On 12581 Harborview Road (Co Rte. 72) in the hamlet of Henderson, between NYS Routes 3 and 178, stands a beautiful old church building at the top of the hill. This former residence of the Universalist Church, has been the home of the Henderson Historical Society & Museum since 1996. Step up the stairs and prepare to be dazzled! Built in 1839 by the settler families of the area, the edifice sparkles with its original Horwood stain glass windows and furnishings! The gift of this building and its historic maple grove enabled the Henderson Historical Society to open the doors to the public as a museum and research center. Now in its twentieth year of operation, the Society continues to dedicate itself to the tenets of its NYS Absolute Charter to: collect, preserve and present to the public, the objects, documents and culture of the Henderson area. Ever changing and expanding, a visit is a must on every tourist stop!
The collection is comprised of 19th century maps, old town documents (beginning with the founding of the town in 1806), historic reference books, local history & family binders & scrapbooks, inventory collections, vital & census & cemetery records, special loyalist files and materials, military records (special emphasis on: Revolutionary Veterans, 1812 Militia and Civil War Rooster). Tables and chairs enable researchers or readers to partake of the vast collection reading room.
There are fabulous paintings of the area sites and beauty as well as 19th century portraits and photographs. Always of special interest is the special collection, from the former Henderson Central School of Alumni, of documents & memorabilia, sports trophies, PTO & PTA scrapbooks. The year books from the area schools (HCS & BCS) bring a smile to many visiting grandchildren.
Of special note is the extensive Frank Springsteen collection. The Society owns three original paintings by this former native son who was a New York State muralist and Thruway engineer. There are personal memorabilia, as well as his fully indexed design scrolls, papers and devices.
Another wonderful collection is a set of five large binders, of photo enlargements of historic postcards, from the collection of Bilkey Moore. This is a showstopper, which will delight viewers.
The “Stony Island” archival collection of former fishing guide, Harry Stevens, will give the visitor pause. It is an astute assemblage of Indian, pre-Indian and ice people objects of stone, flints, and pottery, which offer insight into the lives of the areas early inhabitants.
Not to be forgotten, children of all ages will love the children’s corner of toys and furnishings. Nearby is the “Gadget Wall.” This is a brain teaser of 20th century household items and tools and some of which have yet to be identified.
Slip out the back door and down the handicap ramp and enter the “Historic Boat” annex, named after the benefactors of the Peters and Stevens families. Built in 2013, it houses twelve wooden work and recreation boats, from the 1880s ice boat to a 1930s Irwin guide boat. Also in the exhibit are historic maps, nautical charts, pennants, engines and memorabilia.
The visit is not complete without a visit to the 1820s cabin in the Society’s maple grove! The structure was disassembled from its residence on Ray’s Bay and reassembled in the grove in 2004. It is a treasure filled with period furnishings and objects, from the descendants of the settler families who founded the Henderson Historical Society.
The Museum is open Mid-May through early October: Wednesdays Noon to 3 PM and Saturdays 9 AM to Noon. Researchers will be accommodated by special appointment request. [firstname.lastname@example.org]
The Society has a schedule of speakers, historic walks and activities for adults and families throughout the season. The Heritage Day on the second Saturday of each August is an all day party-picnic-family reunion of area crafters, food, non-profits, authors, re-enactors, musical entertainment and historic tours. See the complete calendar of programs and events on the website: www.hendersonhistoricalsociety.com
Ever changing - ever exciting - come join the fun and be a part of history!
By Elaine J. Scott
Elaine J. Scott is the Recording Secretary of the Henderson Historical Society, with a Masters from Syracuse University in Art Education. Elaine was involved in helping to promote the War of 1812 Bicentennial with the re-enactment of the 1814 Cable Carry, which helped get supplies to Sackets Harbor and to ensure the British did not gain an upper hand.