The Village Green is an integral part of the Cape Vincent community: the center of every outdoor celebration, the linchpin that ties French Festival together, the heart of the village from where everything else extends.
Have you ever wondered how it came to be? Or maybe you just assume it has always been a part of the Village?
If you are a few decades old or older, like me, you know that the land where the Village Green is located was not always the glorious beauty in the center of town that exists today. As a child, I remember the Cape Motel, which stood along Broadway on the site of The Green. In fact, my best friend growing up, lived with her family in the “office” of the Motel for a short while as they managed the property. As years passed, however, fewer visitors stayed at the motel and the property was abandoned. The lot quietly deteriorated, the motel was eventually demolished, and the grass and weeds grew wild. The center of town became an eyesore, a blemish on what was otherwise a charming, quaint village downtown district.
The history of the property is rich and certainly did not deserve such negligence. The land that is now the Village Green is believed to have been the site of a United States military barracks in the early part of the 19th Century, during the War of 1812 era. Later, as the threat of invasion from the North receded, the land was developed with both residential and commercial structures. This development included the Cape Motel, which provided accommodations to tourists and fishermen for much of the 20th Century. (Reference https://cvvillagegreen.org/)
In the early 1990's, the plot of land was identified by a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP) committee, as a potential hub for re-development of the commercial and waterfront districts in the Village. With a corner of the lot adjacent to the publicly maintained "Village Dock", and several hundred feet fronting on Broadway, a "Village Green" on this site was seen as a cornerstone to revitalization. It would provide a shortcut from the ‘main drag’ to the waterfront and preserve sightlines in the direction of the St. Lawrence River. (Reference https://cvvillagegreen.org/)
Unfortunately, for various reasons, that LWRP did not come to fruition, and the land remained unsold and undeveloped. There was no progress in sight until 1994, when a group of town leaders met on the front porch of current Village Green Board President Michael Maher’s store, to discuss how they could protect “the Green” from commercialization and retain it as open space for the enjoyment of future generations of residents. Their dream was to purchase the lot, develop it, and place it in a trust that would preserve it forever as a green space for relaxation, recreation, and special events.
After some setbacks, founding Board member and long-time Village Green President, John Tucker, enlisted the assistance of the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT).
TILT pledged seed money towards the procurement and preservation of the property. The ad-hoc group continued to seek and raise additional financing, but it was hitting a wall until Dorothy Aubrey, who owned and lived above what is now French Towne Market, stepped in. Mrs. Aubrey, who had always loved her view of the great St. Lawrence River from her window, single-handedly rescued the project. She helped the Village Green become what it is today, with a generous donation that bridged the gap in funding. Between the pledge from TILT, community donations, and Mrs. Aubrey’s considerable contribution, the owners of the property finally agreed to sell the lot that would become the Cape Vincent Village Green.
Through the partnership with TILT, which provided temporary stewardship, the Green was cleaned up, and it officially opened to the public in the summer of 1997. By 1999, the newly formed not-for-profit organization, Cape Vincent Village Green Inc. (CVVG, Inc.) assumed oversight of the property. Subsequent landscaping, tree and shrubbery plantings, and the addition of a performance platform, led to the evolution of the community asset that The Green has become in the 21st Century: a place where residents and tourists, cyclists and boaters, picnickers and musicians all congregate throughout the year. (Reference cvvillagegreen.org/)
Despite some opposition that the creation of the Village Green initially faced, the new-found atmosphere and beauty at the center of town has spurred commerce and new businesses. Visitors enjoy the charm and aesthetic of Cape Vincent, and business owners want to be a part of that allure, resulting in measurable recent growth in storefronts and tourism.
Today, the Village Green continues to be maintained by a Board of Directors, all Cape Vincent residents, which exists solely to protect and preserve its beauty. Since its establishment, The Green has been funded entirely through fundraising events and campaigns, and even more so, by the generous donations of a loyal core of benefactors. The organization does not request, nor does it receive, any public or municipal funds. If you are interested in helping to maintain The Green, there are a variety of ways to do so: joining the organization at any of several sponsorship levels; purchasing merchandise or raffle tickets; or even by volunteering your time on the clean-up and maintenance days.
The Cape Vincent Village Green is open to the public daily throughout the year. If you have any questions about using The Green, or if you are interested in hosting an event there, please review their Use Policy: https://cvvillagegreen.org/village-green-use-policy.html and/or call (315) 654-2158.
[Reprinted with permission from What's Happening in Cape Vincent 13618 - Diane Doud, co-editor]
By Kristie Stumpf Rork, Chamber of Commerce, Cape Vincent
Kristie Stumpf Rork admits she is a freelance writer, curve model, farmer, mother to two, and fortunately married to a chef or, she says, life would consist entirely of cold cereal and chocolate chip cookies!
This is the second Kristie Stumpf Rork article for TI Life. Kristie is the Executive Director of Cape Vincent's Chamber of Commerse.
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