THE TCHS MUSEUM 1960 T0 2010 by Martin Wilcox
The Tioga County Historical Society was incorporated on July 8, 1914 when a certificate
of incorporation was issued by the New York Secretary of State. Its purpose was to collect and
preserve articles and items relating to the history of Tioga County and to put them on exhibit.
An article in the Owego Gazette for July 9, 1914 stated that when plans for the Coburn Free
Library were made, provision was made for a room to be used by the Historical Society. The
article also stated: “In the distant future the society may be in a condition to erect a handsome
building of its own”. The Society’s collections were housed in the library until 1952 when they
were moved into the former residence of Miss Minnie B. Wade at 314 Front St. that was
bequeathed to the Historical Society.
In her will Miss Wade bequeathed a portion of her estate to be used by her nephew,
Floyd Wade Schryver with the provision that upon his death the residue would be given to the
Society for the purpose of constructing a new fireproof museum. When Mr. Schryver died in
1955, the Society came in to possession of the estate valued at about $479,000 and decided to
use the funds to construct a new museum. Two years later the Society decided to build the
museum on the site of the former Norman West residence on 110 Front St. In an editorial in
the Owego Times dated November 15, 1957 some of the reasons given for selecting this site
were: “Central location, no heavy traffic, level ground, trees and landscaping, price well below
other sites, the expressed desire of the donor, the late Miss Minnie B. Wade for a central
location, within walking distance”.
On April 8, 1959 The Historical Society awarded contracts totaling $180,249 for the
construction of a two-story brick and limestone museum and Vincent J. Smith, of Inc. of
Binghamton was named the general contractor. The building was designed by architect Robert
T. Bickford of Elmira and the original intention was to construct it in a way to allow for future
expansion. Construction began in the spring of 1959 and the museum was dedicated on
August 20, 1960 with Congressman Howard W. Robison as the keynote speaker.
Originally there was an auditorium on the top floor with a concert grand piano where
concerts and recitals were held. The research library was also located on the top floor next to
the gift shop. Downstairs was a gallery displaying many of the museum’s artifacts. In 2002 the
museum was extensively remodeled; the auditorium became the main gallery, the research
library was moved downstairs and the downstairs gallery became the Archives room.
The celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the dedication of the museum building is
planned for Saturday August 21, 2010.
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THE TCHS MUSEUM 1960 T0 2010 by Martin Wilcox