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Chester County Press

Walk through Oxford's history at the Arts Alliance

10/25/2016 11:00AM ● By J. Chambless

A crowd lines up for a showing at one of Oxford's three movie theaters.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

You might not realize how much history Oxford has, but after spending a while examining “Art, Architecture and Archives,” the new exhibit at the Oxford Arts Alliance, you are certain to learn things you never knew about this little town. Through Nov. 11, the Oxford Area Historical Association is using the gallery space to spotlight pieces of the town's past – photos, news clippings, and often really fun objects – to create a trip back through time.

In the center of the gallery are the cash register, paperwork and display case from Simon's Men's and Boy's Outfitter, the clothing business that once occupied the gallery space. It's a homecoming for these old objects, and it's satisfying to see the huge wooden register, display stands and an unworn boy's jacket from the 1940s or 1950s with its original store price tag.

But everywhere you turn, there are fun discoveries to be made.

There's a large display board with drills and augers made at the Slack Auger Works, and movie posters, a ticket sign and “Standing Room Only” sign from the three movie theaters that once operated in town. You'll also be surprised to discover the 1890s photos and posters from the horse racing track that once held the Oxford Fair. You might recognize some family members and ancestors in the display for the Oxford Rotary Club's musical productions that ran from the 1930s to 1950s which seemed to feature just about everyone in town in one costume or another.

There's a table devoted to bluegrass legend Ola Belle Reed, as well as an overview of the history of The Lincoln University. And you might get lost in the fascinating news clippings about the 1931 project to move the Ware Mansion across Route 472 to its current location. It was a real technological marvel.

There's a re-covered wooden soap box racer frame from the downhill races that were once held on Lincoln Street through the 1950s. The back wall has paintings by local artist C.X. Carlson and his contemporaries. The folk-art painting of the heart of Oxford by Louise Bauman is particularly fun, with a cascading, odd perspective that tries to squeeze in every storefront.

There's a recreation of an ore-hauling cart once used along the Oxford Railroad, and the actual Coach Street sign that stood at the Wilson, Pugh and Wilson carriage factory. There are medals from past military members, a display case of the many incarnations of the Oxford Hall building in the heart of town, and early postcards of Third Street that have been enlarged to show fascinating details.

You'll find some fine examples of the stoneware pottery made by R.J. Grier in the late 1800s, as well as medals in track and field won by Oxford barber and athlete Hans Olson, information about the Peach Bottom Railroad, Bicknell's Pool, the Oxford Caramel Factory … and on and on.

You'll need an hour to properly examine everything, but you'll be rewarded with a deeper appreciation of the fabric of Oxford, past and present. Go and reminisce, or go to discover something you never knew.

“Art, Architecture and Archives” continues through Nov. 11 at the Oxford Arts Alliance (38 S. Third St., Oxford). Gallery hours are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Visit for more information.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email

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