Editor’s Note: The article has been edited to reflect the correct spelling of Robert Rusbatch’s name.
DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — One day after celebrating Dauphin’s 250th anniversary, thousands of artifacts were lost in a fire at the Dauphin-Middle Paxton Historical Society.
“It’s not a call you want to get at 6 in the morning,” Dauphin-Middle Paxton Historical Society museum manager Kathy Fisher said. “He said that I was supposed to brace myself, that it would be pretty bad.”
The caller was right, but in the leftover piles of rubbish and brick and even some smoke, there is hope.
“This is a page in our history. Open the book to another chapter and hopefully move on,” Fisher said. “We love history, we love the community, and it does make me smile to see what we had.”
Among the artifacts that could not be saved are a military uniform belonging to Kathy Fisher’s husband, a wedding dress belonging to a Dauphin County couple, and years of research.
As the abc27 crew left the building on Tuesday, one especially meaningful item was found intact: a blanket rack donated to the building by museum director Jeanette Bender’s late husband before he died.
The blanket rack will be displayed in the next museum whenever it comes along. The previous museum building will be torn down, and Fisher said, “I’m going to be here when they tear it down. I am going to be crying, but I want to be here.”
Original story from Oct. 17, 2021:
Officials responded to a call about a structure fire at the Dauphin-Middle Paxton Historical Society on Sunday morning around 5:15 a.m.
According to Robert Rusbatch, fire chief for Dauphin-Middle Paxton Fire Company, the first person on the scene saw fire in the back kitchen. About 20 units responded to the scene with about 100 firemen and women on site. Water tower operations were used to control the fire.
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Rusbatch confirmed with abc27 that nobody was inside the building at the time of the fire. The cause of the fire is still unknown and is under active investigation.
“Just yesterday, we celebrated our 250th anniversary of the founding of Dauphin,” Liz Rodda, president of Dauphin-Middle Paxton Historical Society, said. “So there is a great deal of irony that the evening of the end of our celebration that this fire was reported.”
Rodda says she remains hopeful that they could save some of the historical artifacts that were removed from the burned building.
“All these artifacts were donated to us by Dauphin Borough residents and Middle Paxton Township residents,” Rodda said. “So, this is the start of a new beginning for us within the historical society.”
At this point in time, Rodda said the historical society was unsure if the building could be refurbished, but sees a Capitol campaign in the future in order to start fresh.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates. Stay up to date on the latest from abc27 News on-air and on the go with the free abc27 Mobile app.