Douglass Historical Museum
History of the Douglass Pioneer Museum:
In 1950 a loosely oranized group of ladies who deplored the loss of pioneer relics and memorabilia through the years and succeeding generations decided to begin a collection of these things and display them in store windows during Frontier Days. Considerable interest was generated and the collection grew and was displayed in various rooms in the downtown area. The Douglass Historical Society was incorporated in 1957 with members Iva McCullough, Inez Graves, Viola Dennet, Emma Purvis, Daisy Lamb, Walter and Eunice Martin, Vivian Woody, Turia Bolington, Edith Engle, Martha Long, JM and Mildred Guyot, Zach and Fern Bush, Celos and Julia Olmstead, Zerita Anderson, Ruth Howard, Paul and Eva Guyot and Gladys Sherar.
In 1955, the Kansas Legislature passed a bill to aid historical presevation int he state. Money from tat helped to buy the building at 318 S. Forest, which had been Sherar's Dry Cleaners. They also purchased 3 lots south of the then City Hall with the intent of building a museum. After some renovation, the collections were moved into the building.
The City wanted to build a new City Hall and discussion followed with the museum board about trading the 3 lots for the then city building, which would make the museum twice as large. That trade was finalized in 1963. A double door was cut between the two buildings, the new city hall was built and the museum began to settle down. a new brick front was built across the front of the two buildings unifying them with one presence. Mrs. Gladys sherar was named curator, a position she held from 1950-1972. In 1977 a metal addition was added to the rear, doubling the display space.
Indian relic shows were held under the auspices of the Historical Society and Open Houses were held often. It has been said that if the door was open you could come in and Mrs. Sherar would take you around and tell about the various items on display.
Mrs. Sherar died in 1972 and her daughter, Jean Valentine, was named to carry on. She was in charge until August 2000. During these ladies time, more items were added and history was collected, filling many file cabinets. We now maintain files on Douglass families and those of surrounding areas. Some contain only an obituary, but many are extensive family histories and are consulted by genealogists from many places. there are extensive local history files, which we update as more information becomes available.
In 1993-1994, the northwest room was remodeled under the direction of Mark Alley. The ceiling was lowered, additional lighting was installed as well as a new furnace to serve that room. Stairs were built to access storage space in the attic. A gallery was included to display pictures of our ancestors. The whole museum was rearranged and offered a new look.
a new office space was arranged for Mrs. Valentine. As time passed that was increased and now takes up about one-third of the southwest room. A vestibule was included in the remodel and is an attractive space that displays four original paintings related to our history as well as a valued picture of the Lincoln deathbed scene. Shelving contains more historical information that can be utilized by visitors.
Handicapped access is provided through a gazebo on the south side between the museum and City Hall. It comes through a garden designed by Michael Courtney and financed and built by the City. There are two restrooms int he facility, one with handicapped access.
The Museum has n extensive amount of researchable material of interest to genealogists; local censuses from 1880-1930, family files, newspapers and seasonal histories in some cases. Inquiries are answered promptly.