AMHERST — The sign that once stood outside of Amherst’s Town Hall is much more than a landmark to Mark Haff and many other residents who have protested its removal.
The sign, reading “AMHERST Sandstone Center of the World,” is historically significant to the city, Haff said.
The phrase itself was coined by Amherst businessman O.H. Baker, who used the slogan on business stationary. Later, government officials erected the sign on town square at the corner of Main Street and Milan Avenue.
Haff fondly remembers the sign, which stood directly across from his father’s real estate business for about 40 years.
“Like many of his fellow residents, (my father) took great pride in what the sign represented to the community,” Haff said.
Haff spoke before City Council on Monday, as well as Amherst residents who donned “Save our sign” stickers. He asked Council to reconsider the sign’s removal in January 2012, and he asked Mayor David Taylor to return the sign to its resting spot.
“We respectively request that Amherst City Council support a resolution to return the sign to its original location,” he said.
Phil Van Treuren, councilman at large, said he supported the public sentiment, but he said the responsibility for the sign falls on the city’s administration.
Currently, the sign is in storage while sewer lines are repaired. A decision hasn’t been made as to whether the sign will be returned, Taylor said, who was reluctant to make any promises to residents.
“We know we’re not going to have two holes to put there anymore. We’re going to have to try to come up with something other than that. That’s why we took it down,” he said. “We did not intend to upset anybody.”
Taylor said it was eight months before anyone called the administration to complain about the removal of the sign, so he did not believe residents wanted the sign back. Taylor said a petition began circulating in the city about two months ago.
Haff, who works with a group of historians as a volunteer for the Amherst Historical Society, said the issue was addressed during a meeting to discuss historical issues. Eventually, all anyone could talk about was the sign.
Taylor, who said he hasn’t given much thought to the sign because of the pending construction, said he was willing to work with residents to find a solution.
“Does it have to be there? If it can’t be there, can we come up with another location that may be better? … Those are the questions we’re going to ask ourselves as we go through this process,” he said.
Resident Joan Rosenbusch criticized the idea of moving the sign, however, as did many other residents who said the sign’s location is just as important.
“You put it somewhere else, it’s losing what people remember. They remember it at 5 Points,” she said. “Silly to say, but the Statue of Liberty wouldn’t look as good in Brooklyn, would it?”
Taylor told residents he could not offer them a commitment that the sign would be returned to its original location, nor could he give them a timetable for when the sign may be re-erected.
Council President John Dietrich said when a decision is made, a meeting will be held to discuss it.
Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.