PERRYOPOLIS, Pa. (AP) - The small, one-story, stone building just off the town circle in Perryopolis has seen more history than any other building in town. Now it gets to tell everyone about it - all 200 years of it.
The Liberty Street building - Perryopolis’ oldest - has undergone a four-year restoration and is now home to a new museum that will tell the story of area’s history.
The Perryopolis Area History Museum, following a grand opening June 27 during the borough’s bicentennial celebration, will be open to viewers from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The building that houses the museum dates back to 1817, and for nearly 20 years it was home to the Old State Bank Museum, which shut its doors in 2009. It structure has remained closed for the past four years during the renovation of the new museum.
The museum came to fruition, said Perryopolis Parks and Recreation Authority treasurer Norene Halvonik, with a joint effort by the Parks and Recreation Authority - which owns the building - and the Perryopolis Area Heritage Society, which is the custodian of the museum’s artifacts.
The goal of the new museum, Halvonik said, was to improve on the old one.
“There were a lot of artifacts, but there wasn’t a storyline. There were just items on a shelf,” Halvonik said of the Old State Bank Museum.
The artifacts on display in the Perryopolis Area History Museum are left over from the old museum, but now they are organized to better tell Perryopolis’ story.
“We wanted to develop exhibits that help the storyline. We divided the history up into three areas and selected the artifacts that would help to tell that story,” said Halvonik, who along with volunteer and former heritage society member Toni Dzurko was responsible for researching information and writing the storyboards that hang on the walls.
The curators have divided the museum into three sections: early settlement (1769-1879), coal and coke era (1880-1945) and post-World War II (1946-present). The new design lends viewers a chronology to follow when browsing the room.
Visitors can start by examining an original 1814 survey map of Perryopolis, locally unearthed Native American arrowheads and musical instruments played by the town’s early settlers. And they can make their way through the exhibit to view the mid-20th century mining equipment and military uniforms donated by local veterans.
But the biggest draw is neither an artifact nor relic - it’s a photograph.
“It’s a great focal point,” Halvonik said of the enlarged aerial photo of the town that covers much of the museum’s back wall. It shows Perryopolis amid a celebration of George Washington’s 200th birthday in 1932.
“Most of the modern buildings are up (in this photo). You see the town and the transition (between now and then),” she said.
At the museum’s soft opening in early June, the old photograph proved to be one of the highlights. “This was a big attraction,” said Halvonik. “Everyone stood around talking about the ‘good old days.’”