10 years of his­tory

Pen­cader Her­itage Mu­seum marks mile­stone

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

When a group of Ne­wark­ers be­gan meet­ing in a con­fer­ence room at the old Wilmington Trust bank to de­vise ways to pre­serve the his­tory of Pen­cader Hun­dred, they never imag­ined their ef­forts would lead to a full-fledged his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety and a mu­seum.

“If we got a room to have a lec­ture, we were happy,” found­ing mem­ber Ed Wirth re­called. “That was our dream back then.”

From those hum­ble be­gin­nings, the Pen­cader Her­itage Area As­so­ci­a­tion and its mu­seum, the Pen­cader Her­itage Mu­seum, were born. On Satur­day, the mu­seum cel­e­brated its 10th an­niver­sary with a fes­ti­val and open house.

Wirth cred­ited a small but ded­i­cated group of vol­un­teers with help­ing build the mu­seum into what it is to­day.

“What they’ve done is phe­nom­e­nal,” Wirth said. “I don’t think you’ll find a finer place around.”

PHAA traces its his­tory back to an ef­fort led by for­mer State Sen. Steve Amick, who rep­re­sented the Pen­cader area.

“He said, ‘I have this jewel and I want to make sure peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate it,” Wirth said.

Pen­cader Hun­dred en­com­passes western New Cas­tle County from south­ern Newark to just be­low the canal. It has no short­age of his­tor­i­cal sites, most no­tably Iron Hill and the Cooch’s Bridge Bat­tle­field.

In its early years, the group spon­sored lec­tures and in­stalled in­ter­pre­ta­tive sig­nage.

In 2006, it struck a deal with the state to rent a re­stored barn that was once part of the his­toric Dayett Mill prop­erty on Route 72, just south of Old Baltimore Pike. The fol­low­ing year, the Pen­cader Her­itage Mu­seum opened, and the or­ga­ni­za­tion has con­tin­ued to add new ex­hibits through the years.

“The mu­seum has changed a lot,” said long­time PHAA Pres­i­dent Bar­bara White. “When you look back at old pic­tures, it was empty, but we were so proud of it then.”

She at­trib­uted its suc­cess to “sheer willpower and thou­sands of hours.”

To­day, the mu­seum has ex­hibits on ev­ery­thing from mil­i­tary bat­tles to the Cooch fam­ily and Na­tive Amer­i­cans to the Newark Chrysler plant.

“It’s kind of lit­tle bit of ever ything,” cu­ra­tor Linda Duffy said. “Peo­ple can usu­ally find some­thing that in­ter­ests them be­cause we have so much.”

Most of the ex­hib­ited items were do­nated by lo­cal res­i­dents like Ginny Baldwin.

A long­time res­i­dent of The Wedge be­fore mov­ing to Penn­syl­va­nia a couple years ago, Baldwin dropped by the mu­seum on its first day open and do­nated a pump or­gan that had been in her fam­ily since the late 1800s, among other items. Baldwin, now 95, re­turned to visit the mu­seum Satur­day and wasted no time play­ing a tune on the or­gan.

“It feels won­der­ful,” she said, look­ing around at the mu­seum. “It’s amaz­ing how much work they’ve put into this. I started giv­ing things when it was bare.”

PHAA Vice Pres­i­dent Keith Jack­son started vol­un­teer­ing with the group last year after stum­bling upon the mu­seum.

“I walked in the door and knew I’d found a sec­ond home,” Jack­son said.

He said he is work­ing to in­crease the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pub­lic events and build re­la­tion­ships with other his­tor­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions in the area.

The key to get­ting peo­ple to ap­pre­ci­ate his­tory is adding con­text and lo­cal an­gles, Jack­son said.

“When you just learn names, dates and very spe­cific things, you lose con­text and that’s when his­tory be­comes bor­ing,” he said. “When you give con­text, it pops and brings it to life.”

Pen­cader Her­itage Mu­seum, lo­cated at 2029 Sun­set Lake Road, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the first and third Satur­days of each month. Ad­mis­sion is free.


Pen­cader Her­itage Area As­so­ci­a­tion vol­un­teers pose in the mu­seum Satur­day. From left: Bob Barnes, Linda Duffy, Ed Wirth, Bar­bara White, John Slack and Keith Jack­son.

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