The markers of history

A new historical sign for Tusten

Posted 12/6/22

LAVA, NY — History was (presumably) one of the subjects taught at the Lava School House when it was in operation a century ago. 

A new historical sign at the site, funded by the William …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

The markers of history

A new historical sign for Tusten


LAVA, NY — History was (presumably) one of the subjects taught at the Lava School House when it was in operation a century ago. 

A new historical sign at the site, funded by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, keeps its educational tradition alive, teaching passers-by about its history. 

A schoolhouse in repair

The former Lava School House stands at the intersection of Parker Road and Route 52, just across from the Lava cemetery. Dan Lieberman and Madeleine Logan bought the building at the start of the pandemic. They were looking for a place away from New York City, and stumbled across Sullivan County and the schoolhouse in their search. 

They loved the history of it, and loved that it had been the schoolhouse for the community, said Dan. They saw it as an incredible opportunity and honor to bring the special place back to life. 

The Liebermans kept some original features in their renovations—they wanted to bring it back to the old schoolhouse look, said Madeleine. And as they renovated it, they heard about its history. 

People from the community reached out, telling stories of attending dances there when it was used as a meeting place for the Lava Fire Department, of its use as a WWII observation post. “It’s been fun to know the community that way,” said Madeleine. 

Marking the way

The Liebermans reached out to town councilwoman Jane Luchsinger to see if the schoolhouse could have a historical sign. 

Luchsinger thought it would be a cinch to get a historical marker for the schoolhouse. She submitted an initial application in August 2021 to the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, an organization that sponsors historic signs and runs a New York State historic marker grant program. 

It turned out to be more difficult than Luchsinger had expected. “They kept refusing me and refusing me.” The foundation wanted primary sources as evidence, and asked for additional sources when the ones Luchsinger provided didn’t pass muster. 

Evidence for the building’s history turned up in fragments across multiple historical records. A school district map from Tusten showed it was used as a schoolhouse. A list of tax-exempt organizations in Tusten from 1938 documented the property’s transfer to the Lava Fire Department. A newspaper clipping from 1942 demonstrated the building’s use as an observation post during WWII, as did an oblique reference in the Lava Fire Department minutes, from when the department planned to bill the town for the cost of firewood.

“They made sure every “i” was dotted and every “t” was crossed,” said Luchsinger. The grant application was accepted in January of 2022, and after the sign was created, it made it into the ground in November. 

The stories of history

Not every sign in New York State goes through the William G. Pomeroy Foundation’s process. Those which do include a line noting the fact on the bottom of the sign. 

“When you see these historical markers, for the most part if they say ‘Pomeroy’ anyway you can believe everything that it is, but if it doesn’t, you can be a little skeptical,” said Luchsinger. 

But the primary-source documentation required by the foundation doesn’t catch all of history’s stories. 

The Tusten Historical Society put up a sign on its own initiative at Ten Mile River, documenting the massacre of a settlement there, said Luchsinger; the foundation wouldn’t accept it because the historical society couldn’t document it, so the society put it up at its own expense. 

Neither can a historical sign document the connection a community has with a place like the Lava School House. 

“Everyone has their own story about it,” said Madeleine.

The Liebermans rent out the schoolhouse as an Airbnb part time to help pay for the cost of renovations. One of the visitors stayed there because her mother, a former student at the Lava School House, was buried in the cemetery across the street. 

People came to visit the graves of their loved ones in the years before the building was renovated and saw an eyesore, said Dan. Now, they can see a beautiful, historic site looking out over the cemetery.

Editor's note: This article has been updated as of December 25, 2 pm, to correct Madeleine Logan's name.

Tusten, Lava


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here