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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Fort Thomas Coffee Displays City's History

The history of Fort Thomas is on display at Fort Thomas Coffee.

For a dose of Fort Thomas history, grab a drink at Fort Thomas Coffee. There you can browse a special display courtesy of the Fort Thomas Military and Community History Museum.

Lori Valentine, owner of Fort Thomas Coffee, contacted Debbie Buckley, the city's Renaissance Manager and Economic Development Director, offering up space. "We grabbed the opportunity to not only promote the sesquicentennial but also showcase some of the treasures we have at the museum," says Deanna Beineke, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Fort Thomas Military and Community History Museum.

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After looking at the space available, it was determined that photographs and small artifacts from the museum would work best on the walls. "Since the Fort Thomas Military Reservation played such a large part in shaping the city, we also wanted to include some of its history, so, again, photographs and small artifacts were chosen," Beineke says. "We selected photos from the centennial celebration 50 years ago showing as many people as possible in hopes that customers would look at them and perhaps find themselves or friends and family members from that time period."

Fort Thomas resident Nancy Schneider was asked to select some of her more contemporary photos showing people and events around town in recent years.

What can you find on the coffee shop walls?

"The original program from the pageant, the commemorative plate and the souvenir tie all came from our archives," Beineke says. "We also dug around in the archives and found football and basketball programs from significant games—the first basketball game in the 'new' gym, a program from Highland High School's appearance in the state Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament, and an early football game in David Cecil Stadium."

Artifacts from the fort and items found around the museum property and the Armory during a student archeology session several summers ago also are on display.

"One small section of photos is devoted to the fire, which destroyed the original high school building in January 1962," Beineke says. "As noted in the explanation accompanying that section, it shows the devastation but the way the entire community rallied and got the school back up and running at full schedule just demonstrates how special Fort Thomas is." 

The front windows in Fort Thomas Coffee are split: One side is devoted to the city, represented by a letter jacket and cheerleader sweater from HHS. The other side is devoted to the fort, with uniform jackets from the Spanish-American War and the Korean War, and a portrait of Samuel Woodfill from WWI. "We wanted to pay homage to the three Medal of Honor recipients with ties to Fort Thomas, one from each of the wars represented," Beineke says. "All of the window items came from the museum collection."

Beineke is well-versed in Fort Thomas history and community, having lived in the city all her life. She graduated from Highlands High School in 1965, and met her husband, Jim Beineke, in 4th grade at Moyer Elementary. They've been married nearly 49 years. A retired English teacher, Beineke's second major in college was history. "I have been involved as an occasional volunteer at the museum for several years, but became more closely associated with it about three years ago when I suggested and curated an exhibit honoring our Vietnam veterans," she says. "I was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors for the museum last fall. The board wanted to take the opportunity of the city's sesquicentennial celebration to raise the profile of the museum so more of our residents could visit the hidden treasure right here in Tower Park and perhaps become more involved in its operation."

Valentine says the reaction to the display has been fantastic. "The community has been really enjoying it, and I think it really solidifies what a special place Fort Thomas is," she says. "It has been so fun to see folks walking in with their grandchildren and pointing out pictures on the walls of themselves as children. It's also very powerful to me to think that my children will be in their 60s when Fort Thomas does this again at 200!"

For Beineke, the display at Fort Thomas Coffee reiterates what Fort Thomas means to many. "Fort Thomas is a very special place," she says. "It certainly isn't perfect, but there is a spirit here that draws many of us back even if we have moved away for a while. It has been called 'The City of Beautiful Homes,' but there is much more to it than that. Couples want to move here for the excellent schools and a safe place to raise their children, and there is a reason for that. This city has rich traditions and high expectations and we need to know how we got here in order to make sure we maintain those traditions and achieve those expectations. The Fort Thomas Military and Community History Museum houses a large collection of papers and artifacts that document how we began, how we grew, how the city changed and how it continues. We have told and plan to continue to tell the stories of events and people that have had an impact in the world. Some of the stories are sensational, some are not. Some stories are tragic, some are joyful. They all need to be told and remembered. If we know where we came from, we can better chart where we are going." 

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