Story by Roger Moore, Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History Director
Forty-two years in the books. So, what’s next for the old building at the corner of 7th and Duncan?
First, for those new to Stillwater, a short history lesson.
On November 17, 1974, the Stillwater Arts and Humanities Council, with plenty of support from Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Sheerar, formally opened a museum in the basement of the new Sheerar Cultural and Heritage Center. It was not an overnight process, but one that started in 1968 with the newly-formed Stillwater Arts and Humanities Council seeking a home for a history museum and performing arts space. “Mike and Molly” Sheerar made their challenge gift of $25,000 to inaugurate the community-wide fund drive to purchase the building at 702 S. Duncan.
On May 2, 1973, the Cultural and Heritage Center opened with the Arts and Humanities Council issuing a resolution officially naming the building as the Sheerar Cultural and Heritage Center in recognition of the Sheerars’ contributions.
The building, constructed in 1928, was the second home of Stillwater’s First Church of Christ, Scientist. In 1927, the congregation signed a $40,000 contract for its construction with the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving 1928 marking the first services. The church constructed a new building in the early 1970s.
The museum officially opened to the public in November 1974 with the Sheerar Button Collection one of the first exhibits.
Leonard Sheerar’s mother, Lena, began collecting buttons in 1936 while living in Wellsville, New York. She continued collecting buttons until 1949, when she moved to Stillwater to be near her son and daughter-in-law, Leonard and Grace Sheerar. When she arrived in Stillwater her button collection had grown to tens of thousands of items and weighed 87 pounds.
During her years in Stillwater, word of the button collection spread, bringing many from the community to her home to view the large variety of buttons. Following her death in 1955, her son and daughter-in-law began looking for a permanent setting to display the collection. For the museum’s opening in 1974, members of the National Button Society made a special trip to Stillwater to organize and arrange a display that includes a description of the history and types of buttons. One of the oldest buttons from the Sheerar Collection is a brass button dated circa 1786. Of the 3600 buttons in the collection, a number remain on display as a tribute to the founders of Stillwater’s history museum.
Since 1987, the Stillwater Museum Association has owned the building and operated the Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History. Throughout its existence, the museum has had thousands of supporters who have contributed not just monies, but their curiosity, their passion, and their energy to Stillwater’s local history museum. As we jump into 2017 there is plenty of room for you to join us!
The 2017 calendar includes some Sheerar traditions … with a few additions.
- January means Associates Drive 2017. Generous donations started in December and continue into the new year. Become an Associate this year and join us for a busy schedule.
- Call February 25 “Grand Opera House Night.” In the early 1980s a replica of Stillwater’s first entertainment venue (now the Antique Mall) was built. Barbara Mintmire has updated that model, and with a new exhibit case, it will be on display on February 25 near the auditorium entrance. The night will also include some entertainment from the Stillwater High School drama department. Expect a “waving song” or two to be sung that night.
- “Where Oklahoma Began!” will be back in April and May. The award-winning education program brings over 500 area third graders to the museum for an Oklahoma history lesson. We are happy to team with OklahomaWONDERtorium to provide this fun and educational program.
- In May and June, the Sheerar will welcome an Oklahoma Historical Society traveling exhibit focusing on Oklahoma sports, including plenty of Oklahoma A&M tales. This summer exhibit will lead us into our September exhibit, “Stillwater: Where FUN Began! A History of Recreation in Stillwater. Skating rinks, drive-in movies, swimming pools, movie theaters, plenty of things to explore.
- June also means the Sheerar Museum’s annual fundraiser. Without the support of the community and our Associates, exhibits, programs, and the services provided to the community would not be possible.
- The Cool Classics Summer Concert Series returns for an 11th year to the auditorium. It is a July tradition in Stillwater.
- A new and fun event will be held in October. “Off the Stage” will give all in attendance a chance to leave with a piece of donated art from a local artist. There will be 50 pieces of art and 50 tickets sold. A drawing follows and once your name is called you pick the piece of art you want. Everyone goes home with something. Stay tuned.
- November marks the return of the American Quilt Study Group. A Study of the Civil War is the theme of quilts that will be displayed in the gallery from November through February 2018.
- December means holidays. The Sheerar’s Open House last December drew a great crowd and the Stillwater Community Singers got everyone in the holiday spirit. This December the Stillwater Community Singers will have a holiday concert.
The mission of the Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History, a non-profit museum administered by the Stillwater Museum Association Board of Trustees is “to receive and collect the material culture of Stillwater, Oklahoma, dating from prehistoric times, but especially from the 1880s to the present; to preserve those materials for the future; to study them to derive information about the past; and to use the knowledge resulting from such study to present to the public the history and culture of the area through all effective means.”
For more information about the museum, to find out how to become an Associate, or to rent the classic auditorium, contact the museum’s director, Roger Moore, at (405)377-0359 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.