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Boal Mansion Museum Society Vice President John Thompson can’t offer timetable for reopening

The Boal Mansion in Boalsburg has closed for the season a few weeks early but the Boal Society says the legal woes of its CEO won’t change the mission.
The Boal Mansion in Boalsburg has closed for the season a few weeks early but the Boal Society says the legal woes of its CEO won’t change the mission. CDT file photo

John Thompson had an announcement.

“We are still here,” the Boal Mansion Museum Society vice president said Tuesday.

Thompson wants people to know that the historic home of the Boalsburg founding family is not going anywhere.

The society sent out messages Saturday, explaining the cancellation of the Columbus Ball and the early closing for the season in light of the recent legal troubles of Christopher Lee, a Harris Township supervisor, CEO of the museum and trustee of the Boal estate.

Lee was indicted two weeks ago on federal charges of child exploitation and child pornography. He is being held at the Columbia County Prison. Bail was denied and a trial date has been set for Dec. 1.

But Thompson said that, despite the “closed for the season” sign that greets visitors to the mansion and Columbus Chapel, the mission of the society, to preserve the history and educate the public, has not changed.

The property is still being maintained, he said. The mansion’s aging roof still will be replaced.

“The museum has been open since 1952,” Thompson said, claiming that the Boal estate could not abandon more than 60 years of showing the period home and the chapel that came from the Columbus family after Col. Theodore Davis Boal married into that family tree in the 1890s.

Boal’s wife, Mathilde, inherited the chapel and brought it to Boalsburg in 1909.

While the doors are now closed, that came just a few weeks early. The museum is traditionally open from April to the end of October. It is a key part of local celebrations of history, such as the Boalsburg Memorial Day events and the Fourth of July.

The property also remains the home of several tenants. The main house includes three separate dwellings. Lee lived in his family’s longtime quarters, while the servants’ and farmers’ homes are rented out, along with the carriage house and another cottage.

Just when the doors will reopen is not known, Thompson said. He was careful with his words as some decisions are not up to the society, remaining in the hands of the family.

However, the Boal Barn Playhouse on the property may reopen with a new drama company for summer stock theater.

The Boal Barn Players signed a lease with Lee, though their plans are clouded by an unresolved lawsuit. Earlier this year, Lee filed suit for back rent against the previous tenants, the State College Community Theater, who had moved out and now stage productions at Mount Nittany Middle School and the State Theatre. The status of the lawsuit is unclear.

Thompson said that the museum may be contacted for help with history or genealogy projects via email, and he hopes to see people able to appreciate the property’s beauty and connection with the past in the spring.

“It is a real gem,” he said.

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