Old School Voting in Upstate New York
That’s an old ballot box that’s in use today as the village of Richfield Springs, NY, votes on whether or not to dissolve. The age of the box is unknown, and the ballots are simply pieces of paper with two boxes in which voters can mark an X: yes or no.
Having grown up in this small community, part of the Leatherstocking Country, I’m sad that such a vote is even taking place. Like so many small communities across the United States, Richfield Springs has a rich history. It sits within the Town of Richfield, and its name is derived from local sulfur springs. With a population of about 1,200 people, the village hosts truckers and travelers taking scenic routes along US 20, 22, 25 and 28.
Cyrus McCormick, the inventor and founder of International Harvester Company, had a cottage there, which was landscaped by famed architect Frederick Law Olmstead (who designed Central Park in Manhattan). Tourists can still visit a portion of the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad, including the 1970s-era engine house.
Like so many nearby villages and communities, Richfield Springs, which was developed heavily before the 1940s as a “resort community”, is populated by folks who enjoy the simple things in life. Chain restaurants are non-existent until you hit the outskirts, and the grocery store, which is just outside the village limits, has horse and carriage parking for the local Amish. The village’s park features a bandstand that was built in the early 1900s, as well as a refurbished village clock, which once sat in the only major intersection. The doors at the two motels are still opened with a physical key.
Many small communities throughout the US in recent years have voted on dissolution, primarily due to finances. In Richfield Springs, some argue a dissolution would save money, while others argue that it won’t make a difference. Either way, today’s vote is important to many. My father reports to me that he had to stand in line longer than he did for the last few presidential elections.
Photo by Robert Hazelton