“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”
— James Belasco and Ralph Stayer Flight of the Buffalo (1994)
At one time or another, change makes everyone uncomfortable. We often resist change as we overestimate the value and comfort of the familiar and underestimate the opportunities gained by embracing change. It is fear of the unknown that prevents many of us from venturing beyond what we feel comfortable. In fact, it would seem many would prefer a world of stability and continuity even if it has not worked for years, rather than face the uncertainly of change – even if change has the potential for greatly improving quality of life.
Take for instance, the Village of Holley. While it is less than ten miles beyond a bustling Brockport, many drive through this charming village without ever stopping as they travel west down Route 31 towards Albion. A small bedroom community in Orleans County, Holley has many vacant storefronts and an aging infrastructure. Many residents are apathetic and do not see or appreciate their many assets, or their potential. Yet Holley has so many “hidden treasures” – friendly people, a scenic canal park, and a breathtaking waterfall. What’s more, Holley is not only abundant in beautiful architecture, but rich in history too as part of the Erie Canalway.
Holley’s origin is much like many small towns. Originally, covered with a forest of hemlock trees, it was once a place where wild animals roamed through the thick underbrush of shrubs and plants. In fact, back in 1802, travelers reported the trees were so thick that even with the brightest sunshine above, you stood in wooded darkness!
Then one day, New York State made a decision to construct a canal spanning from Albany to Buffalo. From then on, everything changed. Cheap, fertile land available for purchase enticed early settlers to venture beyond their comfort zones and into this vast wilderness. By clearing many trees to make room for the settlers, much light shined on an area once filled with darkness.
Two of Holley’s earliest settlers in 1812 were William Rice and Stephen Lewis. Entrepreneurs, they envisioned moneymaking opportunities and began making plans for this future canal town. One such man was John Reed, who in 1814, discovered a “salt lick” and began boiling salt – a necessity back then to preserve food.
The next pioneer in Holley was Aerovester Hamlin – a man who had big dreams for the village. A visionary, Mr. Hamlin saw Holley’s great potential even when others didn’t and purchased 100 acres of land. In 1822, he had the land surveyed and laid out, with streets radiating from the central square. Soon after Mr. Hamlin erected a warehouse and created a post office. Unfortunately, he overextended his finances and in 1828, Mr. Hamlin sold his holdings, with Hiram Frisbie and James Seymour purchasing most land and improvements known then and now as the Public Square.
Once construction of the Erie Canal began, many workers selected Holley – a new and growing settlement as their permanent home upon the canal’s completion in 1825. Soon Holley began to attract many settlers and businesses; its rich soil planted with vegetable crops and orchards and its abundant harvest shipped on the Erie Canal.
In many ways, this essay serves as a history lesson. It’s also a remarkable story about one small town’s transformation from wooded darkness to the light of a new and growing settlement. History is now repeating itself with Holley once again experiencing darkness; a different kind of darkness that is just as thick and just as dark as an overabundance of hemlock trees. This darkness is apathy; an apathy that has spread not only among many of our residents, but also among some our local business owners too.
Still… we do have a chance to write another remarkable chapter to our village’s story. There are many … myself included… who embrace change and believe change will improve the quality of life of every Holley resident. The new chapter begins right now as Holley is on the verge of another transformation…. the likes of which not seen since the construction of the Erie Canal. It has its beginning with the development of a Comprehensive Master Plan, defining Holley’s vision in four key areas over the next ten years: Infrastructure, Neighborhood & Historic Preservation, Economic Development, and Tourism & Recreation.
To ensure Holley preserves it charm along side progress, I am asking for your support. Change will breathe new life into Holley. Such a transformation though will not come about by the actions of a few; it will require a great deal of hard work and restoration by everyone in the community. There are many great storefronts that must be restored; many codes that must be revised and enforced; many businesses and industries that must be developed; many misguided who must be redirected; and a community of people who must work together for the greater good. While it’s a big dream… much like the one our ancestors had…its realization is possible. We only need to look to Angelica NY as a source of inspiration and a community revitalized in the face of hardship.
Like many of my readers, I am proud to be a resident of Holley with its many possibilities and opportunities. A long time ago, many settled here in search of a better life, each bringing with them the best they could offer to their community. This is the foundation on which Holley was established. I say to those who remain cloaked in darkness from a pain long past, let’s not live in the past. Don’t let apathy stand in the way of progress and growth. Our village and our people have so much potential, so many hidden treasures waiting for the day they can be unburied for all to see in the brilliant sunlight. Let’s move Holley out of darkness and into the light; let’s transform Holley from a place many drive through to one many never want to leave. I’m ready to stand tall and embrace our community’s transformation. Are you?
Vision of Holley
If you know of a treasure that needs to be unburied, contact me at Theresa@tothewhitelight.com. Or, if you ever thought to yourself, “I wish my customers knew…”, visit www.tothewhitelight.com to find out how I can help.