We make history fun for all ages!
The Jefferson County History Center showcases many unique exhibits depicting the history of Jefferson County and the surrounding areas. Exhibits are changed periodically to provide new experiences for visitors. We invite you to come explore the Jefferson County of yesterday and the unique history of some of your own personal interests. In fact, you may find more in common than expected. Our exhibits include model trains, the first four-wheel drive vehicle, first international flight, early technology, dinosaurs, military, medical, and so much more. We make history fun for all ages!
Abbie Neal rose up from Baxter, Pennsylvania, to become a country and western music star entertaining audiences around the world for more than 50 years. The Abbie Neal exhibit celebrates her life and career, showcasing photos, posters announcing her shows and one of Ms. Neal’s on-stage costumes.
Jefferson County cartoonist, Adam Gruda, created illustrations that spoke to the social and political world he lived in and have been published in the New York Times. The Adam Gruda exhibit features works covering some of the most impactful events of the 20th century.
Bowdish Model Railroad
One of our more popular exhibits, located on the 2nd floor: A miniature railroad and village animations display portraying buildings and attractions throughout Jefferson County. Between 1919 and 1955, thousands visited Brookville to see a Christmas train display at the home of Charles Bowdish. He then moved his work to the Buhl Planetarium in Pittsburgh and finally to the Carnegie Science Center, where the exhibit remains today. We are fortunate to have many of Bowdish’s original pieces viewable year-round at the history center, along with replicas of his buildings, animated figures and scenery created by volunteers over the past 20 years. The entire scene operates on the last Saturday of every month with volunteers nearby to answer any questions.
David L. Leach Rhodendron Garden
The garden was constructed in 2012 and is located at the rear entrance of the history center. Dr. David L. Leach, a resident of Brookville, was an eminent horticulturalist and a world authority on Rhododendrons; known for his development of over 85 varieties of hardy hybrids for the gardening public.
Dr. Leach’s son, Brian, along with JCHC staff and volunteers brainstormed the idea of a Rhododendron Garden Exhibit memorializing his father’s passion with plants from the original specialty hybrids. The garden is best viewed in May and June when the plants are in full bloom.
A new interactive exhibit located on the 2nd floor: Our “Toys to Tech” exhibit was such a hit, we’ve revamped it into a fun hands-on playcenter encouraging our young visitors to experience the coolest old tech of its day. The KidSpace Gallery has everything from View-Masters, rotary phone, 1940s typewriter, victrola, and more. Popular toys from the early 1900s to today include Lincoln Logs and Legos. You’ll have to try out the Whistle Pig Exploratory Coal Mine and Selfie Station with a live video feed!
Living on the Land
On the first floor, Living on the Land includes eight exhibit sections and four replicated “rooms” that feature a variety of important artifacts, implements and modes of transportation to tell the varied and evolving stories of our ancestors and how they lived, worked, and played. We invite you to step back in time to explore how people in Jefferson County have used this land since the arrival of the earliest Native American inhabitants. Additional exhibits include First People: Native American Lifeways, The Settlers’ Lot, Clear-cuts & Conservation, Working the Fields, The Doctor’s Bag, Buried Treasure, Business & Industry, and Into the Woods.
Maps of Jefferson County
Located on the landing of the Main Hallway of the first floor. This exhibit showcases maps of Jefferson County from the 1800s including a bird’s eye view of Brookville, townships within county lines, depiction of old and new boroughs of Brookville, and early settlement of Port Barnett. The exhibit also contains original clock hands from the Jefferson County Courthouse.
Stones and Bones
An award-winning two-gallery exhibit located on the 2nd floor featuring Paleontology (animal and plant fossils) and the Ice Age of Western Pennsylvania. In other words, see a life-sized Woolly Mammoth skull with tusks, prehistoric footprints, fossils, Mastodon tooth, dimetrodon skeleton, and so much more!
Twyford: First Four-Wheel Drive Vehicle
In 1904, a car that could handle snow, mud, and hills was designed and built right here in Brookville, PA at the Twyford Motor Company. The two-seated roadster cost about $1,000, which could not compete with Henry Ford’s Model T at $250. With a lack of buyers, Twyford went out of business after assembling only five or six roadsters.
Located on the first floor, adjacent to the Living on the Land exhibit. The Brookville Manufacturing Company produced farm wagons and other items from 1892 until 1918. This wagon was generously donated to the Jefferson County History Center in 2017 in fantastic condition with original wheels and factory paint.