Thursday, 10 June 2021 13:31

Brookside Reopens with a Bang!

Ballston Spa — The Saratoga County History Center announced the grand reopening of the beloved Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa. Summer hours starting June 26 will be Thursdays 1 to 6 p.m. and Friday through Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. In-person event exhibits this summer include the following: 

“Century of Ice Cream! The Dake Family & Stewart’s”

“Century of Ice Cream!” is an exhibit celebrating the centennial of the famous company born in Saratoga County. In 1787, the Dake family began clearing farms in the hills of what became Greenfield. Three generations later, in 1921, dairy farmers Percy and Charles Dake responded to a changing economy (and America’s growing sweet tooth!) by shifting to ice cream production. True entrepreneurs, the Dakes sought other outlets for their talents, eventually becoming retailers. The chain they started in 1946 is now an anchor of northeastern New York and adjacent Vermont communities. Today, Stewart’s is perhaps Saratoga County’s most familiar contribution to the regional economy.  [The exhibit was made possible through the generosity of Stewart’s Shops/Dake Family.]

“The Country Store in Saratoga County”

Before the ubiquitous Stewart’s shops, Saratoga County was dotted with a variety of country stores, businesses that served as both necessary sources of supplies and social hubs. The country store, or “general store,” was once the dominant economic and social institution in rural Saratoga County. It carried all the provisions farming families needed, provided credit in the absence of banks, purchased perishable produce from customers, and offered a welcoming place to gather and gossip. By the mid-20th century, however, country stores began to disappear. An evolving cash-based economy freed farmers from neighborhood credit, and the automobile facilitated weekly trips to town, where people grew accustomed to the vast inventory of new chain and department stores. This exhibit is dedicated to the long history of that quintessential institution. Rare and beautiful photographs will take visitors back to the bygone days of 19th and 20th century rural America, when families thrived without the internet, instant delivery, or mega-marts.

“Mystery Photographs from Eastern Saratoga”

Several years ago, a photographic historian donated 33 large-format glass plate negatives from an unknown photographer. Printed through the support of the Old Saratoga Historical Association of Schuylerville, these images provide an intimate look at Saratoga County in the post-Civil War era, including remarkable community theater productions. This exhibition highlights the importance of preserving a rich photographic archive: one of the objectives of the History Center.

“The Social Life of Hats”

History Center trustees and staff are working with Skidmore professors and administrators to develop new courses that utilize Brookside collections, as well as student internship opportunities. The fruits of that labor can be seen in the innovative class “The Social Life of Hats,” taught by Drs. Tillman Nechtman and Erica Bastress-Dukehart, and analyzed and investigated Brookside’s historic hat collection. The course was so successful that it spawned an alumni event, an “Experts Next Door” episode (May 20, 2021), and a museum exhibit at Brookside (June 26-Oct. 1, 2021).  The exhibit is part of the “All Together Now” public history coalition led by the Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore (tang.skidmore.edu/exhibitions/356-all-together-now).   

Brookside Museum is located at Front Street in historic Ballston Spa. Admission is free, though donations are appreciated. For more information call 518-885-4000, visit www.brooksidemuseum.org, or follow on social media. 

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