Gordy Fox honored by historical society and the college’s alumni group

By on October 9, 2017
The Little Free Library outside the Morgan-Manning House on the South Street sidewalk represents the Carriage House which is located on the grounds. The model is 33” long, 15” high and 12” deep. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

The Little Free Library outside the Morgan-Manning House on the South Street sidewalk represents the Carriage House which is located on the grounds. The model is 33” long, 15” high and 12” deep. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Latest volunteer service:
“Little Free Libraries”

On the morning of our interview, Gordy Fox worked on the front stairs of the Morgan-Manning House on Brockport’s Main Street. Asked about the finished project, he said he replaced a rotted post. In the thorough fashion he is known for, he created a post of fine cedar with two coats of oil base primer and exterior paint, to last much longer than the first.

Recently, the fruits of his craftsmanship have been seen in two “Little Free Libraries” in the village. At Morgan-Manning House the Little Free Library represents the historic Carriage House on the grounds.   The Little Free Library on the college campus represents the historic Normal School which stood for decades and was torn down in 1938-39 to be replaced by the present Hartwell Hall in the same location. The Normal School model will soon be located near the Alumni House which is in front of Hartwell Hall.  (It has been temporarily on display at Drake Memorial Library.)

The Normal School Little Free Library as it appears on display at the Drake Memorial Library at the College at Brockport. It will eventually be mounted outside the Alumni House which is in front of Hartwell Hall on the campus. The model is 67 inches long, 22 inches high to the peak of the roof, and 12 inches deep. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

The Normal School Little Free Library as it appears on display at the Drake Memorial Library at the College at Brockport. It will eventually be mounted outside the Alumni House which is in front of Hartwell Hall on the campus. The model is 67 inches long, 22 inches high to the peak of the roof, and 12 inches deep. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

There are over 36,000 Little Free Libraries around the world in a movement to promote literacy and the love of reading, as well as build a sense of community through free book exchanges. The little libraries are basically outdoor book cases with glass doors in various styles and sizes.  Serving local areas, they are neighborly offerings where visitors may freely borrow and/or exchange books.

There are Little Free Libraries spotted all around greater Brockport. The two built by Gordy are unique, designed as buildings related to the institutions where they are located.  These two mini-buildings are built to scale, with fine architectural details copied, and paint very closely matching the red Carriage House and the Normal School’s red sandstone. As with the porch post, the same quality cedar and coats of paint keep them durable outdoors.

The college’s free library came first, after Virginia Campbell of “Friends of Drake Library” asked Gordy if he would replicate the Alumni House. It was not possible, Gordy said, because he needed enough flat surface to create a door and space for books.  Next, when Hartwell Hall was suggested, it had the needed spaces but creating the dome was prohibitive.  Finally, in a “’Goldilocks” just-right ending, photos of the Normal School showed sufficient spaces on the wings of the building. The smaller inside wings could hold paperbacks and the outside wings could hold larger hardback books. He made a Styrofoam model which received the go-ahead from the Friends of Drake Library.

Gordy Fox is seen at work on the Morgan-Manning House porch stair railing. It is one of the many projects he has completed in the historic home for over a decade. He has been honored for his volunteer work by the board of the Western Monroe Historical Society. In November, the College at Brockport Alumni Association will honor him as “Alumnus of the Year for Community Volunteerism.” Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Gordy Fox is seen at work on the Morgan-Manning House porch stair railing. It is one of the many projects he has completed in the historic home for over a decade. He has been honored for his volunteer work by the board of the Western Monroe Historical Society. In November, the College at Brockport Alumni Association will honor him as “Alumnus of the Year for Community Volunteerism.” Photo by Dianne Hickerson

At the Morgan-Manning House, the historic house itself was the first choice to reproduce. But, with no flat spaces where the prominent front view was desired, it would not work. The Carriage House proved just right with its long side having space for the library door and showing features of the building. The Little Free Library is at the edge of the South Street sidewalk on the Morgan-Manning House lawn.

No job is too big or too small for Gordy as head of buildings and grounds at the historic home.  In 2015 he supervised and worked on the major “Step Up!” project, priced at $25,000, to restore the sagging spiral stairs between the second and third floors. This undertaking capped over ten years of his maintaining the house and grounds, and serving as treasurer for eight years.  For his service, the Western Monroe Historical Society board honored Gordy with the first-ever “Lifetime Volunteer Achievement Award” at the 2016 celebration of the completed stairway project.  And, he is currently serving as vice president of the Society’s board.

Gordy (Gordon A. Fox) is a 1966 graduate of the College at Brockport.  He taught high school biology at Hilton for 32 years, retiring in 1998.  During his summers off he repaired and painted houses, shingled roofs, and eventually did building projects such as finished basements. He also learned to make fine furniture. In retirement, he made model ships from hardwood kits. And, in a year-and-a-half project, he crafted a 17-foot kayak out of – Yes, cedar.

As durable and dependable as the wood he chooses, Gordy’s volunteer labor is receiving another honor at this year’s College at Brockport Homecoming. For all his years of work at the Morgan-Manning House and his building of the Normal School Little Free Library, the College at Brockport Alumni Association is honoring him as the “Alumnus of the Year for Community Volunteerism.”

With his two Little Free Libraries completed, he does not foresee any more such projects to recreate historic buildings.  He is staying put in the place he is devoted to, planning to make special display cases for artifacts in the Morgan-Manning House.

(Note:  The Normal School Little Free Library is being dedicated at the Alumni House on October 6, 2017 and will be mounted outside the house in the future. DH)

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