Saturday, August 18, 2012

"If you don't know where you've come from, you don't know where you are." ~ James Burke

"Imagine, if you will, multiple museums and outstanding collections
on a single campus that provide a one-stop chronicle of life in this
part of New York State."

In early June, a new collection of museums had their grand opening locally.  The Central New York Living History Center, located at 4386 U.S. Route 11 in Cortland, NY, is home to The Homeville Museum, The Brockway Trucks Museum, and The Tractors of Yesteryear.  

The Homeville Museum holds a very special place in my heart.  This collection of military and railroad memorabilia, along with an amazing number of other historic contributions, was amassed over a lifetime of collecting by Homer resident, Ken Eaton.  Mr. Eaton, as I knew him, was the father of my childhood friend, Diana, and his museum was actually housed in his home for many decades.  Mr. Eaton opened his doors to anyone who had an interest in history, and as a teacher, I took many a class to his home over the years.  The fact that his house was located directly across the street from school made this an easy and popular field trip. It was Mr. Eaton's dream that his collection live on to be shared with others, and following his death in 2006, I am very grateful that his dream has come to life.

When he first moved into the home that was to house the museum, Diana and I helped with the interior painting.  As a thank-you for our help, Mr. Eaton took us out for dinner to the local Howard Johnsons (long since gone) and I had fried clams. Now - I would struggle to tell you where my car keys are right now, but I remember clearly that I had fried clams for dinner that night, nearly 40 years ago.  Go figure!

The new home for The Homeville Museum is located in the main structure of the CNY Living History Center, as is the Brockway Museum, and the Center's gift shop - where I can be found behind the register most Wednesday mornings.  The main structure also contains a theater (still in progress), a large room with tables for social events or for seating for visiting groups, a kitchen, and a library that is also a work in progress.

The Homeville Museum

"Cortland, New York is unique in that it is the only place in the world where Brockway trucks were manufactured. For over half a century, the influence of the Brockway truck had a major affect on the economy of this community and they were distributed worldwide. Now they are all antiques and are being lovingly restored by loyal Brockway enthusiasts and driven to shows all over the country and abroad." ~ The Brockway Truck Preservation Association

The Brockway Museum

Located in the red barn adjacent to the main museum is the Tractors of Yesteryear Museum (T.O.Y.S)

"Tractors of Yesteryear (T.O.Y.S) is an antique tractor club whose center is Central New York and whose membership exceeds 300. The T.O.Y.S. museum collection includes antique tractors, threshing machines, corn shellers, corn binders, ensilage cutters, stalk cutters, beet cutters, plows and many other items used on farms 50 to 150 years ago. The collection also includes butter churns, ox yokes, flat irons, shoulder water carriers, scythes, and cradles used in old rural America. The T.O.Y.S. collection gives life to the agricultural history of Central New York and all of rural America." 

The Tractors of Yesteryear Museum

If you live nearby and haven't had a chance to visit, plan a trip - you won't be disappointed.  If you don't live nearby, but are in Central New York - the museum makes a great destination for a day trip.  You should plan to set aside about two hours to allow yourself enough time to enjoy all three museums.  And - if you are out of state, but find that you will be in the Cortland area for a different reason, such as our recent Jets Football Camp, or a college reunion, find time to fit in a side trip to Central New York's Living History Center.

As with most endeavors of this kind, donations are what keep things going - so please consider making a contribution if you are able.  Volunteers are also needed as gift shop cashiers, landscapers, tour guides, etc. Please contact the museum if you find that you are able to spare a few hours.

"Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward."
Søren Kierkegaard


  1. If I ever visit New York I will definitely visit this place!!!

    1. And perhaps one day I shall get to Berlin!

  2. What a wonderful post Tracy. Thanks for letting us see this new gem in our community.
    The Kierkegaard quote is spot on. ;)