National Women’s Hall Of Fame To Get New Home

Michael F. Nozzolio

March 08, 2007

Seneca Falls – In an agreement announced today, the National Women’s Hall of Fame will have a new home in one of the oldest historic buildings in the Finger Lakes Region.

New York State Senator Michael F. Nozzolio (R-Fayette) and Seneca Falls businessman Bruce Bonafiglia joined Hall of Fame Executive Director Billie Luisi-Potts in announcing that an agreement has been reached allowing the Hall to acquire and renovate the former Seneca Knitting Mill building in Seneca Falls as the Hall’s future facility.

The Hall intends to establish in its new home a state-of-the art 21st Century museum, dedicated to the achievements of great American women and will have multimedia displays, artifacts, flexible classroom space, climate controlled collections and archives storage.

The mill is currently owned by the Seneca Knitting Mill Development Corporation, a local non-profit public benefit agency designed to save and renovate important historic properties. The non-profit agency is headed by Bruce Bonafiglia. Under the agreement announced today, the mill property will be transferred to the Hall, and the Hall will raise necessary funds to revitalize the property.

Senator Nozzolio, who has secured millions of dollars to save the mill and develop the Seneca Falls Harbor Project, said “This is a historic day for the community and continues our efforts to revitalize the Seneca Falls Harbor, enhance tourism, and bring jobs to our region.”

Bonafiglia, owner of BonaDent Corporation, has been long active in downtown redevelopment efforts. He established the not-for-profit Seneca Knitting Mill Development Corporation as a way to insure important historic buildings are saved and utilized for the benefit of the community.

"When the Bonafiglia Family purchased the historic Mill building four years ago, we were confident that the ultimate re-user would benefit our community”, said Bruce Bonafiglia. After donating the property to the Development Corporation, my family is ecstatic about the agreement with the National Women's Hall of Fame. The Hall will act as yet another catalyst to help complete my family's dream of revitalizing the downtown and harbor front area."

“This exciting new space will allow the Hall to more fully interpret and showcase great American women and their impact on our country. This collaboration will focus increased interest on Seneca Falls and women’s achievement, adding to the area’s growing tourism economy. Because of the historic significance of the building, one of the few extant examples of an intact mill of its era, the Hall will truly become the place where history, heart and hope converge,” said the Hall’s Executive Director, Billie Luisi-Potts.

U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has also been an advocate in the effort to expand the National Women's Hall of Fame, helping to raise money to aid in developing plans for the expansion and linking the Women’s Hall of Fame with other financial, architectural, and technical resources. Senator Clinton will be inducted into the Women's Hall of Fame on October 8.

Senator Clinton said, "I want to congratulate Senator Mike Nozzolio, Bruce Bonafiglia and the Seneca Knitting Mill Development Corporation on reaching this landmark agreement to bring the National Women's Hall of Fame to the historic Seneca Knitting Mill. I look forward to continuing to serve as a partner in this effort, working closely with them to seek the additional state and federal funds needed to bring this project to fruition."

“The Seneca Knitting Mill has been an integral part of the Village's history for over 150 years and it is no coincidence that the development of the canal and the local industry served as a catalyst for the events that took place in Seneca Falls and led to the first Women's Rights Convention in 1848," Senator Nozzolio said. “I am very pleased that the National Women’s Hall of Fame will move its operations to this historic landmark and continue to honor the contributions of women in the birthplace of women's rights.”

The National Women's Hall of Fame was established in 1969 by Seneca Falls residents who believed that the contributions of American women deserved a permanent home. In 1979, the National Women's Hall of Fame purchased the former Seneca Falls Savings Bank building in the heart of the Seneca Falls Historic District and has been in operation since that time.

Senator Nozzolio has brought significant funds to the Seneca Falls Canal harbor Project. Restoration of the Bridge Street Bridge, resurfacing and rebuilding of the north canal wall; construction of a waterfront promenade including installation of vintage-style lighting, benches and railings; the installation of new accommodations for boaters, including 400 feet of floating docks, pump-out facilities and boater pedestals providing both electric and water services. Recently, fifteen historic lights and a new pedestrian walkway were completed on the southside of the canal.

The Seneca Knitting Mill was first put into use in the 1840’s as a mill to produce woolen goods. The site was attractive to its original owners because it offered water power needed for the manufacturing processes. The factory, which was owned and operated as a woolen and knitting mill by the Geb and Souhan families for most of the century, was an important employer in Seneca Falls and Seneca County. This community treasure, which for over
155 years has been a significant part of the lives of many generations of Seneca Falls residents, officially closed in the spring of 1999.

“My mother and father both worked at the Mill as I did growing up. Just as it is for me - the Seneca Knitting Mill - is a part of the lives of generations of local residents whose parents and family members worked there. Today, as a result of the Hall of Fame's decision, the viability of this historic property will be insured for future generations to come,”
Nozzolio concluded.