By James C. O’Brien, August 2010
I like Westfield because of the McClurg Museum. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I decided to move here. My first impression when I toured the museum was that Westfield must have a lot going for it because it preserved such an historic property.
What is the McClurg Museum? It’s an 1820s Federal mansion named for James McClurg, the pioneer who built it. The 14-room brick house sits majestically in the middle of Moore Park. Dr. William Moore, McClurg’s grandson, donated the house and grounds to the Village of Westfield in 1938. The Chautauqua County Historical Society has maintained it as a house museum and research center since 1950.
Inside the museum I found stately, high-ceilinged rooms filled with antique furniture and portraits of significant local personalities. I also discovered a trove of original research about some of America’s most progressive social movements including Abolition, the Underground Railroad, Women’s Suffrage, Mormonism, the Grange and even the Temperance Movement. Many were written by the men and women who lived through those events. For me the most poignant items are the Civil War diaries and letters home from the front lines, written by young men from Chautauqua County. They believed so strongly in the Union that they were willing to die for it. I learned something important about what they valued.
My involvement in the museum has given me a deeper understanding of where I live. I’ve learned history in a more personal way by reading about real people dealing with complex issues in often difficult circumstances. But then Chautauqua is synonymous with life-long learning. It even has its own definition in Webster’s Dictionary. What I discovered in Westfield is that history adds meaning to life. Want to learn more? Visit the museum’s website at mcclurgmuseum.org.
Mr. O’Brien became director of the McClurg Museum and president of the Chautauqua County Historical Society in 2002. He thinks that, “The McClurg Museum has everything: great beauty, architectural significance and strong cultural connections. The Society’s holdings within it include objects and documents that are important and rare. All of it needs to be preserved and protected. As Westfield’s premier cultural asset, the McClurg is too important to ignore. We owe it to the next generation.”