Dunkirk Historical Society to host membership drive

Located on Washington Avenue, between Fifth and Sixth streets, is the Dunkirk Historical Society – a hidden gem not many people know about. The historical society will host an open house and membership drive Thursday.

Current President Mike Civiletto said the open house and membership drive is to get more people involved. He said he would like to get more involvement with local businesses and social clubs. Civiletto is not only looking to expand hours of operation for the museum, but to also have school tours and internships available. These items are not possible, he said, without a stronger membership base.

“By having it open more hours, we need new members to come and help us. We can’t just have one person at the museum. I would like to open it up at nighttime and weekends but it’s hard when you only have two or three people who are willing to open the museum. That’s really the big thing, trying to get some active membership this time. Trying to get people who are willing to come in an hour or two so we can start opening up at night so people really know what we got,” Civiletto said.

Civiletto is the newly elected president of the Historical Society after former president Diane Andrasik resigned last month. She announced her resignation in the society’s newsletter saying, “I devoted myself to running the society and the museum to the point of burnout since recent years presented us all with many difficulties.”

In the article Andrasik said the society has added shades and repaired the roof on the building, held concerts with the Dunkirk Lighthouse and Adams Art Gallery, a Civil War re-enactment with the lighthouse, began establishment of an endowment fund, among others.

The museum has artifacts, photos, directories and yearbooks from the beginning of Dunkirk until present. Downstairs in the museum is a full railroad museum since Dunkirk has such a rich history with railroads. Among the displays is information on the first city mayor Horatio Brooks and railroads which were built here. On the second floor, there are models of the churches, including an altar from a local church, displays from former city businesses, a music section from the old bugle corps, military displays dating back to the Civil War era. The museum even has Lt. William Cushing’s uniform.

“The biggest piece we have is the full size hand-operated water pump that’s horse drawn; it’s a fire hydrant basically. We have a large firemen’s display with all the different hose companies,” said Civiletto. “You can spend a lot of time in there. There’s a lot of different things to see.”

Civiletto said many residents do not know there is a historical society or a museum. He said once someone visits the museum for the first time they often tell him, “Oh, my God, this is so cool. There’s so many things in here that I remember from when I was a kid.”

The museum does not have admission but asks for a donation at the door. The museum is looking for all types of skill sets including gardening, masonry work or even painting. Civiletto said if anyone is interested in volunteering, the society will be able to find work for you. Civiletto also said the society will need help with fundraising for events such as car shows and concerts in the future.

“If you’re interested in something that happened in Dunkirk and you want to know more, if you can help us do research on it or help us create a display … If you have a skill that you’d like to donate, we’d be more than happy to find a place for you,” Civiletto said.

The membership drive and open house will take place at the society from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday at 513 Washington Ave. There will be refreshments and prizes. For more information on the society call the society at 366-3797 or Civiletto at 679-5410. Membership levels start at $5 for students, $10 for regular members and $25 for contributing members.

“Please feel free to join us and push for a better tomorrow while preserving yesterday,” Historical Society board member Ryan Corbett said.

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