The Elk County Historical Society began from the urging of the community it now serves. On April 22, 1964, at a meeting presided over by Mayor Perrin Shanley, plans were made for the formation of a historical society in Ridgway. At the meeting, Dr. William Cashman, former president of the Warren County Historical Society urged the group to think countywide when considering the creation of this new community organization. Mr. Kenneth Stratton, President of the Warren County Historical Society at the time, provided valuable advice concerning the organization and operation of such a society.
Mayor Shanley appointed a committee to investigate the proposition and draw up a constitution. The committee included: James Olay, Harry Hill, Harriet Faust, Grace Chapin, Howard Myers, Jane Gallagher and Earl Detwiler. Olay served as the temporary chairman. At an organizational committee meeting on May 7, 1964 the committee unanimously decided that the society should be county wide and derive its leadership from all across Elk County.
After much conversation and correspondence with the Warren County Historical Society, the Clearfield County Historical Society, and the Historical Society of St. Marys and Benzinger Township, the formal organization of the Elk County Historical Society took place at a meeting held at the Y.M.C.A on May 21, 1964.
At that meeting, Mayor Shanley presented a faded American flag to the newly elected president James Olay, marking the very first donation. The 45 star flag, which was proudly carried into battle by Ridgway’s Major Bliss and his Company H during the Spanish American War, now serves as a center piece in the Robinson museum of the Elk County Historical Society.
The original Articles of Incorporation of the Elk County Historical Society were notarized on August 17, 1966 and entered for record by the recorder, C. J. Sennett, on December 8, 1966.
By 1968 the Historical Society was in need of a place to house donated artifacts and a room in the basement of the Masonic Temple was rented to store the precious items. In 1974 the Elk County Court House generously offered the use of two basement rooms to the Society, allowing it to create its first office and museum.
By 1986 the Society outgrew that space and purchased the property at 109 Center Street with grant monies from the state and the Stackpole-Hall foundation in addition to the efforts of former Representative Distler and donations from local citizens and businesses. Originally, the property consisted of an 1890’s house and barn.
In 1992 Florence Himes Robinson made a substantial bequest to the historical society for the construction and maintenance of a museum. The barn on the back of the property was torn down and the Robinson Museum was built in its place and dedicated on April 22, 1995, 31 years to the day after the inaugural meeting to create the society.
At that time, the society turned the Center House Museum into a Victorian-style house that hosted special exhibits and functions.
Several years ago, thanks to a bequest to the Society by Cammille Switzer, much needed repairs and updates to the house were made, including an updated, fully functioning kitchen.
Currently, the house is used for special functions such as the Strawberry festival and the upstairs is being transformed into a doctor’s office, a doll house room, and a furniture display. It also houses the Society’s clothing collection.
We have grown considerably over the years since that first donation in 1964, and now house over 10,000 items! We continue to serve the community by improving our genealogy research room, planning educational events and programs, and closely working with the local schools to provide field trips.
We would like to thank the community, the businesses, the Commissioners, the state, our volunteers, and all of the other foundations and groups that have supported us over the years. It is because of you that we can continue to preserve the past for the future!