West Winfield — Many of us enjoy our favorite hobbies in our spare time, but it’s safe to say that very few of us engage in leisure activities like rebuilding old windmills and sawmills, or repairing keyboard instruments such as organs.
The public will have a rare opportunity to see two personalities, Steve Davis and Richard Sherman, showcase these unusual tastes at a summer event hosted by the Upper Unadilla Valley Association (UUVA).
The demonstration will take place on Sunday, July 30, from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm at the Davis Mansion at 654 U.S. Route 20. The event is free.
Davis, who inherited his love for machinery from his grandfather George Heitman and the village’s former tannery, runs an antique windmill and sawmill that he has rebuilt.
This wooden windmill dates back to 1877 and was in use in the hamlet of Toddsville, Otsego County until about 1940, when it was cut down and fell into a swamp. By the time Davis brought back the remains (basically the wheel hub and turntable) two years ago, many of its parts had been removed.
Established around 1915, the sawmill was crumbling in Otsego County meadows near Edmeston until Davis used a tractor loader to salvage the larger pieces and dig out smaller pieces with a garden rake. Materials for the sawmill building were sourced from a variety of sources.
Davis used the sawmill to square off four old utility poles for use as a windmill tower, and next to it a new tower and the wheels themselves were erected in the sawmill building. The foundation of the windmill consists of four old oil barrels he filled with cement.
He first used steam locomotives to power his sawmills. His wife Sally worked as a firefighter and engineer. They now use his 1972 John Deere tractor to run the sawmill.
Raised in Oriskany Falls, Sherman taught himself to play and repair organs and plays for the Bridgewater Congregational Church. He has also worked on organ performances at the Stanley Theater in Utica, as well as at the Capitol Theater in Rome, the Shea Theater in Buffalo and the New York State Fair in Syracuse.
Sherman began playing instruments by ear around the age of six.
He started learning player piano around the age of 10. The Old Music Museum in Deansboro, where his mother worked, was surrounded by a vast collection of old and rare restored musical instruments accessible to visitors. He also plays saxophone and clarinet.
A self-professed organ enthusiast, Sherman talks about different types of organs, including theatrical organs he enjoys playing.
He brings various organ pipes and regulators to show how wind pressure works to control sound, and uses a keyboard to demonstrate the different digital sounds that can be created and how those sounds are achieved in a real organ.
The non-profit UUVA runs summer tours showcasing the area’s unique historic buildings, homes, farms and businesses, as well as gardens, art, nature and the use of renewable energy.