Twenty years of change in Chester is subject of new exhibit

That was then, this is now: Historical society exhibit reminds us of a different but not-so-distant past

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  • Norma Stoddard, corresponding secretary of the Chester Historical Society, points to a display in the new exhibit. (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • The Brooks Carriage & Sleigh Factory, which became Bodle’s Opera House, and then the Rustic Wheelhouse restaurant there currently. (Photo courtesy of Clifton Patrick)

  • The former Ermold Surgical Instruments building, now home, appropriately enough, to Medi-print (Photo courtesy of Clifton Patrick)

  • F.J. Murray slaughterhouse, home to Imperial Veal & Lamb and Chester Hide and Skin, is now a Lowe’s Home Improvement store. Many years ago, cattle used to be unloaded from boxcars at the Erie station and herded through the streets to the slaughterhouse. (Photo courtesy of Clifton Patrick)

By Ginny Privitar

— If there’s one constant in life, it’s change: farms become housing developments, old businesses fade, new ones start up.

Photographs and newspaper clippings in the Chester Historical Society’s new exhibit track Chester's changes over the past 20 years and then some. The society’s home, the 1915 Erie Station Museum, 19 Winkler Place, welcomes visitors every Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. through October.

New businesses and a new schoolThe site of the present Lowe’s Home Improvement store was once home to the FJ Murray Slaughterhouse, which processed beef and lamb. The office was in a stone building on Route 17M, across from the present post office. After the stone building was demolished, it became the site of the small strip mall that houses Burger King. Behind that rose the Hampton Inn motel.

To the left of the strip mall are two other “new” businesses: the car wash and Taco Bell. And across from the Mobil Station on 17M, CVS rose on what was once the site of a Chinese Restaurant.

Long ago, the original Chester Academy, a wood structure, once stood on the site. A new school building, the first in decades, opened off Hambletonian Avenue and was named Chester Academy, for the first one.

Further west on 17M, Rite Aid took over the site of Private Pie, which succeeded Gallo’s Cozy Corner bar and restaurant. On the opposite corner, Orange Bank and Trust opened in the modified former home of the DeAngelis family.

Other businesses came and went at the Chester Mall and the Quickway Plaza. New restaurants, bagel shops and other business opened.

The New York Dance Center opened at the former lumberyard.

Fun and feastingThe Castle Fun Center opened up and, because of its popularity, expanded.

Close to the Erie Station, The Rushing Duck brewery opened.

On Main Street, The Rustic Wheelhouse opened in the renovated former Bodle’s Opera House. The name was inspired by the building’s early use as George H. Brooks Carriage and Sleigh Factory.

Alan’s Falafal opened in the former home of a pizzeria, and before that, it was Orange County Wheels.

New technologyNew businesses continue to thrive in the oldest parts of the village. One of them is at the forefront of technology, Medi-print at 7 Winkler Place, which makes custom 3-D medical models. These are constructed from CAT scans of actual patients who need repair or reconstructive surgery. The 3-D printers use the scan to produce a three-dimensional anatomical model that helps doctors and surgeons prepare for surgery. It also devises repair components custom-made for patients to eliminate trial and error during surgery.

One of several models on display was of a patient who had lost half a jaw to cancer. Thanks to 3-D printing, the model of the existing jaw was able to be flipped into a mirror position, enabling a custom-made model for a surgeon to use in reconstruction of the jaw.

Farms and homesNew farms, part of the Chester Agriculture Center, have sprung up on land that has been farmed for generations, preserving the black dirt farms and introducing organic growing practices. Other farms have been turned into housing developments.

These and many more changes, some a little older, can be seen at the new exhibit. Both old-timers and new residents will enjoy comparing the familiar sights of today with their not-so-distant past. Stop by — and if you can think of a change they overlooked, let them know.

Admission to the museum is free but donations are welcome.

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