In 1981, in acknowledgement of Goshen’s 150th anniversary, the now-razed Gardner house was filled with an eclectic mix of historic furniture, photos and articles brought in by residents. It was so well-received, the idea of starting a historical society was formed. Today the Goshen Historical Society Museum, located in the old Adams Store at 124 South Main Street, is the result of that celebration.
Although the Goshen Historical Society began during the town’s sesquicentennial, it was several years before it found a permanent home. When the Gardner house was torn down, the historic content inside was either taken back by people who initially donated it, or put in storage. Then, in 1997, the Adams retail store closed when the Ruby Pauline “Polly” Adams, made the decision to close her family business that had been in operation for nearly 100 years.
“She was the last of the Adams family and quite the character,” says Earlene Nofziger, who was board president when the museum began, has served on the board for 25 years and is now an auxiliary member volunteer. “The Society bid on and got the building. With it came anything attached to the wall. We purchased the original glass showcases. A lot of the merchandise had price tags in her handwriting.”
The building was one of several built in 1888 by Charles A. Harper and the inscription at the top reads “Harper Block 1888.” In 1901, C.G. Adams & Sons took the building over for their business that, among other things, sold costume jewelry, long underwear and suitcases. It was an official merchandiser for Boy Scouts of America uniforms and books. Polly Adams represented the third generation to run the store.
“We are only the third owners of the building,” Nofziger says. “It took us a couple years to get it up to code. We had to upgrade the electrical and plumbing as well as the heating and air conditioning systems.”
All the artifacts and memorabilia inside the museum are specific to Goshen, whether they were manufactured and sold there, or personally owned by a member of the community. Almost every article has been donated except for a few items purchased from bequest money. The current collection preserves the history of the community but the Society is always on the lookout for additional items.
“We have a lady’s bike from the Ariel bicycle company that was a Warsaw business from 1891 to 1897,” Nofziger says. “It would be nice to have one of their racing bikes, because that was what they were known for. Although we have some Potawatomi artifacts, we need to find out more about them. Local photographer Marion Troyer gave us a large number of photos he owned and also from other collections that he had bought. Several are glass negatives and we are trying to catalog them all.”
Displays are changed out every quarter and visitors to the museum can use a guest computer to do their own research. There is a children’s area where articles can be touched and guesses can be made as to what objects were used for. There are old clocks, glass lenses and outdated kitchen items left over from the store inventory belonging to Polly Adams. There is also a small gift shop on site that sells postcards, CDs and books about Goshen.
“We recently got a grant from the city so we have a lot to think about,” Nofziger says. “We are an all-volunteer organization and we need to explore how to get, train and use volunteers better. We are within walking distance of several schools, and the third-grade social studies curriculum is ‘Community.’ One of our original missions was to give programs and even before we were in the Adams Store we did that.”
On March 17 the Society will host a talk by Randy Clouse on the early history of the Jefferson Theatre, known today as the Goshen Theater. It will be held at 7 p.m. at the Jennings Auditorium at Greencroft Goshen.
The Goshen Historical Society Museum is open Tues. through Sat. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. except for First Fridays, when it is open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. It is located at 124 South Main Street and can be reached at 574-975-0033. Visit the Society’s website to learn more at goshenhistorical.org.
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