The State Center Historical Society evolved out of efforts to save a piece of State Center’s history. In 1989, an important piece of State Center’s history was ready to be auctioned off. Watson’s Grocery Store, both the building and its contents, were to be placed on the auction block after the death of Florence Watson.
William Watson had established Watson’s Grocery Store back in 1885. A fire destroyed the original building, but a new building was constructed in 1895. This building, with its shelves, bins, and counters, would remain almost unchanged during its years of operation. In 1981, Florence Watson closed the store, locking the doors and leaving everything as it was. Florence died eight years later in 1989.
News that the heirs were going to sell this State Center landmark moved the community to establish a committee to save Watson’s Grocery and to turn it into a museum. Local citizens, organizations, and businesses pledged enough money to purchase the store and most of its contents at the auction. The committee now owned Watson’s Grocery Store. This committee, along with area volunteers, cleaned and restored the store. On October 19, 1989, Watson’s Grocery Store once again opened, this time as an early Twentieth Century grocery store museum.
The State Center Historical Society was formed to maintain and operate the Watson’s Grocery Store Museum. The Society works to secure grants and donations to improve Watson’s Grocery Store Museum and to acquire other historic properties. It operates as a part of the State Center Development Association. Washington Township School #6 was acquired in 2002; in 2003, the country schoolhouse was moved to State Center’s Main Street and restored. The Sheppler Building was donated to the State Center Historical Society in 2005, and the Sheppler’s Barbershop portion was turned into a museum. The State Center Historical Society now operates all three-museum properties; the Washington Center Schoolhouse and Sheppler’s Barbershop Museum are available for touring, along with Watson’s Grocery Store Museum.
The Watson’s Grocery Store Museum is open from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from May 1 through September 30 or by appointment year round. The Washington Center Schoolhouse and Sheppler’s Barbershop Museum are open by appointment only.
Admission to all three sites is free and available by calling 641-483-2458, 641-483-2110, or 641-483-3002 to make an appointment. The State Center Historical Society welcomes new members, volunteers, and donations to help us preserve and share our community’s history.
President / Chairperson – Mike Riemenschneider
Vice President / Vice-Chairperson – Jim Figgins
Secretary – Jeff Merrill
Treasurer – Everett Halsted