NUNDA — A group of graduates from the class of 1896 got together in 1939, and formed what was known as The Reunionists, they would in turn devote their entire lives to the history of Nunda.
This was the footprint that would lead to the official Nunda Historical Society in 1983.
The building itself located on 24 Portage Street has its own history, before it became the home for the Nunda Historical Society and Rose M. Shave Art Gallery in 1999. It started out as a Samson Cutlery Company (1921), and became a series of auto shops; Brown and Klienhenz Garage (1930), Tunnlingly Garage (1939) and finally Stamps Auto (1975).
Nunda Historical Society member Jerry Barkley was the man who got the roomy building for the museum from the Stamps Family.
“The Stamps deserve a lot of credit for donating the building to us,” he said. “I think they liked that we promised not to do any digs around here. This place was an auto shop for many years, and you don't know what is buried here.”
“We worked for the historic society and were looking for a building,” Barkley continued. “We had been in the basement of the library and it was starting to mildew. Marge (former town historian) was interested in the building, but only if we could get it for nothing.”
It took several grants, tons of donations, and a lot of love and hard work to create what is there today.
Nunda Historical Society member Joan Schumaker added the renovations took a lot of work.
“We had to put two roofs on it, but it worked out well for us,” she said. “We looked at various other places. There was a cobblestone house on East Street, but it was too small. It had a nice barn to meet and hold our educational stuff, but the house was very small and couldn't work.”
Schumaker added when the society formed the museum they did not have a lot of photos or artifacts, and since 1999 they have gathered many from generous donors.
Nunda Historical Society President Tom Cook said the one thing they all try to do is collect and preserve Nunda area history, artifacts, genealogy, and family materials.
“When we developed the exhibits we had so many people contributing,” he said. “Our membership grew, and there have been a lot of donations.”
The Rose M. Shave Art Gallery is the most famous exhibit, which draws a lot of attention to the museum. Shave was a well-loved and highly talented artist in the late 1800s to early 1900s. She is mostly known for her flower paintings, however, Schumaker believes her landscapes are the most beautiful. Shave was not only a fine artist, but also a teacher both of the Ingham University and in her home on 49 East Street.
“We restored 20 paintings that were in terrible condition,” Schumaker said. “We got grants to clean and frame them. Now we have about 40 that are all gifted to the society.”
There is a new exhibit in the works called The History of Nunda, which is a timeline stretching from the very beginning in 1808 to present. This is done up to the 1950s so far, but still needs work.
Cook added most of the educational programs for children are done in this exhibit.
“This room tells the story of Nunda,” he said. “The flag was made by the women of Nunda in the Trinity Church, and was taken on the march in the Civil War in 1861. Each time has a work, home, and community theme. It shows how we have changed and stayed the same from our foundation in the Pioneer Times.”
There is an exhibit book that will be handy to talk about each time period.
The many programs throughout the years have sparked interest not only with locals, but those visiting from out of town.
“We have had many people from out of state come and do research on their family,” Cook said. “We are the caretakers of the physical objects of Nunda's history. We are very thankful for the support of the community.”
Right now the society has about 255 members, and they are always looking for more. Schumaker said a lot of it has to do with the bus tours they are doing, which take people to a historical place for $100, and they have a lot of fun. This and the home coming are the only programs the society charges for. The rest are free. The society also sells a lot of items such as books, post cards, paintings, calendars, and Christmas wreaths to the public. They do not accept credit cards, cash or check only.
The Nunda Historical Society is located on 24 Portage Street in Nunda. They are open on Sundays from 2 p.m to 4 p.m, April through November, or by appointment. To reach the society call 585-468-5420. For updates on programs, history, and any other information go to www.nundahistory.org