The air was biting Feb. 1, 1988 when the Cameron House was moved from Ebenecook Road to Hendricks Hill. According to information Hendricks Hill Museum provided, the house was completely intact, despite recommendations it be sawed in half for the move. The house was believed to have been built around 1810, putting it at almost 180 when moved. Like it, the new location also had historical distinction.
Hendricks Hill hosted Southport’s first two churches and two early schools. Like some other historical buildings, these structures were also moved at various points. McKinley School was absorbed by the Southport Central School system, while another school became part of the firehouse across from the Southport Post Office.
The inspiration to preserve the region’s history came about almost a decade earlier, in 1976. The country was celebrating its 200th anniversary and Southport started a Bicentennial Committee to organize local festivities. Although the committee was meant to end, and was promptly being disbanded after the last fireworks had faded on July 4, the members petitioned to remain intact. Thus, the Southport Historical Committee was created.
By 1985, the committee had become the Southport Historical Society. The group had gathered enough materials to need a permanent place to store them. Perry Luke donated the Cameron House to Southport for this purpose in 1986. However, the following year it looked like Luke was going to have the structure torn down. This never came to fruition and the Hendricks Hill Museum officially opened its doors on July 16, 1988
However, the work was far from over. Cecil Pierce and Maurice Sherman made new windows to replace those that did not match the style shown in early photographs of the house. Old glass was donated. The sand from which the glass was made can still be seen in several panes. The rest of the volunteers worked on cosmetic issues, such as stripping off the wallpaper that founding member Ron Orchard said was "hideous," and came up with ideas to fund the fledgling institution.
The museum’s collection and size were growing. A 1997 addition to the home hosts the multitude of historical archives, and the remnants of the Newagen Post Office. A boathouse, which illustrates the region’s fishing tradition, was also added to the property.
The museum has hosted visitors from across the country and the world. A testament to this can be found in the Pierce room where a number of police paraphernalia are exhibited, including a helmet, billy club and badges. Sergeant Coates, visitor to the museum, had donated the set he got from serving in Southport’s English counterpart. This display was joined last year by a series of postcards from Southport, England which an anonymous donor left in a plastic bag tied to the door handle of the museum’s main entrance.
While not all the items have such a strange story, most have been donated by the founders or community members. Ronald Orchard, founding member, credited this to people's need to be rid of decades' worth of accumulated belongings and the more sentimental desire to be part of preserving regional history.
What began as a passion project is now a symbol of regional pride. Orchard, Evelyn Sherman and Jean Thompson, founding members and longtime caretakers, have been integral to shaping it.
The museum will host a special celebration to commemorate this fact on Monday, July 16 at 7 p.m. at the Southport Town Hall. Visitors will be treated to a visual presentation of the museum's 30-year history, with founders on hand to answer any questions. Items from the museum will be on display. Books on the history of the island will be available to buy and refreshments will be served.