Historical society active under new leadership

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Whitehall Historical Society president Bob Mowatt updates town board members on recent improvements. (Photo by Caton Deuso)

The Whitehall Town Board received an update on the Whitehall Historical Society from president Bob Mowatt, who assumed the organization’s presidency after heavily involved community member Jim Aiken passed.

“Jim Aiken was president for 18 years and he had the short-sightedness of having me as his vice president,” Mowatt told the board at its July meeting. “And for all of those years and then Jim escaped much to our sore frustrations, so I stepped in.”

The board was updated regarding the historical society’s board members, social media progress that has been made, and Skenesborough Museum. Town board members have shown interest in having the museum open more for the community and tourists.

“We have five new board members, and we have a lot of new great ideas coming from all different eyes and some from people who have not been board members previously,” Mowatt said.

Mowatt said the members of the historical society helped with cleaning Skenesborough Museum before the Whitehall Festival and Fireworks event. He said eight members lent hands in trying to dust and clean the museum in time to be open for the festival. He also said there was quite the visit the day prior to the festival.

“That day it was great and there was a large number of people who stopped by. However, previous to that, we had 37 third-grade students stop by. Back in the day, fourth grade covered local history, but it was taken out as it was seen as unimportant by Albany. Well, the third-grade teachers this year had the insight to know their students deserve not only a quick field trip but also deserve to see the important things in the community,” he said.

A project on the list for the historical society is preserving the hulk of the Ticonderoga. Creosote was created in the mid-1800s for the preservation of wood products but has been discontinued for use because of health concerns from long exposure.

“It is not legal to use it anymore and we won’t apply for anything until we get permission from the Canal Corporation because they own everything up to the high-water mark so we can’t just go and get it done,” Mowatt said.

The goal for the Whitehall Historical Society is to introduce the ship as a historic site. The society has been working with the historic trust to get the ball moving.

“If you want government money you have to jump through the hoops, and it needs to be a historic site before you can apply for funding to put a building around it or really do anything with it. We do own the hulk as well as the caboose and log cabin,” he said.

As for their social media presence, there has been a Facebook page created and it’s run by Sally Ann Raino and they are also working on designing a website.

“She’s also working on a pamphlet that can be not only in Freakopolis Geekery, but also other local businesses,” Mowatt said.

Town board members have been also working on cleaning up the walkways and greenery outside of the museum to make it look even more inviting for visitors. From new plants to brush being picked up, the town is trying to work with the museum on ways to continue growing its clientele. Board member Stephanie Safka said taxpayers should have a voice in how the museum operates to a certain extent.

“You have tax dollars and they need to have some voice,” she said.

There is a lot in store for the Whitehall Historical Society and town supervisor John Rozell said he is happy with the increase of social media use as well as an increase in board members. He thinks that the museum being open is great for those of the community and for anyone stopping by the area.