Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Closer Look at Knox Farm State Park

A new book focuses on a regional gem that was once a working farm and a private summer retreat. "Knox Farm State Park" offers fascinating insights into this special spot located in East Aurora.

As part of our continuing effort to give readers a behind-the-scenes peek at how regional books are born, we chat with authors Gerald L. Halligan and Renee M. Oubre.

Q: Why did you decide to write the book?

Renee: Knowing that Knox Farm was in need of help and exposure, I suggested doing a video of Seymour walking Knox Farm, telling about its history and his experiences there. Then I remembered Gerry was looking for a book topic. Gerry and I met to discuss the project, then we proposed it to Seymour who said, "Why not!"

Gerald: Renee arranged for a meeting with Seymour Knox IV in January 2012. After several conversations, I was privileged to receive a personal tour of the farm by Seymour. During the several months following this first tour, I was considering writing about the famous Buffalo business leaders who interacted with the Knox family through the generations. But immediately following a second tour of the farm with Seymour in September 2012, the inspiration came that there should be a book written about the new Park. It was our intention that the book could be used as a tool by the Friends of Knox Farm to raise capital to support their efforts to preserve the Knox Farm.

Q: How did you go about researching your topic?
Renee: In our preliminary research, we were astonished to find that there were no existing books written on the accomplished Seymour H. Knox family. Being from East Aurora, I am familiar with the history of the area and its residents. Gerry was intrepid in his research efforts near and far. We traveled to Russell, NY, the birthplace of Seymour H. Knox to visit the historian there and to see the trio of Tiffany windows he dedicated to his mother and donated to the town school.

Q: What were a couple of the most interesting or surprising facts that you
Frankly, there were many. I was personally impressed with the history of Seymour Knox I. His childhood in Russell, New York, the collaboration with his cousin F. W.Woolworth in the early years of the Five & Dime industry and the deep love for his parents and community in his creation of Tiffany Stained Glass windows .These are preserved to this day in the local high school in this western Adirondack community. I had never heard of Russell NY before our first conversation with Seymour Knox IV.
Seymour H. Knox virtually saved the Mambrino King lineage with his purchase of the stock from the Hamlin Farm sale.
Helen Knox had the Shipman gardens plowed under two years before her death.
Q: What chapter would you consider your personal favorite and why?
Gerald: This is difficult. However, the chapter on the Shipman gardens in which I did the research at Cornell University is probably the most significant for me. It was through reading the correspondence between Ellen Biddle Shipman and Seymour Jr. & Helen Knox about the development of the gardens gave great insight into creativity of these fine people. In addition, Mr. Knox Jr. was an excellent writer. In reading his personal books in the Rare Book Collection in the Buffalo & Erie County Central Library, Mr. Knox helped us gain a sense of his love of his family, his horses and personal interests related to Knox Farm. I am truly grateful to have been given the opportunity to have been involved in this collaborative project to support this new New York State Park.
I love the images with the Knox children and grandchildren at the farm. They are sweet images of idyllic childhood days.
Next, I adore the images of the animals - playful, smiling dogs in the Rolls Royce and the beautiful horses in the pastures.

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