Blair County celebrated its sesquicentennial in 1996. We have looked to our past with the satisfaction that our ancestors have built a true community. Now, we look forward to a future that will carry us into the twenty-first century. We have great opportunities to carry Blair County forward in the upcoming years, building a richer future by preserving the past. Please feel free to read A Brief History of Blair County by Sylva Emerson to gain a comprehensive understanding of how local people, places, events, ideals, and traditions transformed the county into what it is today.
About the Blair County Historical Society
The Blair County Historical Society (BCHS) was chartered on July 23, 1906 as a non-profit association open to all persons interested in preserving the history of Blair County. Since its inception, the society has taken an active role in preserving and interpreting this region's heritage, through marking historical sites, publishing books and pamphlets on local history, and collecting and preserving artifacts relevant to the heritage of the area's people.
Since 1922, our headquarters have been located at Baker Mansion in Altoona. After leasing the building for two decades, the society purchased it from the Baker heirs in 1941. Here the society operates its museum, at which visitors can see period rooms depicting the Baker family's lifestyle, as well as exhibits on the early iron industry, transportation, medicine, military history, toys, geology, and education. Rotating displays are presented in the second floor gallery. The mansion also holds the society's offices, library and archives.
The society also owns the Springfield Furnace Mansion (Royer House) which has been rehabilitated for adaptive reuse as two apartment units and community meeting space; the Etna Furnace stack, which was stabilized in 1990; and the Dick Schoolhouse, which received a new roof and partial exterior repairs in 1997. Although many of our sites have undergone renovation, constant care and expenses are required.
Our funding comes from memberships, museum admission fees, donations, grants, and fundraising events. We are completely dependent upon the time, talent, financial resources, and passion of our volunteers and benefactors.
The society is a member of the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations, the Alliance of Pennsylvania County Historical Societies, the American Association for State and Local History, Explore Altoona, and the Blair County Chamber of Commerce. Today, we proudly boast a wide array of accomplishments and goals in the community. Offering diverse levels of educational programs, lectures, tours, reenactments, publications, and services, we intend to build upon our rich tradition as a non-profit organization.
Members of the Blair County Historical Society at Baker Mansion in 1934. Left to right, seated: William I. Woodcock, Plymouth W. Snyder, Harry A. Jacobs; standing: Dr. Guy C. Robb, Bertha McLaughlin, Annie E. Berg, Tarring S. Davis, Bessie Confer, Floyd G. Hoenstine, Matthew M. Morrow, Donald Yoder, Mary M. Morrow, Margaret Nicholson, Walter S. Irvine, Nellie Berg, William T. Canan, and Thomas J. Trout.
Amtran bus services celebrates its anniversary at Baker Mansion prior to the structure's exterior renovation.
Society Board of Trustees Jared Frederick: Board President Jim Lowe: Board Vice-President Morey Lawruk: Board Recording Secretary Timothy Van Scoyoc: Board Membership Secretary David Scott: Board Treasurer Hazel Bilka, Trustee Norman Callan, Trustee Mary Cramer, Trustee Michael Farrow, Trustee Patricia Gildea, Trustee Jeff Holland, Trustee Christie Jordan, Trustee Larry McKee, Trustee Astride McLanahan, Trustee Cynthia Moringiello, Trustee Guido Santella, Trustee Sophia Vaughn, Trustee
Executive Director Bio and Message
Welcome to the Blair County Historical Society's website. Let me tell you a little about myself. I was raised on my grandparents farm in Spruce Creek, PA. I graduated from Juniata Valley High School in 2009. I attended Penn State University where I graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in History. My first true encounter in the history profession began when I was 15. I became involved as a volunteer with the Railroaders Memorial Museum in Altoona. At the Railroaders Memorial Museum, I went from volunteer to employee. Working several years at the museum I found my true passion in the museum profession where I worked my way from maintenance worker to Archive Manager.
Since 2015, I have been very blessed to become the Society's Executive Director. Everyday I come to work looking for new ways to make our heritage exciting and rewarding. I have to thank the wonderful team in which I am honored to work with. We work every effectively in creating many exciting events each year. It is our goal that the Baker Mansion History Museum and Royer Mansion site are destinations for you and your family. We offer school tours, group tours, and general admissions from May through September. During the Fall months we offer special weekend events and private tours. Be sure to check our events page regularly so you can be up to date. Have you considered becoming a member? Memberships are annual investments in our heritage and the lifeblood of our daily operations. You can do your part to ensure that future generations grow up knowing our story. The Blair County Historical Society's Baker Mansion History Museum is home to evocative rotating exhibits. For education, entertainment, and community involvement - the Blair County Historical Society is the place to be. If you would like to volunteer or assist us in any way, please feel free to contact our offices. I hope that you find this website to be of great resource and let us be your vacation destination. Best Regards, Joe DeFrancesco
Blair County Historical Society Physical Site: Baker Mansion 3419 Oak Lane Altoona, PA 16602