Residents enjoy Cortland history

CORTLAND – Members of the Ku Klux Klan put up a fight to keep a new school from being built in the city during the 1920s. The Board of Education finally had its way with replacing the school by secretly sending a member to Columbus in the middle of the night to have officials condemn the current decrepit schoolhouse.

This is just one of the many local stories hidden up Sally Lane’s sleeve. She shared it Thursday with a dozen residents in a presentation at the Cortland Branch Library.

“This is the stuff that you don’t know. It’s kind of just interesting, a little dark period in Cortland history,” Lane said.

Eventually during the new school’s inauguration, members of the Ku Klux Klan in full white sheet wardrobe burst through the school’s doors to present members of the board of education with an American flag.

Phyllis Hake, 69, who attended the library event, said she is probably a fourth-generation Cortland resident and was surprised by some of the stories that Lane shared.

“The Ku Klux Klan – I had never heard of that one, with the chase to Columbus,” she said.

As far as the old photos of buildings though, she said she remembered all of them. Lane shared photographs of historic Cortland paired with the modern day. In many instances, she said the same buildings were remodeled and recycled for today.

“Cortland doesn’t tear down old buildings,” she said.

In her 36 years in Cortland, Lane said she has fallen in love with the city and it’s history, so much so that she has written three books on it.

“I was really lucky when I moved to Cortland. I met some people who said, ‘Hey, don’t you want to join the historical society?’ They put me on a committee,” said Lane, “and I’ve been here ever since.”