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Local museum named one of the "Most Unique Roadside Businesses"

By NICOLE PITT

RICHFIELD SPRINGS, N.Y. (WKTV) - An unusual local tourist attraction is gaining national attention online. The Petrified Creatures Museum of Natural History ranks as one of the top Unique Roadside Businesses in America by CNBC.

The Petrified Creatures Museum was founded by Frank Kirschner in 1934. Stella Mlecz and her husband bought the place in 1972. Stella has been running the museum since her husband passed away 16 years ago.

"We were driving by. I'm a real estate broker and have been for 40 years and it was for sale way back in the 70's. So we stopped to list it, listed it, came back the next day and bought it," said Mlecz.

"The museum is here because of the fossils," said Mlecz. "It's part of the Hamilton Group and the Nedrow group. It runs about 600 feet wide by about 1500 feet deep. There are silurian and devonian fossils."

Visitors can dig for fossils or buy any of the ones in the shop. "The shop is unique in the fact that it's got unique fossils from all over the world, minerals and rocks from all over the world," said Mlecz.

Many call the museum on Route 20 a piece of Americana. "We're not big and flashy," said Michael Vesely, a Museum Trustee. "There's no bright lights and flashing. It's all just real."

Stella was surprised but pleased to hear the museum was featured on several national websites based off of an article on cnbc.com. "I think it's wonderful especially since the museum is for sale and I hope some wonderful person wants to comes and buy it because I'm getting old and I need to retire."

Until then Stella will keep the doors open, ready for young explorers who are looking for a piece of history to take home. "Many times they bring their own tools but if they don't we lend them a set and tell them how to do it. They come away with something," said Mlecz. "If they don't, it's because they haven't tried."

Vesely has been helping out at the museum since Stella and her husband bought the place. He's become an expert on the fossils and looks forward to helping visitors learn more about their find. "The real thrill is to be able to know what it is," said Vesely. "You can come in and we can show you in the book what it is. Every kid finds fossils but being able to identify them - that's the uniqueness."

Most of the visitors come to the museum after seeking it out or seeing a brochure at another attraction. Roadside business has dwindled since Interstate 88 opened.

The museum also features large "life-sized" dinosaurs on the grounds and several smaller ones are scattered around.

Some of the most unique fossils someone has found at the museum is a couple of teeth from a devonian fish. That find is now on display in a museum in Pennsylvania.

The fossils found on the grounds date back 390 million years.

The Petrified Creatures Museum of Natural History will close for the season on Labor Day. Admission is $9 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-11 and children under 4 are free. The museum is open from 10-5.

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