Birth of a heritage museum in the nation's heartland
Here is the story of a very interesting project which was once a dream of Harold Warp, and then he made that dream come true. I guess that is what dreams are for. Anyway, here is the story as we found it in Hardware Retailer of May 1955. You will enjoy the story and will want to visit the Village at the first opportunity. — The Editor
Almost in the geographical middle of the United States (Minden, Neb.), a new landmark for sightseers is in evidence. This is the home of Pioneer Village, which in the short two years it has been open to the public has gained national fame as a unique achievement of restoring for posterity the mode of life of our ancestors. Newsweek, in its April 15th issue, named Pioneer Village as one of the country's top new tourist lures for last year.
This is the dream of Harold Warp, president of Flex-O-Glass, Inc., and has become a reality at Minden, Neb.
Sprawled over two city blocks are the 12 buildings that house the unique museum. In this picturesque setting is displayed the evolution of America from 1830-1950. Located on U.S. Highway 6, 132 miles west of Lincoln, Neb., Pioneer Village contains 17,000 items of bygone days. The village did not develop overnight. It received its initial spark — when the country school Harold Warp had attended as a boy was to be sold to the highest bidder. Mr. Warp's bid gained him the school house with records intact. Soon after this, the first church in his home town had to be moved to make way for a modern stone structure, so Warp bought this, too.
As time went by he had to find a place to put the many items he was acquiring. Minden, Neb., was the natural choice, for it was from this town that Harold Warp started in 1924, bound for Chicago with $800 and the patent for a product called 'Flex-O-Glass.'
By 1950, the idea for Pioneer Village had evolved into the planning stage. At this point Warp enlisted the aid of his sister, Mrs. T.C. Jensen, and her auctioneer husband, in collecting the many keepsakes.
Three years and 140,000 miles later, Mr. and Mrs. Jensen saw the items they had gathered completely restored, arranged in groups and also in chronological order of their development, ready for public viewing.
Since the opening day, June 6, 1953, more than 150,000 have delighted in the nostalgic charm of our country's development, marveling at the comprehensive way that the displays have been arranged. No item is duplicated, since the scope of this museum is so great that only 'one of each' could be included.
Some antique lovers criticized Warp when he began cleaning, repainting and mending the items he had acquired. But, according to Warp, these people missed the point of the whole display. He wanted the items to appear as they were when they were being used. So far as possible, the items included in the display are in operating condition.
Two men have worked continuously restoring the items and about 20 people are on the payroll. Pioneer Village is operated on a non-profit basis, but Warp does hope to have it become self-supporting. Therefore, adults are charged 50¢, children 25¢ — a fee intended to maintain the Village, not to gain profit.
In strolling from building to building, arranged in circular formation behind the huge main building which faces the highway, visitors can see the wondrous development of transportation, communication, agriculture, home appliances, guns, clocks, cameras, musical instruments and illumination.
Unfolded before visitors' eyes are five period kitchens, ranging from 1830 to 1930, complete with authentic, original equipment, 14 craft shops, replicas of a country doctor's office, barber shop, drug store, harness shop, a printing plant, and others.
Here, too, is the Warp collection of John Roger's sculpture. Rogers, considered one of America's greatest sculptors, created 80 known pieces — 38, including his first, 'Checkers up at the Farm,' are found at the Village.
Twenty original paintings by Jackson, internationally known Western artist, are exhibited.
Visitors at this unique village of the past can go on and on, marveling at each exhibit, which so authentically portrays our pioneer history. Open 7 days a week, it attracts tourists from many states and serves as a lasting tribute to our forefathers, whose initiative and ingenuity paved the way for our modern way of life.