Cooperage building opens with gala celebration; space dedicated to the community
The old Cooperage building at 1030 Main Street, which was built in 1861, will get a new lease on life with plans to make the historic facility a common space for community activities.
The kick-off celebration will be held on Saturday, June 2 with two sessions: one from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and one from 8 p.m. to afterhours.
“We’ll open with a jamboree of fun for all the family—rain or shine,” said Pennell Whitney, who, with her husband Edward Cremo, is responsible for the new venture. “Groups that will appear are Wayne Highlands Middle School Jazz Band, The Uphill String Band, Circus Yoga and The Honesdale Dance Studio; and there will be face painting, a magic show, balloon animals, building tours and stilt walkers.”
“In the evening, there will be more adult entertainment, with a local band—the New York Kings with Peter Florance—and dancing into the night,” she said.
The couple who bought the former manufacturing site two years ago have been working hard on gutting the building and totally refurbishing it. The 7000-square-foot, two-story building will be the headquarters for the Cooperage Project, a non-profit venture.
Whitney, who has been a resident of Honesdale for 35 years, originally bought the building as an outlet to sell produce from the Ant Hill Farm, a farm outside of Honesdale operated by her sons Schuyler and Galen Ballantine, as well as other farms in the area.
“We believe in local farming and locally produced food that people can buy, knowing where the food came from and who is growing it,” she said.
So, a farmers’ market was established outside the old building on Wednesdays for two summers and thence moved inside during the recent winter once refurbishing began.
“It’s an extraordinary thing to have farm products available all year round, and that’s what the intention was at first,” said Doni Hoffman, the project coordinator.
A tour of the building, which is encouraged by the owners, revealed an impressive amount of spacious rooms on both floors as well as smaller meeting rooms, with a performance stage with lighting provided by Graeme McDonnell, a local resident who is a stage designer from New York City.
The facility possesses a Steinway grand piano, which will be used for performances.
Another room will house a satellite location for WJFF radio and a room that will headquarter the local environmental group Sustainable Energy Education and Development Support (SEEDS).
“The Cooperage Project is more than just a building,” Whitney said. “After we bought the building and began holding farmers’ markets, the idea caught on that this could contribute to a rare sense of community and could be a place for a range of instructive and entertaining activities that would engage,
challenge and enlighten people,” Cremo said.
“We were amazed at the response we had and the ideas that started to flow from people in the community,” Whitney said. “It is our hope that more young people will remain in the area and not leave. It’s also our hope that more young people will begin farming. We’re beginning to see this trend and we want to encourage it.”
The couple wants to see local groups hold their meetings at the site. “We even want to make the space available free of charge if folks will help us with fundraising and even getting grants where possible,” Cremo said.
Groups who wish to use the meeting rooms should contact Doni Hoffman, the project coordinator at 570/253-2020. “But first, come to the gala opening to see what potential the building has,” she said.