Museum honors Oakmont doctor
OAKMONT: In the early 1900s, Dr. Thomas R. Kerr often treated patients with heat, using an ultraviolet lamp in his home office.
Today, Dr. Kerr’s heat lamp and other medical instruments remain in his home, recently restored to become the Thomas R. Kerr Memorial Museum.
The museum, at Delaware Avenue and Fourth Street, opens Saturday.
Docents – volunteers knowledgeable about the home and its history – will be in every room and guests will be led on a half-hour tour.
“It’s a wonderful old house built in 1897 and it’s a very nice example of a middle-class professional’s house and a lot of the items in it are original to that time,” said Jan Shoop, chairwoman of the Dr. Thomas R. Kerr Memorial Museum Commission.
Kerr’s only daughter, Virginia Kerr, bequeathed the home to the borough when she died in 1994. Virginia Kerr was born in 1903 and lived in the home all of her life.
She was a school teacher in Oakmont from 1927 to 1968. Mayor Dale Peoples was one of her students.
In 1998, Oakmont formed a commission for the house and, since, the commission has been restoring the home and consulting with interior designers and restorationists.
“We even used Sears 1889 and 1900 catalogs as a reference point,” Shoop said.
Adeline Brown, borough manager, said the borough gave $10,000 to the commission in each of the past three years. That’s been supplemented with about $67,718 in donations and grants, she said.
The three-story home is filled with interesting artifacts such as Virginia Kerr’s “Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button?” game and Kerr’s physician’s ledger with entries such as, “Visit to Child: $1.50.”
In the basement is a chicken coop that Kerr used for the fowl he received as payment for medical services.
While restoring a room on the second floor, the words “Charles F. Sellek April 6, 1900” were found scribbled on the wall behind wallpaper that was removed – a note commission members believe is the moniker of the man who put up the paper.
Shoop said the commission has “really tried to remain true to the 1900s” and is cautious about what artifacts it uses. A few of the items added to the house include an early 1900s microscope, an ornate dining room chandelier and a baby bassinet.
After Saturday’s opening, the museum commission plans to have the museum open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appointment.
“At this point we think it’s worth seeing, but we still have more to do,” Shoop said.
“There’s no reason to leave Oakmont, and this is our bit of culture,” said Kaaren Amodeo, a commission member and borough councilwoman.
Shoop and Amodeo said the commission hopes to rebuild a barn that once stood behind the Kerr home. It also wants to add a gift shop and expand the museum’s hours.
Peoples thinks the Kerr museum will do a lot for Oakmont.
“We’re trying to make it a good community, especially for families, and I think this will bring them in because of the history in it,” he said.
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