Historical society seeks ownership of McCoy House

LEWISTOWN – The Mifflin County Historical Society is currently in the process of attempting to acquire full ownership of the McCoy House, located in downtown Lewistown.

The McCoy House was the birthplace of Major General Frank Ross McCoy, who served in the United States Army during the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, Bandit War and World War I before retiring in 1938.

The McCoy House has been the official home of the historical society since 1971. The property was gifted to the society, in the wills of Margaretta and Hannah McCoy, the sisters of General McCoy.

Forest K. Fisher, president of the historical society, said the McCoy House opened as a museum in 1972 after an agreement was reached between the society and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

“So, the arrangement was that PHMC would purchase the property. That money would go into the estate of the McCoy sisters. In turn, that money would be given as endowment to the historical society to help maintain the property,” he said.

Fisher said it recently came to their attention the state would be willing to sell the property to the historical society.

“In the earlier 2000s, as the state budgets became squeezed and crunched, all the departments were told to look around and find ways to become economized and PHMC and the Department of General Services came to the conclusion that all of these little perfect museums that (they owned) could be turned back to a management group,” he said.

Fisher said the society hopes to become that management group, but has to go through a series of several steps in order to complete the process.

“There are a set of bureaucratic hoops we need to jump through in order to accomplish this,” he said.

Those steps include having the historical society’s board of directors agree they want to take over ownership and draft a resolution expressing that wish; a step that has been completed. Next, Fisher said the society needs to place a request for interest at the McCoy House.

“We would place this plaque on our property that asks if there is anyone in the community interested in acquiring (McCoy House) for the purpose of the museum,” he said.

That notice must remain in place for 30 days, and Fisher said they plan to post it sometime in September. Additionally, they need to have an appraisal done of the McCoy House and get letters of endorsement from their local state representatives and one from a state senator. Finally, the Pa. Department of General Services must complete the process of drafting a “white paper.”

“That is done through the Legislature. (It is a document) that says, here is the cost we’ve put in, here is the cost the society has put in, and here’s what it would cost (the government) if the society takes it over. Then the legislature takes that and digests it and uses that in their consideration, whether or not they are going to pass this legislation,” he said.

In order for the process to be complete, a bill would have to pass through both the state House and Senate and be signed into law by the governor.

If the bill is signed into law, the society would maintain the property as a museum. However, that process may take another year.

“If we do retain it, part of the agreement is that it remains a museum type facility in perpetuity,” Fisher said. “What happens down the road if some future board of directors can’t finance it? That’s an ‘if’ I can’t answer.”

Despite the lengthy process involved, Fisher said the society feels it’s their obligation to see that the McCoy House remains a museum.

“Our society has some obligation to pursue that and give it our best shot,” he said. “Take over the McCoy House and manage it as we have been.”