The Robert J. Harris Endowment of the Historical Society of Dunkirk, NY, was established with the help of the North County Community Foundation with funding designated to assist the Society in carrying out its mission to preserve the history and historical artifacts of the city of Dunkirk.

When the Society considered starting an endowment fund there was little doubt in whose honor it should be named.  Robert J. Harris (1932 -2018) was an outstanding community member whose dedication to the preservation of Dunkirk’s history was unequaled. Those of us associated with the museum knew him for his constant interest in local history, his storytelling abilities, and for his good natured friendship.

Bob was one of the charter members of the Historical Society of Dunkirk, helping in its organization in 1973 and in its acquiring of its charter from the New York State Department of Education.  He was elected the Society’s first treasurer, a position he held until 1980. He was elected the Society’s second president in that year.

Bob worked vigorously to improve and expand on the Society’s goals and accomplishments, including participation in committees  that erected a monument to the coming of the first train to Dunkirk in 1851 (1976); that put the Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse on the National Historic Register (1978-79); that created a plaque honoring Sgt. Thomas Horan as Dunkirk’s only Medal of Honor recipient (1979); that created the ALCO/Brooks display at the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds (1989).  Bob was also instrumental in procuring the present building it inhabits to serve as a museum.

In addition Bob understood the importance of instructing younger generations in the history of the city, presenting historical programs in elementary buildings of the Dunkirk Public School System and arranging for a special program with James Getty reenacting the life of President Abraham Lincoln  (1988).

Bob became City Historian in 2010, serving in that capacity until 2016.

Please consider joining us in guaranteeing the future of our museum and its mission by donating to the Robert J. Harris Endowment of the Dunkirk Historical Society.  Please click here:

Bob Harris displays the painting of the first locomotive’s arrival in the city commissioned by the Society, stands on the restored Locomotive #444, sits with Abraham Lincoln re-enactor James Getty at a banquet, and mans a Historical Society booth at a train show.