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Picnic raises money for Florence museum

Staff writer

It only happens once a year, but it always brings hungry supporters eager to help Florence’s Harvey House Museum. They flocked in Saturday to enjoy a meal and leave money to keep the museum going.

Florence city clerk Dana Gayle and Philip Baldwin cooked fish in hot oil fryers, and rural Florence resident Cheri Bentz breaded fish to prepare it for cooking.

Community members donated assorted salads, cookies, cobblers, pies, side dishes, cheese, baked beans, and other tasty items to feed the masses.

This year, more than 200 people came to support the museum, sitting at picnic tables and on lawn chairs to chat while they ate dinner.

The museum, actually one-third of Florence’s original Harvey House hotel and restaurant, stands at 221 N. Marion St.

Fred Harvey’s first combination hotel and restaurant, Florence’s Harvey House, opened in 1878 and closed about 1900.

The Harvey House’s original location was on the other side of the railroad tracks. After one-third of the Harvey House was moved to become a different hotel and one-third was moved to the Catholic Church to become a parsonage, the Florence Historical Society bought the remaining building, a former boarding house.

The Harvey House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

Although the Harvey House no longer accepts overnight reservations, volunteers prepare group meals by reservation.

Reservations also are needed to see the museum, volunteer Judy Mills said. Those reservations can be made through city hall.

“We don’t have any means of keeping it open,” Mills said.

More volunteers are needed to do such things as mow the grass.

“I love the place,” Mills said. “I think it’s worthy of keeping.”

After all, she said, it was the first fast food. Trains were the only fast transportation at that time.

Last modified June 27, 2024

 

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