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Boal Mansion Museum Reopens, Awakening A Hidden Historical Gem

by on May 02, 2015 7:00 AM

Right in the heart of Central Pennsylvania lies a historical treasure with ties to Spain, France, and the birth of America.

The Boal Mansion Museum and Columbus Chapel reopened on Friday with a new leader at the helm of the hidden gem. 

Penn State professor Robert Cameron was named the new museum director in a late March, replacing Christopher Lee, who was arrested on child pornography charges last October. 

"All I really know is what I read in the newspapers," Cameron says of his predecessor. "What I’m focused on is laying the groundwork for opening up the facility to the community. We're initiating some training programs to ensure there’s never any issues in the future with any of those types of things."

For those unfamiliar with the historical site, eight generations of the Boal family lived at the mansion. Construction took place from 1809 to 1820, with an expansion from 1898 to 1905.

The Georgian-style pioneer home looks unassuming from the outside, but features intricate artwork, furniture, and more on the inside. Just a short walk from the house is a sixteenth century chapel imported from the Columbus family castle thanks to a family connection with America's discoverer. The chapel even includes Columbus' admiral's desk and religious artifacts with hundreds of years of history.

"There are very few sites I’m aware of in Centre County where we have a history of over 200 years of multiple generations of a family living in the same place," Cameron says. "And then you add to that the many contributions these people made to the local history. They were connected to various presidents, and had tie-ins from Napoleon to Columbus."

"It’s amazing to think we have this rich history and the rich collections that go with it here in Boalsburg," he adds. "People are going to be so amazed by the treasures that are housed here."

One couple, Dave and Donna Bartosiewicz, were certainly amazed by their first trip to Boal Mansion on Friday. They recently moved to Boalsburg, and have been pleasantly surprised as they explore the area.

"I get overly excited when I find treasures like this, because to me, this is what we’re losing in America, places like this," Dave Bartosiewicz says. "Every time we venture out, we’re amazed at what we find and more thankful than ever that we moved here."

After his first walk through the historic Boalsburg mansion, Bartosiewicz couldn't contain his excitement, even saying he'll volunteer at the museum. He was particularly interested in their weapons collection, as the late Terry Boal was an avid gun collector.

"I want to be viewed as a newcomer here, as someone who can help out and make positive contributions to the community," he says. "I will definitely be volunteering to do anything they want me to do just to be a part of this, because I think it has a lot of potential."

As the Boal Mansion Museum and Columbus Chapel kick into gear, Cameron is searching for new ways to draw visitors in. He plans to consolidate all the various weaponry on the site into one room in the house, serving as an armory of sorts. He is also working on various gardens and a butterfly habitat, which he expects to be up and running by mid-summer.

"Hopefully people will come out and I believe they’ll be truly amazed," Cameron says. "I encourage them to take a tour and become a member of this organization. I’d love to tell them about all the exciting plans we have in mind for the next several years."

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Zach Berger is the managing editor of StateCollege.com. He graduated from Penn State University in 2014 with a degree in print journalism. Zach enjoys writing about a variety of topics ranging from football to government, music, and everything in between.
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