Visiting with Historical Societies Along the Main Line Canal Greenway

Blair County Historical Society

By: Joe DeFrancesco, Executive Director Blair County Historical Society

To summarize 2015 in one word, the word “Progress” comes to mind. The Blair County Historical Society saw great progress with restoration and site improvements to our flagship location at Baker Mansion. As the county’s official museum, the Blair County History Center at Baker Mansion, we are blessed to be surrounded by many talented and dedicated volunteers. Here in 2016, we will continue our service to the Blair County community by providing engaging, educational, and entertaining experiences during our tours, events, and activities. With great gratitude we acknowledge our dedicated staff and volunteers who selflessly serve this organization. We share a common vision of excellence and dedication.

In 2015, we saw the restoration of the Grand Double Parlor and the new Baker bedroom. Both made possible by dedicated members of the Blair County Community. This spring and summer we will see the restoration work at Baker Mansion continue. Special thanks the T. Dean. Lower Trust and the Central Pennsylvania Community Foundation for granting the Blair County Historical Society the funds to make this restoration possible. Because of the T. Dean Lower and Jane Young Lower Trust, 2016 will be the year when a majority of the interior of the mansion will returned to period décor and appearance for the first time since the mansion belonged to the Bakers. To date the Dining room has been completed and a majority of the main stairwell is under restoration. All of the restoration is being completed by the talented hands of, local artist, Michael Allison of Studio EFX. In late spring we will be dedicating the new Visitor’s Center as the conversion of the 1900’s era garage is completed. Special thanks to a private donor who will be announced at the grand opening. Please stay tuned for our dedication announcement. Building upon our foundation laid in 2015, we will continue to invest in our flagship site so that we may continue to grow in scope and in mission. We are dedicated to serving the membership and community by helping to make, the Blair County History Center at Baker Mansion a center for the community for generations to come. 2015, we saw one of the highest attendance rates in recent years, at our special events and regular season. All of our improvements are preservation based and patron based.

During 2016 we will see new exhibits opening. Nearing completion is the newly installed bedroom that will tell the story of Anna Baker (daughter of Elias Baker) and Hetty Baker (wife of Elias Baker). In the works is the new WW1 exhibit, a new exhibit on the historical society, and a newly refurbished transportation meeting room. Special thanks to the Central Pennsylvania Community Foundation for a technology grant received in 2015, we will be installing audio visuals to many of the exhibits to draw in an element of modern technology while preserving the architecture of the Baker facility. We will be opening exhibits throughout the season centered on themed events. We are in the planning stages of a new William F. Gable Department Store exhibit. Exhibit creation and exhibit opening will be very dependent on the restoration schedule to the exhibition rooms. As soon as progress and details are made available we will announce in future newsletters or via special notifications. We are currently developing new exhibits for 2017.

We have an exciting season scheduled for 2016. The Blair County History Center opens its doors for the 2016 operating season on May 21st. The facility will be open weekends until June 7st. Starting, June 7th – August 4th the History Center will be open Tuesday through Sunday and closed Mondays. Hours will be Noon – 4PM. From September 4th – 25th the Facilities will be open weekends Noon-4PM.  Special events are planned during the months of Oct-December.

Our 2016 event calendar is very exciting, from exhibit opening receptions, steam train excursions on the Everett Railroad, Sunday Concerts in July and August, to our holiday tours; the Blair County History Center is proud to serve our region. Please check for all of event details.

As we plan for the upcoming season, we are looking for site volunteers to assist with the operation of the Blair County History Center at Baker Mansion. As we expand our operation at the Baker Facility we are seeking volunteers for gift shop clerks, tour guides, office support, ground keepers, and event volunteers. In order to effectively manage our resources, volunteer help is vital and you can help make a huge impact by serving a couple of hours per week. Please consider becoming a volunteer and visit our web page for Volunteer Applications.

We welcome new members, it is an exciting time for the historical society and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on upcoming events and membership benefits. Our operation relies heavily on your continued support and much progress in the recent years is credited to the community. Thank You!

I welcome you and your families to visit the Blair County Historical Society’s Blair County History Center at Baker Mansion. Thank you very much for your continued support and we hope to see you soon.