Historic building to be converted to museum

The future home of the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum at 66 Kingsboro Ave. in Gloversville is shown on Thursday. The sale of the building to David Karpeles from the Taylor Made Group closed on Tuesday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE — A historic church building on Kingsboro Avenue that served as corporate office space for many years, officially changed hands this week and will soon be converted into a museum for historical manuscripts.

David Karpeles, CEO and president of the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums, confirmed on Wednesday that he has purchased the former home of Taylor Made Group’s corporate headquarters at 66 Kingsboro Ave., planning to open a new museum in the building.

“We just closed escrow yesterday,” Karpeles said Wednesday.

Founded in 1983, the Karpeles Manuscript Library is the world’s largest private holder of original historical manuscripts and documents on display in 14 museums housed in historic buildings across the country. The city’s soon to be opened museum will be the 15th location in operation.

Karpeles said he does not expect to make any modifications to the building, planning only to install exhibit cases and light standards.

“We are going to be sending a representative next Wednesday who will try to get things in order to start our museum,” Karpeles said.

Karpeles said he was not specifically looking for a location in the city when he came across the 66 Kingsboro Ave. building, he just happened upon the property while exploring options for future museum locations.

“I just happened to find a building in Gloversville and thought this is just a spectacular building,” Karpeles said. “Most of our museums are in spectacular buildings, so this will be another one.”

Taylor Made Group President and Chief Operating Officer Jason Pajonk said the company put the Kingsboro Avenue building on the market within the past year after deciding to move employees from that location into the company’s local production and warehouse buildings.

“We shifted the people that were there into our two other operations in Gloversville with a view of really bringing them closer to the operations as opposed to being in a separate building,” Pajonk said Friday.

Pajonk added that Karpeles’ plans for the historic building “seems like a perfect fit,” looking forward to visiting the museum himself once open.

“On a personal level I think it’s great, any investment in Gloversville is terrific for the community,” Pajonk said.

Karpeles said that after making an offer on the building he learned of the location’s proximity to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, roughly an hour away, and the presence of historic Parkhurst Field in the city, deciding that a permanent baseball exhibit will be a perfect fit for the museum.

The exhibit will include a description of the game from 1839, Babe Ruth’s 1920 contract to play for the New York Giants and original applications submitted by several cities seeking to join the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs in the late 19th century including Cincinnati, Cleveland and Milwaukee.

Additionally, Karpeles said materials are regularly rotated through the system of museums with a new exhibit displayed at each location every four months. Due to the size of the collection Karpeles said it will likely be four to five years before an exhibit is repeated in the city.

The rotating collection includes Mark Twain’s original writings, a major archive of the personal papers of Eva Peron the wife of Argentine President Juan Peron more commonly known as Evita, personal materials from the Wright brothers related to their invention of the airplane, Albert Einstein’s famous energy formula and more.

Karpeles said the collection includes important documents and manuscripts from famous figures in the fields of science, literature, religion, history and art. While the exhibits can be enjoyed by everyone, Karpeles said he and his wife Marsha founded the museum to inspire young people.

“We feel that by showing them original exhibits of famous people, not just pictures in a history book, this might instill a sense of purpose so they go off and do great things for the world,” Karpeles explained.

Karpeles said he and his wife began collecting original documents and manuscripts after seeing the impact such materials can have on young people while on a family trip to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in California with their two children who were 10 and 11 at the time.

Karpeles said initially the children weren’t interested in the exhibits, curious only about when it would be time to go home, but eventually they were drawn in by original writings from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, exclaiming about how similar the former presidents’ handwriting was to their own down to the mistakes that had been crossed out on the papers.

“They had never been interested in science or literature or history,” Karpeles said. “To actually look at these things they’ve seen in history books at school, these were the original papers famous people touched….looking at the original that’s what made it so special.”

Karpeles said he learned from the library curator of the availability of original documents for private purchase through auctions and decided to try to acquire a few items that might interest his family. After successfully purchasing a few he showed his children, who wanted to show their friends, who then wanted to show their parents. The interest in seeing the pieces spread through his community in Santa Barbara and he decided to display the pieces publicly.

Following the opening of his first museum, Karpeles continued collecting documents and manuscripts, going on to open additional museums across the country wanting to share the important works.

Karpeles said plans for the new museum are still underway, hoping to open a small temporary exhibit in the near future. He noted that all Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums offer free admittance to allow as many interested people as possible to view the collection and once open, hours at 66 Kingsboro Ave. will be daily from 1 to 4 p.m.

“We may be able to open just after we set it up next week,” Karpeles added.