Hinckley Historical Society launches new era following pandemic

by Chris Studor

Every home has a story to tell and, in most respects, the modest 1846 white and black trimmed Greek Revival house located on the southeast corner of Center and Ridge roads wouldn’t appear that much different.

That is, of course, until a group of visitors is spotted on the home’s front porch one afternoon, posing for photos and donning hats and other wardrobe accessories seemingly from another place and time.

That’s just about the time the realization strikes most passersby: the walls of this home not only tell the story of the families who have called it home over the past 175 years, but to a greater degree, they recount the history of an entire community that has grown up around it.

Following two years of closed doors and inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the building, which is owned by the township, was reopened to the public this month as the headquarters of the Hinckley Historical Society.

Preserving the past

Inside the two-story structure lies a treasure trove of Hinckley artifacts collected from the township’s earliest days to the present, with each room presenting its own slice of Hinckley history.

Through the back entrance, guests enter a completely furnished kitchen reflecting the cooking implements today’s adults would have found in their grandparents’ kitchens. To the left of the kitchen, is the library/archive room boasting a large collection of historical photos, newspaper clippings, journals and other assorted memorabilia, including records of Hinckley’s first residents.

The center of the home is outfitted with a variety of historical items, including those that once belonged to American Indians and the area’s early settlers and also features memorabilia collected from previous township celebrations.

The front of the building contains a replica of a typical one room school house filled with old-fashioned desks, slate chalk boards and even a teacher’s desk, where a mannequin is dressed in clothing that once would have been worn by a traditional school marm. On the home’s second floor, an entire room has been dedicated to the Worden family whose home in the Hinckley Metroparks was the first home donated to the historical society.

Other upstairs rooms include a clothing room containing shelves of hats, dresses, coats and lace-adorned handmade baby clothes worn by early settlers. It is also furnished with a rope bed that was relocated from the Worden House, which has been torn down in the years since being donated to the township.

Ushering in a new era

The historical society hosted an official open house and dedication ceremony on July 17 as representatives from the Letha E. House Foundation were on hand to dedicate a plaque in recognition of the home.

The historical society also launched its monthly meeting series on July 9, hosting its first guest speakers following the museum’s closure in the spring of 2020. Those speakers, Gayle Foster and Amber Dalakas, hosted a presentation on Chippewa Lake Amusement Park, which drew a large crowd.

The duo presented a slide show of the park, which was once a popular destination for fishing, swimming, picnics and more. The park grew rapidly at the start of the 20th century as the Cleveland and Southwestern Interurban electric trains transported as many as 40,000 visitors to the park for Sunday excursions and company picnics. Families from the city also rented cabins for the summer.

For most of its’ history, Chippewa Lake Park was operated by the Parker Beach family. Many of those who visited recall spending warm summer days spent at the beach, riding the amusement park rides, including the famous Bug and Rocket Cars which flew over the lake. Adults may still be able to hear the sounds of big bands which entertained at the ballroom for many years.

Chippewa Lake is now owned by the State of Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Planning for the future

The society is preparing for a public open house to reacquaint the community with its past on Sunday, Aug. 14, from 1-4 p.m. Free ice cream by Celeste Ice Cream will be served during the open house from 1:30-2 p.m. There will also be door prizes and a coloring contest. The event is free and open to the public.

The Historical Society also has planned a year-long program of events to celebrate its reopening, including three additional open houses on Wednesday, Sept. 7; Sunday, Oct. 2; and Sunday, Oct. 16. All open houses will take place from 1-4 p.m. and volunteers are needed.

Dave Manley, president of the Hinckley Historical Society, said the club also plans to launch a major fundraising event this November to help offset the costs of maintaining the house.

Also serving on the board is Vice-President Emma Schulte, Treasurer Pat Fordosi as treasurer and Planning/Programming Director Charles Gibson. ∞