Though it might not be as well-known outside the community of Saugerties, the American Legion Museum is celebrating its 30th year anniversary in 2012. The Museum, which honors a long history of Sawyers in service, contains more than 300 artifacts dating back to the mid-1700s.
The Museum is located in the Lamouree-Hackett Post 72 American Legion Hall at 30 John Street in the Village of Saugerties. “Upstairs we have a Museum, in which we have mementoes, souvenirs and items that were used by people from Saugerties who served in every war from the time of the French and Indian war to the present day,” said Bill Payne, the Museum’s co-curator.
Payne said that the Museum serves a number of purposes, including giving local residents an opportunity to commemorate their own family histories. “It provides a repository for people who have these mementoes, and in many cases have no one to pass them on to,” Payne said, “particularly our Greatest Generation – like we sometimes hear from the widows who say they have their husband’s uniform.”
In addition to private donations, the Museum has had its display cabinets filled by groups like the Saugerties Public Library and the Saugerties Historical Society. The cabinets have gotten so full over time that a Technology class from Saugerties High built new cabinets to use for objects from recent wars.
The collection, which Payne said goes by the unofficial name of the Veterans’ History Museum, has proven an invaluable historical archive for young people in and around Saugerties, including Girl Scout troops and high school students who have had a chance to study letters written by soldiers as far back as the Civil War. “We’re sort of the custodians of Civil War history in the Saugerties area,” Payne said, noting that this summer, the Museum will honor those from Saugerties who served in the Civil War, including 88 men who died in battle.
The American Legion Museum is open to the general public only two days each year: Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day, with tours available following ceremonies at Donlon Memorial Park. But if you can’t wait that long, Payne said that the Museum will also open its doors by appointment. All that one needs do is call Payne at (518) 588-5462 or his co-curator Alan Greczynski at (845) 532-3334. “We like to do a guided tour, tying one thing into the next and charting the evolution of history,” Payne said.