THE WILLIAM HILLCOURT MUSEUM HISTORY
The idea of a Scout museum began as casual conversations between David Brown, Tom Wallace and Bill McGee in the mid 1980's. Bill was an advisory board member of the Lee Scouting Museum in New Hampshire since 1980 and Dave wanted his input. The advice given was: "Unless you have a Council Executive who is 100% behind the museum, don't bother."
In 1990, Bill Moran the Hiawatha Council's new Council Exec. Bill had been a District Executive at Daniel Webster Council in New Hampshire and had seen their Lee Museum start up and grow. He was 100% behind a museum starting here!
Dave Brown and Tom Wallace (backed by Bill Moran) discussed the possibility of a local Scout museum with Bob Johnson, then Chair of the Hiawatha Council Properties Committee on November 12, 1990. They assured the Properties Committee that the museum "would not be a financial burden to the council and would raise operating funds in a discreet manner." The Properties Committee endorsed "the idea of a Scouting memorabilia collection to be located at Camp Woodland."
Although the Properties Committee recommended that the former Health lodge be used for display upstairs and storage in the basement, this did not happen for ten years. In January 1991 Ranger Dennis Robinson and Mike Coyne remodeled the workshop room between the garage and the trading post. This room served as the original museum display area until the former Health lodge became available in 2001.
The original committee met at Tom Wallace's home November 27, 1990. Members present were Tom Wallace, Dave Brown, Jeff Speich, Al Papenfus, Mike Coyne, Jennie Setzer. Mike Surbaugh (staff advisor), Dennis Robinson and Bill McGee joined the committee in December 1990.
Decisions made at committee meetings that first year of 1991 were mainly to establish operating procedures, by-laws, and budgets. The committee decided that the name of the museum would be the Hiawatha Council Scout Museum. The wording was such that International Scouting and Girl Scouts could be included too.
October 5, 1991, was the official dedication and opening of the Hiawatha Council Scout Museum. Chairman Dave brown conducted the ceremonies at Woodland's flagpole on a crisp, clear fall day. The Holtz's were there with their computer, Fran Waddington designed a first day cover envelope and a 3-panel "Scouts on Stamps" display board. Green Bar Bill Hillcourt was the guest of honor and signed many cards and handbooks for visitors. Chuck Soper and OA Lodge 410 catered a spaghetti dinner.
After a merger of Hiawatha Council and Seaway Valley Council (St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis Counties) the council name changed. In June 1999, the committee voted to change the museum's name to the William Hillcourt Scout Museum and Carson Buck Memorial Library. The Properties Committee authorized the museum to use the former Health Lodge for its display area and expanded its storage area within the basement.
In the summer of 2001, Ranger Dennis Robinson and Ed Coe did the renovations, which included removing the partition, the shower stall and large picture window. Gene Little designed and supervised the building of a handicapped ramp and deck as the main entrance to the new museum display area. A new furnace/air conditioner was installed by Lynn Howard.
The renovations and move of the cabinets and displays were completed in time for a 10-year celebration and official dedication of the new museum building on September 22, 2001.
In May of 2003 a letter was sent to the Properties Committee requesting permission to raise funds to build an annex to the present building 20' x 40', doubling floor space and adding an inside stairway from storage area to the display floor.
The committee received guidelines from the Scout Executive on our financial campaign for the building annex. We had been able to match the $10,000.00 donated by Dale Travis of New York City. Dale was a Scout on Woodland Camp staff in the 1960's. He visited the museum noting that the displays were crowded and thought we needed more space. The committee discussed and agreed upon an L-shaped annex to the rear of the present building.
Bill McGee contacted C&S Engineers Inc. who provided two sets of drawings for the proposed annex. Dennis and Bill presented the plans to the Council Properties Committee, which voted to approve the building only when we had 100% of the funds necessary to complete the project.
On October 29th, 2005 twelve volunteers helped Ranger Dennis insulate and replace the siding on three sides of the museum building. Five windows were removed to eliminate damage from ultra-violet light.
Plans for the museum annex were drawn by John Trimble of C&S Companies at no charge to the museum or to council. The council properties committee approved the plans and since complete funding was assured, Council Exec Ray Sander authorized the project to begin.
Construction bids were received from three contractors. Rood's Trinity Company was given the contract. Groundbreaking was on April 21, 2007. The annex building and renovations to the existing building were completed. Electrical wiring and fixtures were installed by Dick Krzyiewski at cost, with no charge for his labor. Dennis Robinson and Ed Coe contributed many hours of their time installing and painting sheet rock. Carpeting was not installed in time for the rededication ceremony October 13, 2007. Many contributors were present and received museum pens.