KEESEVILLE — When members of the Anderson Falls Heritage Society first walked into their soon-to-be museum space, they wondered if opening day would ever happen.
“There was no heat because the furnace was broken, there was damage to the floors and walls, broken radiators and warped floors,” said June Venette, a member and one of the workers.
“We just looked at each other and sighed.”
But, after a year of hard work at the Greek Revival style house, built in 1836, at 96 Clinton St., Keeseville, they are ready to welcome the public and introduce the community to their treasures.
The home’s owner, Lincoln Kilbourne, has given the society a 99-year lease and helped with some repairs. The house has nine rooms, two hallways, four bathrooms and two foyers, plus closets and attic space.
Members and the community have come together to renovate the kitchen into an exhibit space, add a handicap bathroom, spackle cracked plaster, fix leaks, pour a new sidewalk and clean or paint the first-floor rooms.
The upstairs will not be renovated for public viewing but will be used for storage and as a workspace.
“It’s amazing what has been accomplished here in such a short time,” said Secretary Betty Brelia.
“Gordon Pollard, who is a member and a jack of all trades, and Robert DeGroat, who isn’t even a member, have done large jobs, like a new sidewalk, and intricate woodwork detailing. We are so grateful.”
The society’s 65 members contributed most of the financial support for the project, but the towns of Chesterfield and Ausable and the Village of Keeseville have helped tremendously, she said.
MOVE FROM CIVIC CENTER
The Historical Society was formerly located at the old Keeseville High School, known as the Civic Center, until it was closed in 2010. The members were permitted to store their collection there until finding a new home.
With the assistance of many people, they moved everything to Clinton Street, culminating more than 2,400 hours of volunteer time between moving, renovations and readying the displays.
Work still remains on the veranda-like porch at the front of the house. It is pulling away from the main structure and has been cordoned off to prevent injury. Grants will be sought to rebuild the porch.
The Sept. 22 open house will be a day of pride for all concerned.
“When we were at the Civic Center, nobody knew we existed,” said Brelia. “But now we hope all of that will change.”
“We’re finally open,” added Sandi Connell, with a smile. “And we’re ready.”
Email Susan Tobias: firstname.lastname@example.org
▶ The Anderson Falls Heritage Society members have moved all their artifacts to their new location at 96 Clinton St., Keeseville, and are eager to show the public the historical artifacts relating to the area's history.
▶ A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22.
▶ Included in the collection are items from the Ausable Horse Nail Company, Keeseville Mineral Springs (called Dietade and eventually bought by Pepsi), the Ted Turner Drug Store collection, Keeseville High School yearbooks and memorabilia, history of the bridges of Keeseville and the Peanut Railroad that ran from Port Kent to the current North Country Club location.
▶ The society has a research room with veterans' and cemetery records; vital records including births, deaths and marriages; and a large collection of newspaper clippings.
▶ The Prescott family has donated business papers and records from their company, which built coffins, cabinets, furniture and was in the wood business in earlier days.
▶ As with all non-profits, the society has a wish list, including a nicely painted sign for the front lawn, replacing current windows or making them energy-efficient, paint and labor for the outside of the house, financial donations, materials and volunteers to continue renovations and new members.
▶ Meetings are held the fourth Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. ▶ Contact the Anderson Falls Heritage Society, c/o Membership Secretary, 24 Chesterfield St., Keeseville, N.Y., 12944.