The Herald Bulletin

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March 23, 2013

Alexandria-Monroe history museum opens for season

ALEXANDRIA, Ind. —  Larry Maple likes stories.

“I guess I’m weird,” he said. “I just think meeting people is interesting, hearing about what they’ve done and where they came from.”

Luckily for Maple, he can often find more than his fill buried among the dusty trinkets and family heirlooms at the Alexandria-Monroe Township Historical Museum, 313 N. Harrison St., which held its seasonal grand opening Saturday.

It had been closed for cleaning, re-working displays and adding new pictures and artifacts, such as the handmade ax head now on display in the museum’s industrial exhibit.

“It was a neat find,” said Maple, who’s president of the historical society. The ax head is emblazoned with the words “Kelly Handmade,” a relic of the Kelly Axe Manufacturing Co., which operated in Alexandria between 1883 and 1904.

Like many of the displays at the museum, the ax head “just walked through the front door,” Maple said.

He remembers one man who brought a pair of portraits — his grandparents — framed and tucked into the crook of his arm.

“He told me his kids don’t want them and asked how long they could stay on display if he gave them to me,” Maple said. “I told him they’d be here for at least 50 years.”

Their youth preserved by the artist’s pastels, James and Julia McGuire are still in the museum, watching from the wall as visitors examine a historical cornucopia of campaign buttons, Lippincott Glass wares, local school memorabilia and antique toys.

“I’ve been president (of the historical society) for six years,” Maple said, “and I still come in here and see things I’ve never noticed before.”

But there’s just as much history in the building as there is in its displays.

Down the hall from the McGuires, Dr. David Steele reminisces in the museum’s medical exhibit room. It’s the same room he went to as a kid for his medical checkups and booster shots.

“This was my doctor’s office — Dr. Overpeck,” he said, nodding toward a man’s framed black-and-white portrait sitting on a vintage exam chair.

Before it became a history museum in 1979, the building at 313 N. Harrison housed a medical suite, with two doctors and a dentist, who treated the boo-boos of many (now grown) local kids.

It’s that kind of small-town, neighborhood history Maple wants to preserve.

“You take someone from a big place like Chicago and they could care less about some little town in Indiana,” he said. “But these are (Alexandria’s) stories.”

The museum is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, and also by appointment.

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook, @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter or call 648-4250.

 

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