Opening the doors to history

Thursday, July 12, 2012
Representatives from the Clay County Heritage Center and the Spencer Ambassadors took part in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony on the south side of the center Tuesday morning. (Photos by Randy M. Cauthron)

Ribbon cut on Clay County Heritage Center

Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Spencer Ambassadors Tuesday morning, the doors opened to the public at the Clay County Heritage Center.

"We're excited to be opening today. Our dream finally became a reality," Cindy McGranahan, director of the Parker Historical Society, said.

Paul Parsons spends some time looking at historical photos from Shantytown and farming endeavors in 1936 Clay County.

McGranahan noted the dream began six years ago and ground was broken 13 years ago leading up to the realization of the project, which will help preserve the history of Clay County for generations to come.

"It's an exciting day," Parker Historical Society President Paula Buenger said. "It's a wonderful gateway to our downtown."

The center, located on the northwest corner of Grand Avenue and West Park Street, is part of a newly-developing area on the north side of the Grand Avenue Bridge.

With a total project cost of $1,145,000, the project required support from governmental, public and private sources. The center was given life when Parker Historical Society received a grant of $400,000 from the Dvergsten Foundation. The premier exhibit room was named in the family's honor.

Buenger credited the Dvergsten funding for jump-starting the heritage center project, as well as several other enhancement efforts throughout the community.

"Think about how many wonderful projects the Dvergsten benefits have helped create, and the local dollars it has leveraged," Buenger said. "All of us non-profits have big dreams and no money. Their gift allowed us to dream big."

Buenger pointed out that projects like this, involving a volunteer board of otherwise engaged people, need someone like McGranahan to oversee it.

"You couldn't ask for a more dedicated leader," Buenger said. "She put her heart and soul into this."

McGranahan credited the support of the project donors and Parker Historical Society members. She estimated 165 persons attended a special preview opening for donors and members Monday night.

"There's a lot of excitement when we walked through the door, and who wouldn't be excited about this," Kathy Fueston, president of the Spencer Ambassadors, said during a special ceremony prior to the ribbon cutting.

Hours at the Clay County Heritage Center will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays; and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. The center will be closed on Mondays. Admission will be $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under.

The Parker Historical Society began in 1960 and began operating out of the Parker house on 300 E. Third Street in 1969, dedicated to preserving Clay County's pioneer history.

McGranahan said the Parker House will remain and continue to serve as a museum.

"It's our flagship, it's where we got started," she said, adding that "The House Next Door," which served as office and meeting place for the Parker Historical Society, will probably be sold.

Buenger encouraged the community to come visit the new history showcase downtown.

"The good thing about history is, it's always changing," she said. "Come back next year and you will see a new exhibit in the Dvergsten Gallery."

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