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A home for history

  • LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS The Heritage Center of the Western Pocono Community Library opened Tuesday. It is a museum of cultural and historic artifacts of the West Endof Monroe County.
    LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS The Heritage Center of the Western Pocono Community Library opened Tuesday. It is a museum of cultural and historic artifacts of the West Endof Monroe County.
Published April 19. 2014 09:00AM

The Western Pocono Community Library has turned another page in its book. This one reads, "Heritage Center of the Western Pocono Community Library."

It's an exciting new chapter and is all about the history and culture of the West End of Monroe County. It comes in the form of an actual building. The new Heritage Center is located in the library's former Back Door Books store at the corner of Route 209 and Bond Lane in Brodheadsville. It opened its doors to the public this week.

"When the library started 40 years ago, people started giving us artifacts, memorabilia, notebooks. When the Grange closed, we got all of its paperwork. We had it all digitalized and the originals are stored and preserved as best as it can be. All of the stuff we received, we kept and saved. Now we have a place to display it," says Carol Kern, director of the library.

Jessica Reitz is the new curator of collections at the center.

"There couldn't be a better choice for the job. And she's a local gal," says Carol Kern, director of WPCL.

Reitz earned a bachelor of arts from East Stroudsburg University and her master's in public anthropology with a concentration in archaeology from American University of Washington, D.C. She is a 2002 graduate of Pleasant Valley High School and lives in Effort. A history buff all her life, she worked at the Monroe County Historical Association before accepting the Heritage Center position. She says she is excited about the museum.

"We want to let people know what is here in this area and why it's important," says Reitz.

The center has exhibits of World War II memorabilia, Effort Diner calendars with thermometers, bricks from the now defunct Chestnut Ridge White Brick Company in Kunkletown and Blue Ridge Brick Enamel Company of Saylorsburg, Native American artifacts found in the West End and photographs dating back to the 1800s, to name just a few.

File cabinets are filled with research material. Old ledgers from area businesses and organizations are part of the Center's collection. Old books are being stored in acid-free boxes. Reitz is in the process of scanning all of this to be available on discs.

As the Center's first official main exhibit, the dollhouse named The Beaumont Mansion is the focal point. The dollhouse is on loan from Wanda Miller. It is a beautiful Victorian appointed dollhouse complete with furniture and figurines. No detail has been left out.

"Wanda has many other dollhouses and we're hoping we'll be able to feature them in the future," Reitz says.

Works from local artist Phoebe Conrad are also on display. The WPCL has Conrad's famous storybook dioramas "Phoebe's Little Wax Works."

The center has several of Conrad's watercolors and sketches on display as well as her old 1921 Singer Sewing Machine that she used to make the costumes for her wax figures and diorama scenes. Just recently WPCL received another Conrad diorama which will be on permanent display at the center when it has been restored.

The WWII prisoner of war memorabilia of Bernard Miller is also on permanent display.

Other items of interest are the original WPCL sign when it first opened 40 years ago at the Zion United Lutheran Church. The library moved to the present site of the Heritage Center until the new library was built in 2000 at its location on Pilgrim Way.

"Carol has been collecting items of the area's culture and heritage for years. Now there will be a place where the community can see them," Reitz says.

The Heritage Center is asking for donations of artifacts, old clothing, books, newspaper articles, photographs ... anything that's old and historic to the area.

"We promise to take good care of them," Kern says.

The center's hours will be 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays. By June 1, the hours will be from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays.

A book sale will be held in the future to liquidate the stock from Back Door Books.

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