Visitors this Sunday to the 27th Open House of the Wyoming County Historical Society in Tunkhannock are in for several treats, as the building’s West Wing is being opened to the public for the first time.
For years after the Society opened in the old Harrison Street School in 1986, the room was the meeting place for the Tunkhannock Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
That changed about five years ago, when the local DAR started meeting in the Tunkhannock Presbyterian Church.
The meeting room has served as storage in the interim, but now the public can see the room with some artifacts that had been in storage out for the public to see.
This historical society’s ‘West Wing’ has no presidential drama as with the West Wing of the White House, but make no mistake there is no shortage of history.
Perhaps the most interesting piece is an intricately carved wall cabinet, which was the handiwork of a one-armed artist, Richard V. Kennedy, a veteran of the Civil War.
Kennedy was a private in the 57th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, when on the second day of the great Battle at Gettysburg in 1863 during fierce fighting he took a grapeshot above the elbow. The left arm had to be amputated at the shoulder socket.
Not long after the war, he lived at the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at Dayton, Ohio, where he devoted a considerable amount of time studying the art of wood carving under a lady by the name of Miss Eston.
Kennedy spent the last 33 years of his life in Tunkhannock and was well known for his woodwork, sculpture, oil painting and other art creations.
Volunteer Ken Layaou showed off the wall cabinet’s intricate exterior designs as well as secret compartments built inside the original cabinet that clearly showed the master craftsmanship of Kennedy.
Also in the West Wing is a bedroom set that once stood in Admiral Harold Stark’s cottage at Lake Carey, with a nightgown warn by the late Kittie Roehmer, who was a relative of Stark, who was Chief of Naval Operations during World War II. Kittie and Bob Roehmer bought the Lake Carey cottage following Stark’s death.
In one corner of the West Wing are items you might find in a child’s room, such as a crib or bassinet, and diagonally opposite are agricultural implements that were probably pretty commonplace on the farm in the glory years.
There is a little something for everyone including a make shift cot by the late Dr. Arthur Davenport, but you’ll have to use considerable imagination to sort out how an IV solution might have been administered in the good ole days. Nearby is a piece of dental equipment used by the late Dr. Walter Tewksbury when he wasn’t out running foot races.
(Actually a couple of Tewksbury’s medals from the 1900 Olympics in Paris, France, can be found upstairs in a small display dedicated to famous athletes from Wyoming County.)
Tewksbury was a Tunkhannock dentist prior to his death in 1967.
Layaou said that considerable effort has been made to expand/upgrade a military room that occupies the room which for years housed a day care center.
Visitors this weekend will also see how some displays have been moved around to make it more easy to see some things, such as a band display upstairs which has a drum that was once part of ‘The Cyclones,’ one of Tunkhannock’s first rock ‘n roll bands in the late 1950s.
“We want people to enjoy the things that have been a part of our county’s past,” Layaou said, “And we hope that people will come take a look at our ‘New look.’”
Also on hand this weekend will be a display of some quilts donated to the historical society last fall by Robert Fellows- the handiwork of his mother Isabel Fellows (1916-90) and her mother Margaret Morris (1881-1961) - supplemented by other quilts in the society’s collection as well as those on loan from Kent Ward.