BELPRE - The Belpre Historical Society has a handcrafted rocker, now all it needs is a porch to put it on.
Nancy Sams, society president, said it's all part of a grander plan to construct a 50-by-50-foot addition to the existing 509 Ridge St. Belpre Historical Society's Farmers' Castle Museum Education Center.
"The museum is just bursting at the seams. We have to expand. We've been talking about this for about two years now. A committee has been working with Marietta architect David L. Haught of DLH Design and in July approved the plans. The concrete block structure will be a separate, detached building and will have a big front porch on it, running the whole length of the building. That's where the rocker is going to have a place of honor," Sams said.
Nancy Sams, front at left, president of the Belpre Historical Society, stands near a custom rocker with museum volunteers Maribelle Harris and Sandy Fuller; Sam Church with Lambert-Tatman Funeral Home; Marylou Brauer, vice president of the society; Mary Deem, society newsletter editor; Charlotte Powell, museum curator; and Marion Metz, museum volunteer. (Photo by Pamela Brust)
"We don't want to turn down any donations and we don't want to have to store items off site. We just don't have any storage space either," Sams said. The new building will be constructed next to the existing museum facing the present parking area. It will house a larger meeting room, restrooms and provide additional space for artifacts, memorabilia, exhibits and educational displays similar to those in the current building, which will remain in full use.
The porch rocker, handcrafted by Tom Doak of West Union, was donated by Lambert-Tatman Funeral Home to the Belpre Woman's Club concert series. The rocker was won by museum volunteer and historical society member Marion Metz.
"I had plans for that chair if I won it. I knew all along what I was going to do with it. I wanted to donate it to the museum. Now they just need the porch to put it on," Metz said. "We felt it's very important to support Belpre and to honor our heritage and our traditions here," he said.
The total project is about $236,000. Sams said the goal is to raise $175,000 by the end of January 2013. If that can be accomplished, groundbreaking would be in the spring, possibly by Belpre's Founders' Day celebration in April. Sams said the group has received $103,000 in donations and anticipates a $30,000 grant.
The nonprofit museum is operated by volunteers and includes an extensive southeastern Ohio Underground Railroad permanent exhibit, based on research of local author/historian, the late Henry Burke of Marietta; memorabilia and artifacts from the area, including furniture, toys, farm implements, an old-style darkroom, cameras and equipment; Victorian period furnishings, school exhibits, military items. The museum is featuring Civil War memorabilia, including a slave collar and chains, battle maps, resources and research materials, books, and maps.
Just inside the door is a restored 1840s carriage and a working gear-driven wooden loom used to make rugs and teach the art of weaving. Visitors can try their hand on the loom and purchase rugs and other items, made during demonstrations, as well as local history books in the museum's gift shop. The McManus Archaeology Collection represents 12,000 years of prehistoric history, including arrowheads and primitive tools found in the Belpre area. There is also a set of andirons, peppermill and backgammon game from the Blennerhassett mansion.
There is an Apple-Agriculture Exhibit with various hand tools, saws and scythes, cider presses and apple barrels. An operating blacksmith shop contains the original forge and anvil from Shaffer's Mill and a 100-year-old workbench stands next to a man-sized manual drill press and pedal-driven router in a facility constructed in back of the museum by volunteers.
The underground railroad exhibit includes photos of significant Underground Railroad sites along with descriptions in a pictorial exhibit of the slaves' journey to freedom based on research by Burke.
There is also genealogy information in the resource center with local family histories, diaries, heritage homes, burial records and other valuable information for those searching for ancestors.
The museum is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. from April to November and other times by appointment. For more information, to schedule a tour or donate to the building project, contact the museum at (740) 423-7588 and leave a message, or contact Sams at (740) 423-7382, email email@example.com or mail a check to the Belpre Historical Society at P.O. Box 731, Belpre, OH 45714-0731.