REFLECTIONS OF JAMESTOWN, NY
Posted by Tim Bryce on June 17, 2015
BRYCE ON LIFE
– Nestled in the western tip of the state of New York.
It is always a pleasure visiting places where the citizens take pride in their community and are civic minded. Such is the City of Jamestown, New York where I recently conducted a presentation. The city is located in Chautauqua County, the western tip of New York state, just a hop-skip from its big brother, Buffalo. The population is approximately 32,000, making it much smaller than its neighbor to the northeast, but has a respectable downtown area which is delightful to walk around.
I took the opportunity to take a morning tour of the downtown district and was regularly greeted by the natives who made me feel warmly welcomed. While waiting at a cross-walk, a local approached me by saying, “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“How can you tell?” I asked.
“Your shorts,” he replied, “It’s too early for shorts here.”
When I confided I was from Florida, he thanked me for bringing the Florida sunshine with me to Jamestown.
I happened to visit Jamestown in early May and, as a Floridian, immediately noted the change in climate which was brisk in the morning. However, by noon it was a comfortable eighty degrees. The first thing attracting my attention were the trees which were just beginning to bud. As someone who has lived in the South for the last thirty years, I had forgotten about the changes in seasons. What caught my eye though were the beautiful Flowering Dogwoods lining the downtown streets.
Like Buffalo, Jamestown is known for its rugged winters and relatively short summers. As anyone can tell you who has lived in the North, the cold can cause considerable damage to the streets and highways. I was reminded of this shortly after I started driving on I-86 where I had to dodge a seemingly unending line of pot holes. The weather also influences life around the county. Fishing season had just opened and I saw boaters going out to massive Lake Chautauqua where the fish were jumping. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my fly rod and reel.
In the summer, there are cottages and small hotels of vintage design surrounding the lake to attract the tourists. However, I got the feeling Jamestown is one of the best kept secrets in New York as few people know about it outside of a 200 mile radius. It also has several golf courses in the area. The local restaurants dotting around the lake are small but offer wonderful local cuisine, beers and wine.
Older towns have a rich sense of history about them, and Jamestown is no exception. Ulysses S. Grant visited Jamestown often in its formative stages. While there, I had the good fortune to tour two significant historical sections; first was the Chautauqua Institution. Founded in 1874, the Institution is a picturesque community on the shores of Lake Chautauqua and close to Jamestown. During the summer, “more than 100,000 visitors will stay at Chautauqua and participate in programs, classes and community events for all ages—all within the beautiful setting of a historic lakeside village.” Presidents, from Grant to Clinton, have visited to develop and deliver speeches. For example, FDR delivered his historic “I Hate War” speech from the Chautauqua Amphitheater in 1936.
Next, there is the Robert H. Jackson Center. Jackson was an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1941-1954. He was also the US Solicitor General (1938-1940), and US Attorney General (1940–1941), making him the only person in United States history to have held all three offices. However, his notoriety grew when President Truman appointed him to serve as US chief of counsel at the Nuremburg Trials shortly after World War II. Although born in Pennsylvania, Jackson adopted Jamestown as his home. The Jackson Center advances his legacy by offering lectures, symposiums and publications. The center also serves as a museum, not just for Jackson, but for all of the presidents and supreme court justices who have visited there, which are numerous. If you visit, be sure to see the “Grant Room,” where President Ulysses S. Grant held a major meeting. The center is opened to the public and youth are particularly welcomed.
Without a doubt, Jamestown’s most noteworthy citizen is comedienne Lucille Ball who was born there. The Lucy & Desi Center for Comedy is a major draw for comedy talent and her picture can be found throughout the area.
Locals are particularly proud of the Jamestown Gateway Train Station which is located downtown. The station was recently refurbished and it is now a showpiece of Americana in trains. It is a particularly favorite stop during “National Train Day.”
The citizens of Jamestown genuinely love their city and the beautiful countryside surrounding it. This attitude is something you do not see too often anymore. It is something I found refreshing when I visited there. Most were quick to point out the highlights and were keenly aware of the historical significance of the area.
The city and county are not without their problems though. Citizens complain of the heavy tax burden imposed by New York, which they claim is causing both young people and jobs to move out of state. Consequently, Jamestown is one of those older northern cities, desperately trying to reinvent itself before it is too late. In talking with the people during my presentation there, I felt their sense of frustration. On more than one occasion, I was asked, “What can we do?”
As opposed to being reactive, I could only advise them to take a more proactive approach in local and state government affairs. Get involved. If everyone performed just one task in community and government affairs, regardless how large or small it may be, think of the progress that could be achieved. The city’s two biggest assets are simply the good people who live there and the charm of the area, both feed upon each other.
With this said, I definitely recommend a visit to Jamestown, particularly during summer. It’s a comfortable city nestled in Western New York, offering peace and tranquility, and some very nice and thoughtful people. Unlike me though, do not forget to take your fishing pole.
By the way, they have some rather fine Chinese food there.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com
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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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