Museum to open in May 2003
with support, items from area residents
VEVAY, Ind. (November 2002) The Switzerland County
Historical Society is busy refurbishing the house next door to the current
museum to use as a home for their extensive steamboat and river related
The house was the manse (parsonage) of the former Presbyterian church,
which now houses the Switzerland County Historical Society and its collections.
The new River Museum was most recently used as the dental office of
Dr. Bob Findlay. When Findlay moved into a new medical building, he
put the house on the market. The Historical Society made an offer and
is buying the house on contract.
At least one room will be devoted to miniature steam vessels,
said docent Lois Rosenberger.
'City of Louisville'
The society received a wonderful collection of miniature
steamship models built by Harold Patterson of Florence, Ind. Pattersons
granddaughter, Luanna Gaebel of Cincinnati, donated the collection to
the museum about 10 years ago after being in contact with Barbara Huffman
of Lamb, Ind.
Patterson was an actor on the Billy Bryant Showboats and, after his
retirement, reconstructed many of the ornate riverboats of his past
out of found objects.
When we received the models, they had been stored in a garage
or attic and were full of dust, said Martha Bladen, the societys
president. We airbrushed them and literally blew dust out of them.
They are made out of things like cereal boxes and match sticks-things
Mr. Patterson just had around the house. It is true folk art. Thats
the way I look at it, Bladen said.
Although this miniature collection will be an important part of the
museum, there are many other river related items to display.
There are many old photos of steamboats. Hazel Dunglade of Vevay recently
donated 30 from her own collection. Some of the photos are glass transparencies
and date from the late 1860s. This important collection will be archivally
mounted and framed for permanent display in the new museum.
Other items include bills of lading, a pilot house chair, objects from
the Carrollton ferry, a patent model for a steering mechanism for a
steamboat, acorns from the embellished woodwork of the Queen City steamship,
brass lamps, pressure gauges and the old steering wheel from the Martha
Graham, the old ferry boat that served both sides of the Ohio River
All of these historical pieces tell the story of Vevay as a bustling
river town and port a town with a place in the history and development
of the region.
This museum will also become a destination for tourists interested in
the history and culture of the Ohio River Valley.
Ann Mulligan, director of the Switzerland County Welcome Center, avidly
supports this project and the new Living History Museum that the historical
society is developing.
We are looking forward to working with the historical society
to promote cultural and historical tourism in Switzerland County,
Mulligan said. We are excited about the development of these new
attractions, which are important to expanding our countys tourism
Bladen said, People will add to the collection when they see the
new display. They may find a permanent and safe home for special items
they have been saving.
The new museum will also house the present museums library and
archives and house a small genealogy library where people can find facts
about their ancestors. The current museum has no way to control the
humidity that can be devastating for old book materials.
Sidewalks have already been installed by the town of Vevay connecting
the two buildings. There are plans for a center garden area and landscaping
when funds become available.
All of these visionary ideas still need to have hard cash behind them.
The museum has applied for grants to finish exhibit areas and replace
some interior flooring where the dentist's equipment was attached to
water pipes. Other than a few other minor repairs, the house that will
house the new museum is in good condition.
The Switzerland County Historical Society is presently working on the
new River Museum and the Living History Museum with the installation
of a hay press barn.
To volunteer to work on these projects or to join the Switzerland
County Historical Society, call (812) 427-3560.
Back to November 2002 Articles.