QUEENSBURY — Jeanne Robert Foster was born in Johnsburg in March 1879. She became an American poet, worked as a journalist and social reformer, and was the model for the Gibson Girl, the personification of the feminine ideal.
Her poem, “The Wilderness is Strong,” is featured on the wall of the new museum housed in the Warren County Historical Society building at 50 Gurney Lane.
The exhibit, “Warren County 360: Celebrating Place and People,” tells the story of the evolution of Warren County using cultural geography.
“The poem really sums up the spirit of our display,” said Teri Podnorszki Rogers, executive director of the historical society. “It gets to the heart of the grit and tenacity and the fortitude of the people who came here to settle and how they used the natural resources and how they were inspired by the geography and landscape to build Warren County.”
The historical society will open its new exhibit with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Sept. 12. The society has been working on creating a museum since moving into the building at Gurney Lane in May 2017.
In existence for 22 years, the historical society has been providing historical research and programs, publishing a yearly book, and collecting artifacts, which could not be displayed in the much smaller former building on Sunnyside Road.
“Two years ago, the Warren County Board of Supervisors gave us this building, which was vacant, and they gave it to us with the proviso that we create a destination venue where visitors and residents could come and learn about history,” Podnorszki Rogers said. “And we’re very proud to say we did it.”
The $25,000 cost to create the museum was funded by the county board, the town of Queensbury, the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership, the Touba Family Foundation, NBT Bank, Hank’s Quality Flooring, Steve Bascom of Edward Jones and several members of the society’s board of Trustees.
The historical society is hoping to capitalize on the location of the museum, just off Exit 20 of the Northway, right on the corridor of tourism. The society is partnering with local businesses and has launched a massive social media campaign to get word out about the new museum.
“It really is kind of a different twist on history,” Podnorszki Rogers said. “For those of us who have grown up here and lived our lives here. We all think we kind of know the history of Warren County, but there are different wrinkles still yet to be told, and we try to do that in this exhibit.”
The centerpiece of the permanent display is a circular map of Warren County, showing all the important geographic features such as mountain ranges, lakes, rivers and streams.
You have free articles remaining.
“And surrounding the map is a small bubble, one for each municipality with information about when the municipality was founded and if it had a previous name,” Podnorszki Rogers said. “So again, in keeping with the 360-degree theme, this will really symbolize that.”
A display case encloses the architectural drawings of Arto Monaco, who designed the original Storytown, U.S.A. theme park, which is now Great Escape. A television will have a running slide show of historic images of Warren County.
The walls are covered in informational panels highlighting the topography of the county, starting with how glaciers developed the region. Other panels highlight the importance of papermaking, logging, tourism, the Underground Railroad, the canal system, the airport, garnet mining, clothing manufacturing, textiles, and health care, particularly medical device manufacturing.
Coincidentally, the new building was originally built as a dormitory for nurses who worked in the tuberculosis sanitarium next door.
“So health care has been at the root of our history in Warren County for a long time,” she said.
Panels also address the history of conflict in the area, particularly the French and Indian War and the old 18-mile military road between Fort Edward and Lake George, considered the first superhighway of the region.
In an adjacent room is a timeline panel with important dates about the history of Warren County that relate to geography, along with national and international events. The timeline starts at 1609, when the first European explorers arrived, and goes to February 2019, when Revolutionary-era soldiers’ bones were found in Lake George.
The exhibit will be permanent, but a separate room will house temporary exhibits. Society trustee Stephen Matte curated an exhibit of Warren County postal history from 1813 to 1920, which will be on display until the end of the year. In January, the temporary exhibit room will pay homage to women’s suffrage. The museum also boasts a book and gift shop.
Podnorszki Rogers hopes museum visitors will gain a better understanding of where someone grows up leads to how they live their lives.
“I feel very grounded in this place,” said the Glens Falls native. “I know that as a historian and a writer over many years, that feeling has really inspired me in my own career and the things that I’ve done. And I really feel deeply that others feel the same way.”