July 23, 2014

Elyria
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History society aims for new center

ELYRIA — The Lorain County Historical Society is making progress toward its $1.6 million goal to fund an ambitious project aimed at creating a countywide historical center, said Historical Society Executive Director Bill Bird.
Bird said the society is about $400,000 short of the goal, which will fund the purchase and renovation of the oldest house on Washington Avenue. “We are going to develop a museum inside the house,” Bird said. “We have raised about 75 percent of the funds we need. It’s about increasing knowledge of our heritage.”
The house, built in 1857, once housed Horace Starr, who founded a department store that Bird said was the 1860s version of Macy’s. The plan is to purchase the Starr house and surrounding property at 284 Washington Ave.
Bird said renovations will include repainting and renovating the property, adding new equipment and installing an elevator. Part of the house will also serve as historical society headquarters with computers and other office equipment. The current historical society headquarters will remain open as a house museum focusing on Elyria’s heritage.
The museum will remain part of the county historical society but may be operated by the Elyria Historical Association, a new group trying to increase its membership base in Elyria.
So far, the society has raised an estimated $1.2 million, including from members and from the Elyria Rotary Club. Bettcher Industries also matched $150,000 in grants.
Bird said the new center will initially be staffed by current historical center employees and by volunteers, although more staff members may be hired depending on how many people visit the center.
Bird estimates it will be another year-and-a-half before all funding is raised and the building is ready to house the museum and historical society headquarters.
Contact Ben Norris at 329-7119 or bnorris@chroniclet.com.

071807history.jpgSteve Manheim / Chronicle
The proposed location of the Lorain County Historical Society is just north of the Elyria Library, at 284 Washington Ave.