Marshall Historical Society

Dorothy McConnell, September 2008

The Musical Museum in Deansboro, New York was a "Marvelous Musical Menagerie," owned and operated by the Sanders family. A unique "Hands on" policy allowed visitors to enjoy a visual smorgasboard.

This wonderful collection began with the purchase of some music boxes from a scrap dealer by Hardie Sanders and his son Arthur. By the mid 1940's there were nickelodeons in the kitchen, music boxes under the beds, a dozen melodeons in the living room, and a garage full of phonographs, while the family car stood outdoors in the snow! Esther Skerritt Sanders, a professional organist and former silent movie pianist, opened the Collection to the public in 1948. She wanted to do more than display old musical instruments in a showcase, and so the Musical Museum was born as a new concept with visitors playing the restored instruments.

The natural beauty of Upstate New York, and the hospitality of the museum staff brought visitors back year after year. Constantly expanding, ever changing , The Musical Museum offered a delightful adventure for young and old.

The Musical Museum was a fun place to go. Busloads of children and adults came there while I was Town Clerk from 1986-1991, where my office was in the foyer of the Musical Museum. Things that crank, things that pump, and things that play - all to make music at the unique Musical Museum in Deansboro, south of Utica, New York.

The Sanders family started collecting things that make music in the 1930's. Mrs. Sanders was a professional organist and Mr. Sanders had talent for repairing old organs and pianos. The two talents combined served to stir the couple's interest in music machines.

In 1948 they opened the museum to hold their collection. Of course, it grew considerably since then; but the basic idea has always been to provide a place where people could not only look, but be involved with the music. "It's the sound of the musical instrument that's important - not the look of it," son Arthur insists.

Arthur and his father "are the brains of the outfit," Mrs. Sanders declared. They are the ones who repair, rebuild, and refurbish the "finds" for their museum.

Many times have I toured the Museum, once with the Brothertown Historical Society; always fascinating. There were 17 rooms filled with different musical instruments coin operated to enjoy your stay.

The little house to the left was Hardie Sanders' "Peanut Hut" where for 20 years Hardie sold Sunday newspapers with an old fashioned popcorn machine, antique wood stove, and old train whistle - while at the same time providing the location for a weekly forum.

There was also an old Lamplighter Antique Shop and antique workshop, where you could bring in an old lamp that was broken for men to repair. Elsie, Arthur's wife, was an artist who painted lampshades. Sharon Gibbons managed the old Lamplighter Shop which opened in 1952. She did the lighting for the Horned Dorset and West End Brewery Tour Building.

Old clock repair was another Old Lamplighter specialty. The repair of mechanical musical instruments such as player pianos, parlor organs and nickelodeons was Arthur's specialty. The museum was open 7 days a week from 10a.m. to 4p.m. from April to December.

By 1992 the business had grown too big for Art and Elsie to handle. The trusted people who were running the museum sold many secured exhibits without Sanders' knowledge and it went down hill from there. There was a law suit by each party and finally, on September 19 & 20, 1998, Brzostek's Auction Service from Phoenix, NY auctioned off the entire place including all the musical instruments. Joan McNamara bouthe the building and in June of 1999 held a banquet for the Brothertown Indians who had come from Wisconsin for a visit. Elizabeth Hinman's 100th Birthday Party was held there. The place is now for rent.

The Sanders were sorry they couldn't save the Musical Museum for their children, but have happy memories of excited visitors and the fantastic music and the work of devoted partners and volunteer can never be forgotten. Our sincere thanks to the Sanders for their expertise and love of music with this trip down Memory Lane.

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