'View of Constantinople'

This is a magnified image of part of 'View of Constantinople' by Antoine Ignace Melling. According to the donor, this painting was a gift from Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain, to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Henry Baldwin.

When Henry and Sarah Baldwin first conceived the idea of spending their senior years in a Southern plantation-style mansion just north of (then) Meadville’s city limits, it’s doubtful they could have imagined their 1840s home turned into a museum of national significance.

At 64, the U.S. Supreme Court justice amassed a well-known collection of books and other oddities and had formed a distinguished network of friends to include John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson and none other than former Spanish King Joseph Bonaparte.

Bonaparte, older brother of Napoleon, found himself an expatriate living in Bordentown, New Jersey, after his brother’s downfall — although living comfortably well-off courtesy of his collection of Spanish jewels and art. It is here he befriended and entertained both American and European intellectuals, including but not limited to Henry Baldwin.

According to the Reynolds family, an 1802 Antoine Ignace Melling watercolor of Constantinople was a gift to Baldwin by this friend — a gift that remains just one of the treasures hidden in plain sight in Baldwin’s former home to this day.

On March 29, the Crawford County Historical Society invites the public to a gala and special exhibit of not only this work of art but numerous treasures rarely if ever displayed from the society’s collections. From a NASA Mercury Mission Spacesuit to orders from Gen. George Washington, this special event features countless items with national and international significance.

Many of these artifacts haven’t been displayed in decades, if ever before, and will be exhibited with the necessary context to allow them to be appreciated better than ever before.

The society opens the doors of the Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum from 7 to 10 p.m. March 29 for this gala event, complete with wine by Conneaut Cellars, beer by Voodoo Brewery and hors d’oeuvres by Venango Valley Inn.

This evening is an opportunity to witness just how intertwined Crawford County’s past has been with the history of the nation and beyond. Admission is $40 per person with proceeds used to preserve, acquire and share these and countless other treasures with and for the people of Crawford County.

As an added treat, those in attendance will enjoy a short operatic performance by nationally recognized singer Diane Kalinowski.

Those unable to attend the gala may visit the museum for a two-day special exhibit from noon to 4 p.m. March 30 and 31. Admission to the exhibit is $30 per person for non-members or $15 per person for members of the society.

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