Mary Montgomery of York enjoys doing genealogical research at the Historical Center of York County “every chance I get.”
Montgomery, who said she had a relative killed at Pearl Harbor, and has conducted research that has turned up other interesting details about her family, is thrilled to be able to use the resources in a comfortable new site adjacent to McCelvey Center.
“It’s addicting when you get started,” Montgomery said of doing family research. And the staff, she said, “is very helpful if you’ve got a question.”
The Culture and Heritage Commission, which operates the center, last week held a grand opening celebration for the new facilities.
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The 18,600-square-foot brick building, formerly referred to as the Annex at McCelvey, has undergone a $2 million renovation that includes humidity control and new windows made with glass designed to eliminate sun damage.
“It’s much more suited for the purpose,” said Michael Scoggins, an historian with the CHM. “We are better set up here, we’re better organized and we’re better able to take care of the resources that are entrusted to us.”
Scoggins said more people are interested in genealogical research. “Most people want to know about their roots,” he said. “They want to know where they came from.”
He also said the new equipment at the center allows users to view printed content such as documents or newspaper articles which have been saved on microfilm, adjust the contrast and focus and save the content in digital files.
During the center’s renovations, a 25-foot well, hand-dug and lined with laid stones circa 1872, was uncovered. The well remains as an unexpected point-of-interest in the Historical Center’s lobby.
Carey Tilley, executive director of the CHM, said the center’s aim is to protect and maintain historical resources for the public, “not just today, but 100 years from today.”
York Mayor Eddie Lee said the McCelvey site has housed an educational institution for more than 150 years. “Go through the doors,” he said, “and you will find the treasures.”
The center’s interior features Sheetrock walls, custom millwork, six restrooms and storage rooms to house the CHM’s collections of art, archives and historical objects.
The renovation also includes a new pitched-hip roof, which replaces the flat roof, and the site has a new water and sewer infrastructure.
The Annex was built in 1956 to provide extra classroom space for the Yorkville Graded School. The 111-year-old building, renamed the McCelvey Elementary School in 1973, was part of the York School District until 1987.
The Historical Center, which had previously been housed in the main McCelvey building, first opened in 1989.
The Historical Center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.