Students help preserve historic mining town in California

Printer-friendly version Posted Date: Monday, November 5, 2018 - 14:00

Much like the pioneers of long ago, several Alfred State College students recently headed west toward a mining town in California.

Unlike those explorers from the mid-1800s, however, the Alfred State Pioneers’ ultimate aim was not to collect gold, but rather to preserve the history of the buildings on site at the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park.

Participating in the trip were four building trades: building construction students: Kyle Coffey, of Caledonia; Justin Higgins, of Buffalo; Sasha Johnson, of Webster; and Gavin Hamilton, of New City, along with Brady Adams, instructor in the Building Trades Department.

students standing in front of Carter Residence at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park
Pictured at the Carter Residence at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park are, from l-r,
students Kyle Coffey, Sasha Johnson, Justin Higgins, and Gavin Hamilton.

For one week, the group lived in tents, ate at the job site, and performed historic preservation work that was part of a larger HistoriCorps restoration project taking place at the park. While on site, HistoriCorps Project Supervisor Craig Asher directed operations as students worked to help preserve the history of the mining town, which once boasted some 200 buildings. Today, the site is a ghost town but is used for historic interpretation, offering regular tours and hosting festival events.

Specifically, the students worked on two buildings on site – the North Bloomfield School and the Carter Residence – as they helped level uneven floors; repaired and replaced damaged siding, window trim, and foundation skirting; rehabilitated windows; repaired porch supports and various wood elements; and painted wood surfaces.

Jack Jones, chair of the Building Trades Department, noted that this is the third HistoriCorps project that Alfred State Building Trades students have participated in, and the second of this semester.

“These projects have been part of a larger push to get our students involved in immersive educational opportunities,” Jones said. “Our hope is to give them the chance to apply the skills they have been learning in class to something bigger than course work and our Wellsville projects.”

Asher said it was an absolute pleasure working with the Alfred State crew again.

“They were a pleasure to work with and did a fantastic job,” he said. “Brady was outstanding as well. I really can’t say enough about them, and my crew leader felt the same.”

Liz Rice, HistoriCorps workforce manager, said, “Thanks to the incredible hard work and enthusiasm of the Alfred State Building Trades students, California's Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park can continue to serve the public as an educational and interpretive site. Through practicing technical historic preservation trade skills on this weeklong project, we hope the students gained as much from their experience as we did!”

The students and Adams began preparing for their journey last spring when the opportunity first came to light. The group worked hard to raise funds for the trip through project sales and a crowdfunding campaign, and also received a funding grant through the Educational Foundation of Alfred, Inc.

Adams said being able to help preserve a piece of history and put Alfred State’s name on this West Coast project was an awesome experience.

“We realized how impactful preserving these historical buildings were when local tourists would repeatedly come up and ask us about the work that we were doing,” he said. “They all thanked us for traveling across the country to preserve such an important part of their history, and we could tell how truly grateful they were. At that point, we realized how important historic preservation is. I would like to thank HistoriCorps, the Educational Foundation, and everyone who donated to make this trip possible. It was an honor for the Alfred State students and me to be a part of this project.”