Fenton History Center Renovations Ongoing

There will be a new look to the Fenton History Museum when it reopens.

Currently the museum, located at 67 Washington St., Jamestown, is undergoing a first-floor renovation project. Joni Blackman, Fenton History Center director, said renovating the first floor of the museum has always been a project on her radar for several years. She said the idea started to come to fruition once the Hall House resource center was completed last year. The Hall House is the new home for the Fenton History Center’s library and research materials.

However, she said the project wouldn’t finally be a reality without the help of local foundations, which include the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, Hultquist Foundation, Lenna Foundation and R.C. Sheldon Foundation, as well as state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, and city of Jamestown officials.

“The funding … fell into place. If we didn’t have those funds, it wouldn’t have come together,” Blackman said.

Blackman calls the renovation project the “Fenton Shuffle,” because of the changes that will be done to the first floor. One change that will be immediately noticeable those who have visited the Fenton Mansion before is there will be a new entrance. The previous entrance was on the side of the building, but the new one will be in the back of the mansion.

“You’re going to know where to head. We’re going to have a temporary canopy over the entrance that will read ‘Entrance,'” she said. “It is going to be a much more user-friendly entrance.”

Once through the entrance, people will enter the newly designed gift shop. Blackman said the gift shop will be the first room people will see when entering the museum. Once through the gift shop, people will enter the new “Welcome to Jamestown” timeline exhibit. Blackman said it will be the orientation area for people wanting to learn more about Jamestown’s history.

“It is to build tourism for one thing, and to better educate tourists and the visitors about Jamestown’s history,” she said. “Right now, you can get through the whole museum and not really know when key things happened. There is a professional team doing the exhibit, they’re from Buffalo, that has a timeline that will really help people understand how the city came about, how it grew and how it has changed.”

The next room will be the new public meeting area. Blackman said the area where records used to be kept and looked like an attic full of old relics will be the new public meeting room. There will also be a new handicapped-accessible bathroom.

She said the first-floor renovation cost will be around $37,000. She also said they received about $2,000 worth of volunteer work hours from Fenton trustees and from Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES adult education course students.

“The trustees took it upon themselves to do some of the renovation work like painting the walls and sanding the floors,” she said.

The mansion is scheduled to reopen on Wednesday. Blackman said the work definitely needs to be done by June because the mansion will be the site of a wedding. Blackman said she welcomes people to visit the newly renovated museum next month.

“We are here for the residents of the city,” she said.

The Hall House Research Center and administration offices for both the museum and research center are open. For more information, call 664-6256 or visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org.