The Boalsburg Heritage Museum was originated in 1982. These notes are a compilation of its beginning and growth during the ensuing twenty years. The main source of information has been the minutes of the organization as it met in general session or as its Board of Directors, and has been compiled by Earl M. Kesler in October 2002.
That meeting was held at Duffy’s Tavern on September 28, 1982, with 30 people in attendance. Tentative plans were outlined whereby a museum would be setup on the second floor of the Harris Township building in quarters formerly occupied by the historic furniture factory and before that by the carriage shop. Harris Township Supervisors had unofficially endorsed the idea. A Museum Association was proposed, then formally approved by those in attendance. Solicitor, Thomas Gill, became the legal Advisor. For a number of years he guided the organization through establishment of its articles of incorporation, formation of by-laws, securing of tax-exempt status, property acquisition, and other matters.
During the September 28th meeting, a Board of Directors was chosen, including Ron Coder, Ruth Corter, Anne Riley, Fern Hess, and Elinor Green. Subsequently, Chris Lee was named to represent the Harris Township Supervisors. Ken Tennis, Jeff Biddle, and Stuart Frost were named by the Conservancy. That group served as the Board of Directors for the ensuing two years. Ruth Corter was President, Stuart Frost was Vice President, Ron Coder served as Treasurer and Elinor Green, Secretary. Other persons were noted as being active in the early proceedings, including Homer Roberts, Russ and Jan White, Roger and Doreen Diehl, Mr. and Mrs. Toussoun, Ruth Kistler, and Ursula Anderson. The latter became a very active membership chairman. By April 5, 1983, she could claim 76 paid-up members of the Association.
From the onset, all concerned were agreed that the Museum Association should be independent, and not a part of the Conservancy or an arm of the Supervisors. The Conservancy did contribute funds, initially $5,000 to serve as start-up money. The Conservancy always has been supportive to the Museum, including additional funds. The two groups have cooperated on many functions and projects. The Supervisors name a representative to the Board of Directors. Recently, they have allocated funds to assist in maintaining the collection of pool hall memorabilia.
In late 1982 and during the first half of 1983, plans and activities centered on use of the second floor of the Township building. It was realized that structural changes were necessary, including and additional stair tower. Considerable progress was made; some monetary donations were received, and numerous individuals made offers of gift items and artifacts.
In Fall 1983, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Aikens offered to purchase the property on the corner of Loop Road and East Main Street and deed it to the Museum Association as a gift. The house had been the home of the late Sara Sweet. Her heirs, William and Perry Sweet agreed to a sale price of $55,000, probably lower than the actual value. Transfer of the deed for the property was accomplished in November of 1983.
In the summer of 1984, the adjacent lot became available. It had been the site of the barn which had been part of the property. William Sweet had died and his three daughters were willing to sell the property to the Museum for $5,000. Purchase was approved by the members at the June 28 meeting.
Over the years, much work has been done restoring the interior and exterior of the house and surrounding properties. Since the main portion of the house dates from 1825, there was initial concern about is structural soundness. Inspections revealed that it was in good condition. However, the electrical wiring was primitive and not trustworthy; it was disconnected as much as feasible. For a few years, the membership depended on kerosene lamps for light during evening functions. New wiring was installed in stages, by Lewis Biddle.
Funding for the Boalsburg Heritage Museum has been an interesting, and at times, difficult process. In 1997, Mrs. Ruth Corter passed away leaving a significant portion of her estate to the Museum. This enabled the Board of Directors to finish paying off mortgage and loans and to set aside some reserves for use in case of emergencies. Much credit is due to the original and succeeding Boards of Directors for careful management of finances.
A stated purpose of the museum has been to promote awareness of Harris Township’s rich heritage and to interest and educate the public. Exhibits, lectures, and social events have been an important part of this effort. From the onset, classes of elementary school children have made fields trips to tour the museum and often the blacksmith shop and other village attractions as well. Other groups frequently request tours as part of their visit to the area.
Most rooms in the house are set up as semi-permanent exhibits with the gallery reserved for displays of shorter duration. The gallery has been the locale for many interesting and varied displays. Often they have spilled over in the parlor and dining room areas. Exhibits have been by local artists, craftspeople, photographers, hobbyists, guilds, and collectors. Many have been of historical importance. Over the years, many gifts have been donated to the museum. These gifts have added to the collection of historical and community artifacts for exhibition.
|The Sara Sweet House, built in 1825, houses the Boalsburg Heritage Museum.|