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Today's Family Magazine

Lake County History Center has been preserving and researching local history for 83 years

By Nina Light Polien

An excursion to the Lake County History Center may represent a trip down Memory Lane for longtime Lake County residents.  Their friends who are newer to the area will also find much to appreciate within the walls of this local gem.

“This is not a typical county museum,” says Amy Kapostasy, director of History Center.  “Anybody would find value in the exhibits here.  We tell the local history, but we also try to tie it into regional, Ohio or national history, so visitors can see the place that event or person held in a bigger picture.  It’s not just Lake County artifacts in glass cases.”

The organization, which is now in its 83nd year, is dedicated to preserving and interpreting Lake County’s history.  Its current 13-room museum holds permanent and rotating exhibits.  The permanent collection includes more than 3,000 family records, more than 15,000 photographs, about 3,000 published library materials and an archival collection representing families, businesses, clubs, associations, churches and schools.

Visitors enjoy "The Garfields: The Next Generation," which tells the story of Ohio-born President James Garfield’s widow and sons, and Blue Coats Room Display, which honors Lake County’s first responders. Recently the Daughters of the American Revolution have items on display.

A current special exhibit concentrates on the 1940s and has been a hit with senior citizens.
“We’ve reconstructed a 1940s kitchen with a number of artifacts,” Kapostasy says.  “The exhibit includes a Maytag wringer washing machine, which was brand new to many homes in that era.”

Also on display are a Hallicrafter television set and a 1947 Philco radio.  A CD that plays radio programs from the 1940s is positioned nearby to make it sound like broadcasts are coming directly from the old-time radio.  Educational videos enhance several other aspects of the exhibit, as well.

Another popular exhibit is the Magical Musical Machines with working music boxes on display from the International Music Box Society.

In addition to functioning as a museum, Lake County History Center serves as a resource for genealogists and research buffs.

“If they’re interested in doing research, they can make an appointment with the research team” Kapostasy says.  “It could be family information or another topic.  People often ask about schools in Lake County because they’re either retired teachers or their parent was a teacher. People also research Little Mountain; that whole community had a life of its own.”

The center presents educational programs to groups of all ages, either onsite or at another venue. Senior centers and organizations often collaborate with the Lake County History Center on events that include a presentation, guided tour of the exhibits and lunch. Discussion topics may be tailored to the group’s interest or selected from established subjects. Among the most popular themes are Marvelous Mansions, Scandals and Mansions, Remarkable Ladies of Lake County and Freedom’s Journey: The Underground Railroad.

Established in 1938, the Lake County History Center originally cared for Lawnfield, President Garfield’s home from 1876 to 1881 along with preserving Lake County history.  In 1982, the U.S. National Park Service assumed control of Lawnfield, and Lake County History Center moved to Shadybrook, which, at one time, was the Little Mountain summer home of Arthur D. Baldwin. Arthur's daughter Margot is an emeritus member of the board of directors.

In 2005, the organization purchased its current building, which operated as the Lake County Home until 2003.  It is located in Painesville Township, next to Riverside High School.
Later this spring the History Center is excited to be opening their newly renovated event barn.  It is a beautiful, unique venue to make your own history!  Call the History Center today to reserve your date!

When the History Center reopens after the pandemic, normal operating hours will be Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 pm.  Admission is $5 for individuals and $8 for guided tours, which must be arranged in advance.  Children 5 and under are free.  Prices for group events vary based on the program.

Visit lakehistorycenter.org or call (440) 639-2945 for more info.

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