Historical Value

The Fenton History Center is getting better with age.

The center held a grand opening on Thursday to show off the relocated entrance, new museum gift shop and the “Welcome to Jamestown” exhibit that was recently completed.

Joni Blackman, director, said that the renovations and new exhibit were the culmination of visions from the center’s 1999 board of trustees, under Director Christin Stein.

The “Welcome to Jamestown” exhibit is focused on detailing the timeline of Jamestown’s history.

“What a better way to tell the story of Jamestown than to use furniture,” Blackman said, referencing the exhibit’s solid wood construction.

Elisabeth Rankin spoke on behalf of Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Congressman Tom Reed, R-Corning.

“What a treasure to have the Fenton here in Jamestown,” she said.

Richard Lundquist, board of trustees’ president, spoke about the importance of the center.

“Our goal is to make this a destination, not just a place to visit,” Lundquist said.

According to Blackman, she suggested in January that the project be finished by April 1.

She thanked a variety of volunteers who contributed to the renovations, including Tom Greer, Steve Johnson, Mike Rohlin, Art Osterdahl and Andy Osterdahl, as well as Fenton History Center staff, Karen Livsey, Norman Carlson, Paula Bechmann, Phoebe Forbes, Frances Fair, Sara Reale and Barbara Cessna.

The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation provided $9,000 for the renovations- the full amount requested by the center – which specifically funded lighting changes, floor refinishing and the canopy.

The Reg and Betty Lenna Foundation provided the majority of the funds necessary to create the “Welcome to Jamestown” exhibit, also providing the full amount requested by the center for the project. To accompany the exhibit, Jerry Nelson donated a locally made gun from the 1860s.

Blackman also specifically thanked the BOCES Adult Education Work Experience Program, led by Larry Kestner and Dennis Wright.

“This program has literally made the difference between getting things done on time or not,” Blackman said. “Denny and Larry know what to do, they bring the crew and knowledge, we provide the materials, unless they have them, and they get it done.”

The “Golden Paint Brush Award” was given to Pat and Bill Locke for their efforts during the renovations.

Professional services for the renovations projects and exhibit were provided by: Ahlstrom-Schaeffer Electric Corperation, Ryan Snow, the city of Jamestown, Desmond Construction, Artone MFG, Jamestown Awning, Sherwin Williams, Sandberg Kessler Architecture, Hanson Signs and Thinking Outside the Square.

The event included refreshments and a basket drawing.

Looking toward the future, the center is working to build their endowment, develop research center programming and improve its presence in local schools and adult education.

In 2013, the Fenton History Center celebrated being part of the Jamestown community for 50 years.