- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—ROCHESTER — A window to Rochester’s past opens Thursday with a preview of the Rochester Area Heritage Society’s new historical museum on the second floor of the municipal building on Adams Street.

Artifacts and memorabilia — vintage clothing, books, theater tickets, pictures and photographs, glass and pottery, surgical tools, furniture — date from the mid-1800s and have ties to Rochester.

Much of the collection was stored — but not displayed — in the Rochester Public Library and municipal building storage rooms.

Over the years, the library seemed to be the logical place for people to drop off items of historical interest or value, said Michelle Long, president of the heritage society, which only formed last year in February.

“People did not know what to do with things,” she said. After the new heritage society started generating publicity, more donations were received.

“They (artifacts) were looking for a home. I found them a home,” Long said, with the establishment of the new museum.

Years ago, there had been a historical society in town, said Elinka Keller, heritage society treasurer, but it disbanded without ever establishing a place to showcase historical items.

Long, Keller and several other history buffs “all just decided to start meeting,” Long said, explaining the origin of the new Rochester Area Heritage Society. “We recruited some people to come and get involved.”

Membership now is 24, she said.

The group met monthly “to decide how, where, when — all the details of what all of our dream was, and finally their dream is coming true,” Long said with the creation of the new museum.

“We started with nothing,” Keller said, explaining that canisters were placed in the library for “people to put their little pennies in it.”

An electronics recycling fundraiser — old televisions, computers — netted $1,800.

“We were ecstatic,” Long said. The money helped to establish the heritage society as a nonprofit, which will enable the group to seek grants.

“I can’t say enough about these wonderful people,” Long said of her colleagues and their support.

Members approached Rochester Council for permission to use the unoccupied upper floor of the municipal building. Council granted the heritage society rent-free use of four upstairs rooms.

The municipal building, built in 1914, was the Rochester High School until 1959, when a new high school was constructed on Virginia Avenue, Long said. It once housed a Christian academy, then sat empty until about 10 years ago, when the borough relocated its administrative offices and police department.

Since last fall, heritage society members have worked diligently to create the museum, first concentrating on one of four former classrooms to create the Vintage Room.

Countless hours were spent removing old furniture, cabinets, computers and other equipment stored there; scrubbing floors and walls; plastering and painting; and acquiring display cases.

“A lot of elbow grease and a lot of love,” Keller said.

Then came the yeoman task of moving artifacts from the library, two blocks away, by foot, truck, car, wagon and toting everything to the second floor of the municipal building. High school students volunteered their help, too.

Delbert Lemmon, a member of the heritage society’s board of directors, is cataloguing the collection.

“I want to say at least 2,000 pieces,” Long said, estimating its size, many pieces still in storage boxes. “We have another full room to display yet.”

Everything’s been donated except for one item — a 4-gallon crock made by the Rochester Pottery Co. that the heritage society bought for $300 from an antiques store in Beaver Falls. The artifact is significant, Long said, because the pottery company was “only in business one year before it burned to the ground.” The company never rebuilt.

The late Louisa Linnenbrink, a descendant of Pennsylvania Sen. Abner Lacock, who served from 1808 to 1810, donated his desk, table, linens and shaving mug. Her mirrored dresser vanity with her brushes, hand mirrors and hair combs are also displayed.

Gary and Christine Luikart of Conway donated one of three light globes made by Phoenix Glass Co. that feature relief of four Roman women. The globe used to hang in the auditorium of the former high school, Long said.

Peter Napoli, a former Rochester teacher and principal, donated a school desk made of tigerwood with original inkwell and a 48-star U.S. flag that flew over the Adams Street school in the ‘50s, Long said.

But her “pride and joy,” she said, is a 1920s dress worn by the wife of a doctor in town. Long knows of the couple only as Dr. and Mrs. Cross, he a physician at the former Rochester General Hospital, now Rochester Manor and Villa.

The black, hand-stitched, floor-length dress is made of tulle, silk and beads. Long said Mrs. Cross wore it to hospital functions and balls. The display also includes her shoes and her husband’s tuxedo and top hat.

Across the room is a display of medical artifacts, some of them Dr. Cross’ (suture kit, surgical wire and staples, pellet injector); cane wheelchair from the 1920s donated by Rick Murphy; and a few oil-on-canvas paintings of nurses.

A number of pictures are mounted on walls, one showing a 1918 Labor Day parade at the corner of Brighton Avenue and Adams Street. The former Barnett’s Department Store can be seen. Another is a picture of Charles Schneider, a pioneer butcher in Rochester.

Old cameras, a stereopticon, a Royal typewriter circa 1940, dentist’s tools and historical books also make up the collection.

And H.C. Fry Glass memorabilia — glass molds and glass shards — cobalt blue, white and jade.

Fry “was one of the biggest glass factories in Rochester,” Long said.

A room adjacent to the Vintage Room will be transformed into a Train Room — an HO-scale model railroad village of Rochester showcasing Water Street, the borough’s center of industry bordering the river, with the tumbler works, flour mill, stove works, sawmill and Doncaster Hotel. New York Avenue will be depicted and a hillside with houses and churches.

Long said her son, Joe Long, and volunteers from the Ohio Valley Lines Model Railroad Club and Museum in Ambridge will create the display.

Also planned: a School Room replicating a classroom from the 1930-40s and another room to feature Rochester school and sports memorabilia.

The Vintage Room will be open to preview from 5 to 8 p.m. July 30, with light refreshments. It will also be open from 6 to 9 p.m. July 31 and Aug. 1.

“We do not charge,” Long said, but donations are accepted.

The heritage society has yet to establish regular hours. Long said she’d like to have the museum open one day a week and one weekend at least. School field trips, individual and group tours can be made by appointment.

“I’m excited,” Long said, anticipating the opening. “I can’t sleep.”

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(c)2015 the Beaver County Times (Beaver, Pa.)

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