Monday, May 29, 2017

Herzstein Memorial Museum

Distance: Downtown

Contact: Victoria Baker

Hours of Operation: Tues.-Sat. 10am-4pm

Fees: Free, Donations Accepted

Corner of Second and Walnut Streets in Clayton, New Mexico
Operated by the Union County Historical Society

Union County Historical Society
Post Office Box 75
Clayton, New Mexico 88415-0075

The Museum Yesterday…

There had been interest in a museum for Clayton for many years, and several attempts to begin such an endeavor failed, but in the 1960’s the possibility arose again. The Methodist congregation built a new church and vacated the building, originally built as a Methodist-Episcopal Church in 1921. At this time, the Chilcote family purchased the building and presented it to the Union County Historical Society.

The building was used from time to time as a youth center and meeting place, but there were not enough funds available to transform it into a museum. In the 1970’s, Albert Herzstein of Houston, Texas, donated a sum of money, which was placed in a savings account to draw interest until it was needed.

The Union County Historical Museum opened on a limited basis in the summer of 1987, and grew rapidly as the community became aware of its potential. However, the building needed massive renovation and funds were rapidly depleted. When Albert Herzstein learned of the financial dilemma in 1988, he underwrote the cost of renovation through the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation. The name was changed to the Herzstein Memorial Museum, to honor the Herzstein family who were business and civic leaders during Clayton’s early days.

The Museum Today…

Today, gleaming hardwood floors and colorful stained glass windows serve as a lovely setting for the display of antiques and artifacts which have been given or loaned by the many people interested in preserving the history and heritage of Union County. Furnishings from a doctor’s office of the 1930’s, an eye doctor’s equipment, a model railroad with downtown Clayton as the background, vintage clothing and hats, Native American artifacts, toys and furniture are among the many items to be seen in the museum. Other displays feature the Santa Fe Trail, dinosaurs, family memorabilia and many other interesting themes.

One room is furnished with items given by the Herzstein family, including Navajo rugs, household items, art objects, and an old-fashioned tobacco cutter and cheese cutter, from the Herzstein store in Nara Visa. Other items given by the late Albert Herzstein have recently arrived and will be displayed throughout the museum.

Another special collection is the array of figurines, vases, paintings and memorabilia given by the late Franz Dyche, who, when searching for a home for his treasures from around the world, remembered his happy boyhood in Clayton.

Numerous early day photographs, family histories and documents are on display for the visitors’ perusal. The museum staff continually works to compile archives for those seeking information on their relatives and ancestors. Museum docents volunteer their time to keep the museum open weekends and a summer curator is hired through a yearly grant from the Clayton Lodger’s Tax.
The museum is on the State Register of Historic Places. There is no admission charge to the museum or for the monthly Historical Society programs, but donations are always welcome.