Students build pavilion for Finger Lakes Museum

Everett Davison, Hornell Tribune
The Wayland-Cohocton Timber Framers built a pavilion for the Finger Lakes Museum overlooking Keuka Lake.

The Wayland-Cohocton STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) class recently built a pavilion at the Finger Lakes Museum in Branchport.

Located on wetlands on the museum property, the pavilion overlooks Keuka Lake, and will be accessed by a boardwalk that will be built at a later time.

The class, co-taught by science teacher Rob Hughes and technology teacher Jim McLaughlin, is in its fourth year. The idea for the class was a truly original idea, as Wayland-Cohocton was one of the first public high schools in the United States with a program resembling this one.

“As far as we know, we were the first high school in America doing this. There were one or two community colleges that had something similar, but still nothing on the scale that we do,” said Hughes.

This year, they had the fewest number of students that they have had in the program in the four years they have taught it. Enrolled in the class are Caleb Cansdale, John Freberg, Daniel Harter, Doug Lippens, David Magin, Zane Monroe-Simonowicz, Joseph Schrader, Mikel Willis, William Young, and Cody Zigenfus.

“This year we have 10 (students). Typically, there’s between 10 and 15,” said Hughes.

McLaughlin believed that what the biggest difference between this project and the ones they had done in the past is the difficulty of its location. In order to be able to build the pavilion in the wetlands, the class had to walk on wooden pallets and had a much more difficult time in getting all of the materials to the build site.

“What really sets this project apart to me is that it was built in a wetland,” said McLaughlin. “It’s way different when you can just pull up to the site with everything on a trailer and start building from when you have to move everything 50 yards through a swamp.”

This year is the first year that they have done a project outside of the Wayland-Cohocton School District, and they have received a greater response than they have for their other projects.

“The responses we have gotten, particularly on social media, are that people are just blown away by this thing. There are people from Europe that have seen photos of this — Australia, all over the world, and they’re like ‘this is incredible,’” said Hughes.

The octagon-shape of the project is something that is rare in timber framing, due to the difficulty of its design and the extra measures that need to be taken in its design and construction.

“There are professional timber framing companies that wouldn’t do an octagon, because it’s so complicated,” said Hughes.

The project, itself, had more meaning to the history of the area than just to the Finger Lakes Museum and its patrons. Orson Fowler, a house developer from Cohocton, was the first to experiment with octagon-shaped houses before the Civil War.

“The Finger Lakes Museum tried to celebrate the cultural and natural history of the region. We went with an octagon partially because right before the Civil War, there was a trend of building octagon houses because they were more efficient to heat and a more efficient use of space, and a man from Cohocton named Orson Fowler was the one who developed the concept,” said Hughes.

McLaughlin specifically wanted to thank the Wayland-Cohocton School District for all of the support that they have gotten throughout the process.

“The superintendent is really supportive of the program,” said McLaughlin.