Hay Center a nostalgic stop
SALEM, Ind. (March 2000) The John Hay Center in Salem is definitely
one of southern Indianas hidden treasures.
by Susan Eberman
John Hay Center offers a look
at pioneer life and plays host
to Old Settlers Days each fall.
Located on a quaint brick street just three blocks from
the Washington County courthouse, the building actually houses three
facilities: The Stevens Memorial Museum, the Washington County Historical
Society Genealogy Library and the Pioneer Village.
It is named for Salem, Ind., native John Hay, who was president Abraham
Lincolns private secretary from 1861-1865 as well as Secretary
of State under presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Hay
is best known for helping to strengthen ties between America and England
and for his Open Door notes regarding trade with China.
To ensure that Hays life would not fade from public memory, the
Washington County Historical Society opened this facility in 1971.
Salem Mayor Douglas Campbell said the facility is a great asset to Salem
and Washington County.
The John Hay Center attracts about 10,000 visitors annually,"
he said. "It hosts Old Settlers Days each fall, which is the largest
annual event in this area. Area residents of all ages have a great place
to learn about their proud heritage."
Martha Bowers serves as the center's curator and librarian. Our
main attraction is our genealogy library, which contains some material
from every Indiana county," she said.
But were not limited to Hoosier material. The library has
a complete set of American Papers, which are early land grants for the
eastern United States."
This year, the center will be adding volumes with Indiana birth records
from 1850-1920 and death records from 1882-1920, Bowers said. Organized
picture files allow visitors to order reprints of many historic photographs.
"And we have plenty of exhibits to show artifacts from Washington
Countys beginning about 1820 through the 1920s, said Bowers,
who is the only full-time staff member.
Visitors of all ages can enjoy hundreds of well-kept displays, including
military relics, vintage clothing, old fashioned toys, flow blue dishes,
antique furnishings in home and office settings, and sports memorabilia.
The main exhibit room is located to the right of the lobby. Outstanding
antiques displayed in eight well-lit showcases include outstanding examples
of shaving mugs, majolica, Limoges china, spatterware, and more than
200 flow blue dishes. Textiles on display include century-old handmade
quilts, a vintage wedding dress, and western outfits. Four glass front
dioramas depict 19th century offices of a lawyer, doctor, dentist and
confectionery. All showcased items are clearly labeled.
The Carol Shrum room, which adjoins the main exhibit room, houses military
exhibits. Two dozen showcases display military uniforms and weapons
used by American men and women in the Armed Forces from the Revolutionary
War through Desert Storm. One exhibit features a Civil War cavalry sabre
known to have belonged to an officer because of the silver creat on
the buckle. Another displays a patriotic outfit worn by a young boy
attending the inaguration of President Rutherford B. Hayes.
The Attic Gallery on the second floor features room settings that are
furnished to represent typical century-old Hoosier homes. A radio and
Victrola provide family entertainment in the parlor. The bedroom is
complete with a chamberpot. A metal coffee grinder and other unusual
implements are displayed in the kitchen. An outstanding dining room
buffet made from a solid piece of wood highlights the dining room.
Also on the second floor is the Everett Dean Gallery. Dean first played
basketball at Salem High School, where the playing floor is named in
his honor. A 1921 graduate of Indiana University, he was that colleges
first All-American basketball player and served as basketball coach
from 1924 to 1938. Dean continued his coaching career at Stanford University,
where his 1942 team won the equivalent of todays NCAA championship.
In addition to IU basketball items, the Dean Gallery also includes Indianapolis
A lower-level room in the museum is dedicated to children of all ages.
A large doll house full of dolls and stuffed toys is the focal point.
A replica of Lindberghs plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, hangs
overhead. The lower level also has a meeting room available for private
Outside the museum, the Pioneer Village has been developed to recreate
Hoosier life during the 1840s. The blacksmith shop, the schoolhouse
and the log cabin residence are among 10 buildings available for viewing.
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