Whether it’s blazing hot or freezing cold outside, there’s at least one surefire way to stay entertained and immerse yourself in your environment! Visit one of the area’s many incredible museums.
Washington County, NY is an area rich in historical and cultural significance; many of our towns have been around since before our country was officially founded over 200 years ago. Each of our communities is dedicated to preserving their town’s unique heritage through the restoration and display of historical and cultural artifacts to learn from and enjoy.
Delve into our area’s history – explore Washington County’s incredibly diverse selection of museums! Whether you’re interested in natural, military, or agricultural history, we’ve got something to pique your interest.
Explore the long history of Washington County, NY at these great museums:
Pember Library and Museum of Natural History
The Pember Museum collections are a wonderful example of the area’s biodiversity! Established in 1909 by Franklin Tanner Pember and his wife Ellen Wood Pember, the natural history museum features Franklin Pember’s own collected, natural specimens including mounted birds and mammals, bird nests and eggs, shells, insects, plants, and rocks and minerals from the Granville area and beyond.
Today there are over 7,000 objects in the collections of the Pember Museum, covering a wide variety of subjects, with nearly 80% of the collections on display! Specimens include vertebrate (birds, mammals, and reptiles) and invertebrate animals (insects, arachnids, and sea life), rocks and minerals, fossils, some anthropological and historical materials, and a herbarium (dried plant specimens).
The Pember Museum is open year-round but closed on Sundays and holidays.
Museum and Howard Hanna Memorial Civil War Enlistment Center
Housed in the former Elisha Straight house, the Museum and Enlistment Center is reported to be the oldest remaining house in the hamlet of Hartford, dating back to the early 1800s. The mission of the museum is to acquire, catalog, and display the history of Hartford. The acquisition of furniture, books, and memorabilia, and the educational display of these items, are important to understanding the industry and life that once existed in Hartford.
The Civil War Enlistment Center, in which the men of Hartford enlisted in Co. E. 123d Regt. New York State Volunteers, is the only Civil War Enlistment Center remaining in New York State! The collection concentrates on the men, their equipment, their 3000-mile, three-year journey to glory, and the battles they fought in service to the Union.
The Museum and Enlistment Center are open to visitors on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 4 PM during July and August and at other times by appointment. School tours are also available.
Shushan Covered Bridge Museum
The Shushan Covered Bridge Museum, located in the hamlet of Shushan, NY is housed in an old covered bridge built in 1858 by the Stevens Bros. The bridge was abandoned in favor of a more modern bridge in 1962 and sat in disrepair for over ten years until it was saved by the Shushan Covered Bridge Association, Inc which converted it into a museum. A collection of period machinery and farm implements, many in working order, are used by visitors for hands-on demonstrations!
A few yards from the bridge entrance stands a one-room schoolhouse that was in continuous use from 1852 to 1943. The school is open to visitors and is furnished with desks and texts from the 19th century.
The Shushan Covered Bridge Museum is closed during the winter season with select hours during spring, summer, and fall. It is open by special appointment any day.
Skenesborough Museum and Heritage Area Visitors Center
Nestled in a valley at the head of Lake Champlain is Whitehall, the birthplace of the U.S. Navy. The Heritage Area Visitor Center resides in a 1917 canal terminal building that has been used as Skenesborough Museum since 1959. It is designed to interpret the historic area in which it sits. It also encourages the public to investigate, through walking tours, the ambiance of 19th Century buildings along a canal in use since 1823.
In addition to household artifacts found on the main floor of the house, examples of 19th and 20th centuries can be found on the second floor, including quilts, a 100-year-old wedding dress, a watchmaker’s work stand, ice-cutting equipment, and a 1940s permanent wave machine. And outdoors on the museum grounds, you’ll find a D&H rail car and the remains of the sunken U.S.S. Ticonderoga!
Closed during winter. Hours vary, so check the website before visiting. While there, check out nearby Skene Manor, a Victorian Gothic-style mansion.
William Miller Home & Farm
An official Path Through History Site! The William Miller Home and Chapel are known as the “Birthplace of Adventism in America.”
The site includes the home, farm buildings, chapel, and Ascension Rock, all of which are registered with the National Register of Historic Sites. Also located nearby is the cemetery where William and Lucy Miller are buried.
Open April 1 – November 30; open by appointment only from December 1 to March 31.
Slate Valley Museum
The Slate Valley Museum celebrates the history and culture of the quarrying community that was established along the New York-Vermont border in the 1800s! Many slate quarries are still in operation, producing most of the colored roofing slate in the United States today.
The museum not only offers a glimpse into our area’s history through the quarrying community in the Slate Valley. They also collect, catalog, conserve, exhibit, and interpret materials that demonstrate the geology of slate!
The Georgi on the Battenkill Community Park and Museum
The Georgi on the Battenkill Community Park and Museum is nestled along the river in Shushan, NY, just west of the Vermont Border. Donated to the town of Salem by the namesake family, the beautiful family home is now a museum displaying the family’s art and natural history collections:
- Italian, Dutch, Flemish, German, and French paintings from the fourteenth through the eighteenth centuries.
- Chinese and Asian tapestries and Oriental figurines are an added display attraction.
- Stained glass windows featuring panels of glass based on a woodcut by Hans Weidtz.
- An extensive and complete mineral collection with samples from as far away as South Africa pieced together over a lifetime by Henry Georgi, an engineering geologist.
The Georgi also boasts 9 acres of lush lawns, gorgeous gardens, and a row of 60+-year-old Hydrangea trees, nestled along the famous Battenkill River. The Community Park and Public restrooms are open from May through November.
Washington County Fair Farm Museum
The Farm Museum displays artifacts of rural life in Washington County, New York during the 1800s–1940s. Exhibits show the many aspects of agriculture throughout the county including dairy, poultry, potatoes, crop production, and ice harvesting.
Local farmers developed many tools to make their work easier and faster. Some inventions were very successful and others never got off the local homestead. Items in the Farm Museum collection were all used or manufactured in Washington County! Additional authentic outbuildings moved to the museum complex include a corncrib, summer kitchen, milkhouse, and an 1853 one-room schoolhouse complete with woodshed and outhouses.
Join education staff and museum volunteers for organized programs offered May through October.
Cambridge Historical Society and Museum
Residing in a house built in 1869, the Cambridge Historical Society was established in 1929 with the mission of preserving the history of Cambridge and the surrounding area for the enjoyment and education of the community and visitors.
The house is a splendid example of period architecture, featuring a mansard roof, wrap-around verandah, and ornate exterior moldings. The front door contains leaded glass windows and opens into a spacious hallway, which features both a beautifully curved stairway leading to the upper floors and a period, framed, floor-to-ceiling mirror with a marble shelf.
Rooms in the museum include displays of 19th-century Cambridge-made Barton Furniture, Revolutionary and Civil War memorabilia, fire fighting exhibits, as well as early china, pewter, glassware, and antique kitchen utensils. In period examples of 19th-century textiles: quilts, homespun coverlets and bedding, period clothing, and accessories. Upstairs rooms include a beautiful period master bedroom, a children’s room, and a resource room.
The Cambridge Museum closes for winter and reopens in May.
Old Fort House Museum
Today, the Old Fort House is a museum offering public tours and historical education programs, but the building has quite a history!
Constructed in 1772 of timbers from the ruins of the French and Indian War fortification Fort Edward, the Old Fort House has been owned by many historically significant persons through the years. During the Revolutionary War, the house was used by both British and American troops as headquarters. Other owners included Dr. John Cochran, George Washington’s personal surgeon. Washington himself even dined at the Old Fort House twice in July 1783, on his way to and from Crown Point!
In 1828, Solomon Northup and his bride Anne Hampton moved into the house and lived there until 1832. Northup was a free black man who grew up in Washington County and had been drugged and sold into slavery. Upon being freed, he wrote the book “Twelve Years a Slave,” widely considered to be one of the most important unbiased narratives on slavery.
The property is now home to several other historic buildings that have been acquired by the Fort Edward Historical Association, which operates the complex:
- The Riverside Schoolhouse (known as District #5 while still in use) was built at the turn of the 20th century along the banks of the Hudson River in Northumberland, Saratoga County.
- The Greek revival-style A. Dallas Wait Law Office, which was was rescued from its former site and given to the Museum by Scott Paper Co. It is interpreted to represent a law office from the late 19th century, furnished with period barrister bookcases and law books.
- The Cronkhite Pavilion, one of the last surviving buildings of the original 1870 Washington County Fair, which was held at the current site of the Washington County Offices until the 1930s. The building now houses many exhibits on local history.
- The Baldwin Barn was built on the Museum Campus around 1910 and now houses for Fort Edward Pottery Exhibit and Display, as well as the museum’s gift shop, where historical books and maps are sold year round.
Plus, nestled amongst the buildings is the Doctor’s Apothecary Garden, which contains more than twenty different species of plants used by Native Americans and Colonials for medicinal purposes!
The museum is open seasonally from June through October, but tours of the museum campus are available by appointment for large groups, field trips, and educational group tours year-round.
The Museum recently celebrated its 70th anniversary, having opened on July 12th, 1953!
Remember to check the website before you head out. Many of our museums are open seasonally but are more than happy to open their doors off-season for large-group tours!
Looking for more of Washington County beyond museums?
Whether planning your next trip or looking for something new to do, you’ll find many great activities in this area! Check out our event calendar to start planning your trip.