Fenton History Center Begins 50th Anniversary Celebration With Grand Opening

To kick off its 50th anniversary, the Fenton History Center celebrated the grand opening of the Hall House research center on Friday.

More than 60 people filled the small space, taking time to meet each other, walk around the new research facility and even see historical documents that were on display, including a document with signatures from the charter members of the Fenton Historical Society and a genealogical history of the Hall family. State Sen. Cathy Young was on hand to speak about the completion of the research center, which she helped make possible by finding a grant for rural museums for which the Fenton History Center was eligible.

“I’m so delighted to be here and see so many excited people who really, truly believe in this project,” said Young. “First of all, I need to thank Joni. She does a great job. She and I met when I was first elected to the Senate. She truly has put her heart and soul into this project, as have many other people in this room, because they believe in Jamestown and in preserving our historical treasures and celebrating our history. I’m just so pleased to see the final result.”

“We need to focus on our history, our governors and what we’ve done as a community and as a state,” said Young. “That’s what you’re doing right here, and I couldn’t be more pleased to be a part of it. I know a lot of people raised a lot of money, a lot of people worked very hard and I know from my time here that there are a lot of volunteers who make the Fenton History Center work.”

“I also know that there was probably a lot of foundation support and people who reached into their wallets from the community, so I give my sincere gratitude to everyone,” Young continued. “We have a great community here in Jamestown and Chautauqua County, and I see it every single day when people roll up their sleeves and work together because they want to make a difference. That’s what you’ve been able to do here. I’m just so proud to represent you.”

Following her remarks, Young presented the Blackman with a legislative resolution that was unanimously passed commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Fenton History Center.

“We don’t always agree on everything in Albany,” said Young. “But I’m pleased to report that this legislative resolution passed unanimously. This is very symbolic because when you pass a resolution like this it becomes a part of the state’s permanent record. Our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren will be able to go and read about the Fenton History Center’s 50th anniversary. We’re making history because of history.”

A major reason for the success of the Hall House restoration project was the support of local foundations. Following a lead gift from the Lenna Foundation totalling $100,000, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation also stepped in to provide a two-year grant. The Johnson Foundation and Sheldon Foundation also contributed to the capital project to repurpose the Hall House as a research center. According to Linda Johnson, Sheldon Foundation executive director, the Fenton History Center has been the recipient of nearly $500,000 for various capital projects, including the replacement of the roof, restorations of portions of the Fenton Mansion and most recently, the Hall House project.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Johnson. “I watched slicks of paint going on, construction, flooring issues, shelving being brought over by the board – a lot of hard work went into this.”

Mat Hagberg, vice president of wealth management at Great Lakes Consulting Group, was also on hand to speak about the endowment that was set up by his family to help offset the costs associated with running and maintaining the research center and to continue allowing the Hall House to grow in the future.

“We’ve heard about the large sums of money donated by foundations to get this project going, but we really need people at the grassroots level to support the endeavors here, too,” said Hagberg. “My father, who recently passed away, was a lover of the Fenton History Center. My mother, who passed away in 2000, spent many hours in the library here doing genealogy work. I have two sisters, too, and one of the things that we thought we should do after our father passed away was commemorate our parents in some way. We knew about the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, and we certainly knew about the Fenton, so we thought it would be fitting if we set up some kind of fund to benefit the Fenton. I would encourage anybody that has a desire to support the Fenton to think about setting up an endowment.”

Following the remarks, visitors made their way to the front porch of the Hall House for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Tours of the research center were offered for those that were interested. For more information about the Fenton History Center, located at 67 Washington St., visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org or call 664-6256.