Grand Island Historical Society officers Carolyn Doebert, Sharon Nichols and Maggie Gushue presented a framed copy of the original 1864 deed of the fifth-oldest house on Grand Island to current owners Robin and Bryce Shipman at their recent festive sesquicentennial birthday celebration. To celebrate their farmhouse's 150th birthday, the Shipmans invited 150 family and friends to a gala party at 2020 Fix Road that featured an 1864 menu, period games and entertainment, and live contemporary and bluegrass music.
Built by Asa Ransom in 1864, the farmhouse originally sat in a 300-acre orchard, complete with livestock and the Island's first blacksmith shop. The DeGlopper family purchased the farm a short time after and enjoyed ownership for more than 100 years. Dressed in period costume, long-time Island resident Ray DeGlopper (with wife Anita) toured the house, pointed out historical features, and shared stories he had heard about his great-grandfather's day. In honor of the farmhouse's long history, the Shipman family has uncovered many of its original features, including stenciled stairs leading to the second floor, which had long been hidden beneath carpeting. Also of note were vintage American flags and postcards found in the basement of the farmhouse. Guests were invited to ramble through the house and property throughout the evening and to share in the simple pleasures of a bygone age.
Included in these pleasures were a delicious meal (catered by Bob Evans of Niagara Falls) under spacious tents at tables spread with vintage cloths decorated with mason jars holding fresh-cut flowers from the property's gardens, cold old-fashioned lemonade, strolls through the kitchen garden bounded by a white picket fence, and lawn games. Children enjoyed hoop rolling, stilts, and a dunk tank, while teenagers and adults competed for prizes in pie-eating contests and three-legged races. All ages cooled down with a water-balloon toss after lively games of badminton, bocce ball, and croquet.
Dining to the sweet music of local artist James Bobak, guests found themselves reminiscing about summers past on the beautiful Isle de Grande. Many then strolled among the old-fashioned tiger lilies; lazed by the fish pond; or talked quietly with friends from far and near in the kitchen garden featuring heirloom tomatoes, blackberries, garlic and other comestibles that would have also been grown there 150 years before. Many noted the care the Shipmans have taken to retain the farmhouse's original welcoming ambience: the iron tools and utensils son Josh Shipman made as first student in the Genesee Country Village blacksmith apprentice school; the netted curtains; the wide farmhouse floors; the vintage bicycle with its wire basket filled with American flags, schedule of events, and fresh flowers. Many visited the outdoor photo booth of Island photographer Tina Wynne to memorialize the evening with a photo in period hats and costumes. Several posed with the painting American Gothic clearly in mind. Upon finishing desserts served in an 1850s carriage house, the Shipmans found in Sanborn and lovingly reassembled, guests were delighted to find themselves invited to an outdoor stage to listen to the authentic strains of original American bluegrass music. A much sought-after bluegrass band featuring Sue Galbraith, Craig Kellas, Greg Fair, Cady Fontana and Cap Cooke thrilled the audience with the story songs of a bygone era, when people listened for the whistle of the train, and children waited for the engineer to wave as he passed through small-town America.