Oviatt House group working to open a museum

by Sue Serdinak

Dec. 18 Richfield Joint Recreation District meeting

Trisha Steiner, secretary of the Oviatt House Incorporated and chair of the organization’s museum committee, said the group has begun turning the Oviatt House into a museum while continuing to work on the restoration of the building.

Steiner said the group joined the American Association for State and Local History and enrolled in the Standards of Excellence Program for History Organizations to help them meet museum standards.

They want to focus on the house, its occupants and the role it played in the Underground Railroad. They hope to open the museum in 2026, which will be the 250th anniversary of the country’s founding.

The group formed the museum development committee and have met with several experts in the field. They have developed a collection management policy, which is fundamental for archiving.

They received a small grant from the Network to Freedom and the Association for the Study of Black American History and a stipend for a University of Akron student to help with research.

“You have done a great job with the house and now with this,” said board member Steve McPeake.

Oviatt House President Judy Bowman asked the board’s approval to proceed with creating a museum. She said the ongoing agreement that Oviatt House has with the board calls only for restoration and maintenance of the house, and they need board approval to make the building into a museum.

Board member Mike Lyons said that the governance committee would review the request along with the existing lease.


Park Director John Piepsny asked the board to consider proposals for sponsorship of the park. He said Cleveland Metroparks and other parks have many sponsors listed in their literature.

“We wouldn’t allow naming of the park or the facilities,” he said.

Piepsny said the sponsorships could help offset a budget deficit.

“I think there is a lot more to be discussed to make sure that we are very particular,’’ said board member Holly Price. “We don’t want someone to sponsor the park. Perhaps something like the landscaping could be sponsored.’’

Added board member Mike Selig, “We need to work out what we would do for a sponsor. We don’t want to take away from the aesthetics of the park.”

Piepsny explained that the operating budget of the park shows a deficit each year, but the Lodge showed a profit of about $50,000 in 2023 with 80 bookings. He said there are already 220 bookings for 2024.

Lyons suggested that the governance and the grant committees discuss this further.

Allocations and grants

The park district filed an application for funding from the state capital fund in 2024.  Selig said funds have been requested to move the Buckeye Trail to the left of the driveway, to improve the landscaping at the entrance, to pay some of the cost of replacing the pedestrian bridge and to improve the parking lot.

Board Chair Anita Gantner thanked Selig for doing a huge amount of work on the request.

Price also worked on a Destination Development grant, which would ensure the park website has the best possible reach.


The board unanimously approved renewing the contract for RecDesk, the online system for registering for events or Lodge rental. The cost is $5,800 per year.

Tree removal

Corey Ringle, president of the Friends of Richfield Heritage Preserve, told the board that a tree is hanging over the Kirby garage and asked if the Friends could help remove it. The board approved the request.


The board did not vote on a resolution to renew the contract of Shari Green as Lodge consultant. Instead, it went into executive session to discuss the employment of a public employee.


The 2024 organizational meeting of the board will be on Jan. 5 at 5 p.m. in Richfield Village Council chambers. The next regular meeting will be Jan. 22 at 6:30 p.m. Richfield Village Council President Sue Ann Philippbar thanked the board for their work this past year. The audience applauded. ∞