For nearly 14 years, Harlem celebrated the city's most famous resident - Oliver Hardy - with a festival in honor of the portly half of one of the most famous comedy duos.
For as many years, city officials collected memorabilia beginning with a box of items found at yard sales, City Manager Jean Dove said.
"It went from a shelf to a table to two tables to showcases," Dove said.
Only in recent years has the collectibles, from pictures and movies to books and toys, had a place to be displayed - the Laurel and Hardy Museum of Harlem.
It took a lot of work from lots of people to make it happen, and those volunteers were honored for their work at a luncheon Thursday.
"The ladies on the committee were a big part of getting the museum to where it is now," said Kathy Ham, head of the city's Historic, Trade and Tourism Department that oversees the museum, which now also functions as a visitor information center.
Harlem Mayor Scott Dean presented certificates of appreciation to museum committee members and volunteers Mayor Pro Tem Robin Root, Bette Sargent, former mayor Shirley Tankersley, Ann Blalock and Linda Caldwell.
The building, formerly the city's post office, was purchased and slightly renovated before a sneak preview opening at the 2001 October Oliver Hardy Festival. On July 15, 2002 - what Dove calls the hottest day of the year but a great day for Harlem - the museum officially opened its doors after more than a year of hard work by volunteers.
"We are proud of this facility, and a dream was fulfilled on that day," Dove said.
The museum is now Harlem's biggest tourist attraction with 233 visitors, representing 22 states and Germany, touring it in December alone.
"Everyone had to work to make this facility what it is," Dean told the volunteers. "We are very thankful and very appreciative of all your hard work."
The museum recently expanded its hours to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Laurel and Hardy movies are shown in a small theater upon request.
Ham said Laurel and Hardy movies are not the only ones shown there. A family movie is shown monthly to a mostly middle-school audience though anyone is welcome and $2 donations are accepted.
"I am excited to ba part of (the museum) and to see the enjoyment when people come in," Hamm said. "I am looking forward to this year. It is going to be a good one for us."
The next movie night is Jan. 30, at 7 p.m., when Radio will be shown. For more information, call 556-0401.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.