did a lot for the historical society.
“We were upset that these photos were at the dumpster, but grateful a customer saved them, and brought them to the historical society,” she said. “The manager gave us another couple boxes of photos as well.”
There was an article put in the Genesee Country Express on December 5, 1991 talking about the enthusiasm the community had seeing the photos on the walls of the restaurant.
These photos depicted the life, industry, and commerce of Dansville going back as far as the 1870s. The photos taken from the archives of Days Gone By show Dansville Airport, Dansville and Mount Morris Depot, Klink Car, Dodge garage, Power Speciality Co., Physical Culture Hotel, Clara Barton, and Stony Brook.
Among these gems are unusual moments captured in history like railroad engineers at the throttle, a company that built trunks for early automobiles, men at work in the F.A. Owen printing plant, William Kelly with a trademark tree, Bernarr Macfadden fresh from a parachute jump, and much more.
Most of these photos were identified through the Old Photo Album in Genesee Country Express by past historian Wilfred Rauber.
Helfrich said this is the first time these photos have been on display since 2008.
“We have some on display at the museum too,” she said. “We are so thankful we have the truck stop collection.”
“This means two things to me. We are able to keep things that show the history of Dansville,” Helfrich continued. “We are able to collaborate with Dansville Artworks and Sue Sylor to keep this history alive. These photos are hanging on the walls and show what this town was like back in the day.”
There are still photos from the collection that need to be taken out of the boxes and hung on the walls. Helfrich mentioned how the museum is working to get it all on the walls, so people can enjoy them.
The Dansville Area Historical Society on 14 Church Street is open the first and third Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Dogwood Festival and Dansville Balloon Festival. The Truck Stop Collection is at Dansville Artworks until May 27.