RICHFIELD - Historians in Richfield are smiling.
The new addition to the Juniata Mennonite Historical Center in Richfield is nearing completion.
Those on the JMHC board who have been waiting on its finished product beam with delight and speak of the possibilities.
Sentinel photo by TABITHA GOODLING
Betty Ann Landis, director, and Gladys Gingrich, secretary and assistant treasurer, stand outside the new addition of the Juniata Mennonite Historical Center in Richfield.
The building underwent a facelift this summer as it more than doubled in size. The facility houses a new meeting room, office space, and an area of display for materials of historic reference from all over the valley.
"We're eager," said Gladys Gingrich, secretary and assistant treasurer.
The project began June 1. Inspection is yet to be completed and the kitchen needs to be built inside, she said. They hope to have access for the public by November.
The addition came as a result of overcrowding of materials donated from various individuals over the years.
The center had previously consisted of two buildings merged into one. What is known as "The Brick Church" was built in 1868 and sits on the north side. An addition was added 35 years ago which housed the vault and a small office area.
Materials have been moved from the main vault. The vault had had items stacked to the rafters prior to the addition. Some of those records and other older items will move to a dry, clean space in what is known as the attic of the new portion of the building.
"The library will be more accessible. We have a big attic now and much more adequate space on that second floor," said Betty Ann Landis, director of the center.
"It will be such a blessing to have space," Gingrich said, noting the JMHC meetings will no longer consist of 15 people around an eight-foot table.
"We'll have room to spread out now," she said.
"Oh, it's really a dream come true," Landis added.
The late Noah Zimmerman contributed greatly to that dream. Zimmerman, a well-versed historian from Monroe Township, discovered and acquired much of the materials that are now housed in the center. His expertise was genealogy. People from across the U.S. have come to the center to look up their ancestry - not only Mennonite, but those of all faiths.
An estate in Zimmerman's name and donations from the public were used to fund the project.
The project is costing a bit more than the $200,000 projected, but the JMHC is relying on the faithful community.
"Our memberships were really increasing this year," Gingrich said. Visitors have been coming more often now that the addition has been announced to the public.
"In the last two months we had visitors from six different states," Gingrich said.
And they continue to look to the future.
Landis and Gingrich are hoping to have more school tours come through the building this spring. Also on their wish list is a new computer system to allow visitors to go online and search ancestry and other historical sites while they visit.
The two women smile as they contemplate all that has happened since Zimmerman began collecting genealogy records and stacking them in his home decades ago.
They agree Zimmerman would be thrilled to see the center today.
"Oh, he'd be just amazed," Gingrich said.