BEMUS POINT - It's all hands on deck at The Lawson Boating Heritage Center on Chautauqua Lake.
State Sen. Catharine Young, R-C-I-Olean, visited the center Thursday. The Lawson Center has been open since May 19 of this year.
"I was here at the very beginning. I dropped in one day," Sen. Young said. "It's amazing to see the before and after. I sincerely congratulate everyone who made this dream come true."
State Sen. Cathy Young, R-C-I Olean, toured The Lawson Center with Dave Lawson Jr. on Thursday.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
The Lawson Center is named after the Lawson family, who moved to Bemus Point in 1918. David Lawson began operating Lawson Boat & Engine Co. Inc., a boat and automobile service shop, in the village.
Over the years, the name of the business was changed to L.S. Aeromarine. The building began to deteriorate. According to the center's history, in 2009, a small group of businessmen who were connected to Bemus Point and the Lawson family wanted to restore it.
In January 2010, David Lawson Jr. donated the property to the Friends of the Lawson Center Inc. It is now a nonprofit that shares a museum of boats, boating equipment and accessories with the community. Additionally, it strives to educated people through the history.
"This is a real asset to Chautauqua Lake and the whole region," Sen. Young said. "The fact that it preserved so many historic items and our boat-making history that we have right here, but also promoting it in the future is very exciting. We draw a lot of tourists, and we will strengthen our economy."
According to Bill Locke, secretary of the board of trustees, The Lawson Center had 75 or more visitors each weekend, with more than 800 paid admissions since opening for its first summer. The center also opened its doors for free youth and military family visits over the summer.
Additionally, the center has 400 memberships; its staff of 50 are all volunteers; educational seminars have been held; and, the board of trustees only has plans to do more in the future.
"Sen. Young has not been to The Lawson Center, this is her first visit. We've been wanting her to come down, just to take a look at the facility, what we've done to it. Now, it's a piece of the Bemus area, part of her district. We're just proud of the center and wanted her to see it," said Tony Hopfinger, president of the board of trustees.
For more information on The Lawson Center, visit www.thelawsoncenter.org.