The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

August 16, 2013

Business After Hours at Robin Hill

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@journal-register.com
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — LYNDONVILLE - Thursday night’s Business After Hours, sponsored by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce, proved that it is indeed possible to go home again.

Held at Robin Hill Nature Preserve on the north side of the Village of Lyndonville, owner Doug Pratt met and spoke with most of the small crowd during the course of the meet-and-greet.

Pratt, who said he plans to make the house on the property his permanent residence in the near future, is the grandson of the home’s original owner and builder, William Smith.

Smith, Pratt said, canned applesauce at a factory in Lyndonville, and with the money he made in that business he bought three farms and 45 acres of property.

“It took eight years to build this house,” Pratt said. “He and Grandma really built this place. The back porch is sandstone they quarried, and there are millstones that are part of the floor.”

He added that the first floor has no structural wood, and that sandstone is used instead.

“It’s a remarkable house,” he stated.

The house itself will soon host students on occasion is Pratt’s vision comes to fruition.

“Most of the arboretum is set up for a non-profit educational foundation,” he said. “I’m in the process of talking to colleges that are looking for projects.”

Pratt said Thursday’s small gathering offered a great chance to network with people who “know someone, who knows someone else, who knows someone else.” He said someone at Cornell might want to do a bee keeping study, and another school could do a wetlands project. He also mentioned how Genesee Community College could get some use out of the unique lay of the land.

“They can all come and learn, as we have over 400 varieties of trees,” he said.

With a smile, Pratt talked about some of those trees. He talked about how his grandfather was a good friend with a missionary in China and through that friendship brought back meta-sequoia trees to Lyndonville. Three of them are on the preserve’s property.

Pointing to another tree near the house, he said his grandfather found it on a mountainside coming home from a trip. The tree now bears the name “Robin Hill Shad” and blooms pink for a few days in the spring before turning white. Pratt said the tree also is a favorite in more urban areas as it can be “trained” to not grow too tall.

Kathy Blackburn, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said Robin Hill could soon become a “destination spot” in the county.

“A lot of us grew up with Smith’s Pond, and now we’ll be able to visit it again,” she said.

Pratt said he foresees Robin Hill becoming a welcoming educational resource that will double as his home. He said he would live by his grandfather’s credo that “anyone who respects the place is welcome.”

A writer by trade, Pratt has taken up narrating audio books, and he said that is work he is able to do from home.

And, after living away from the area (in Virginia) for quite some time, Pratt said it is truly good to be home.

“I’ve always wanted to come back here,” he said. “I’ve come home.”