When Gail Fales and Bobbie Moyers were taking a walk one day, they were discussing the rich history of Conneaut Lake and wondered why the borough had no historical museum like other towns did.
They stopped to visit George Rutherford and inquired what he thought. Was there enough interest to think about starting a historical society?
The call went out to a group of people the trio thought may be interested in forming a society.
The answer was a resounding “yes”.
The trio became three of the charter members of the organization and, with the exception of George Rutherford, who passed away in 2018, have remained active. They were a pivotal part of our first Board of Directors.
That was in late 1998. By mid-June of 1999, the Conneaut Lake Area Historical Society was a reality. Through the generosity of Attorney Bill Gregg, who donated his expertise and legal skills, we achieved our non-profit status. Shortly thereafter, we applied and received our 501-c, the federal designation to allow all donations to be tax exempt. Our logo was designed by Cassandra Hilton, whose family has deep roots in Conneaut Lake
We met for several months at local churches and a funeral home before we made our new meeting home at the Conneaut Lake Park Fire Hall. The fire department generously allowed us to have our board meetings and general meetings at their facility free of charge.
Initially we met at Hotel Conneaut for our monthly programs during the summer, but when the park experienced some problems, we chose to make the fire hall our year round meeting place. It was a wonderful site, but in 2020, due to the fire hall closing, we had to relocate and are currently holding our monthly programs and general meetings at the Sportsmen’s Club.
As soon as we were formed, we began receiving artifacts and it soon became evident we needed to find a place to call home, a home where we could display the many artifacts we were quickly amassing.
The Long Range Committee, headed at that time by Hale Jenkins, came up with a list of 15 potential sites for consideration. We listed the pros and cons of each and determined the most feasible one was the old Community Hall, owned by the borough, but for the most part, sitting idle. One portion was used as a police station and the gymnasium used occasionally by organizations.
Council was prepared to demolish the facility and the society approached them with the idea of leasing the building to the society. After several months of negotiations, we entered into a lease agreement for 10 years, at a cost of $1 a year with the option to renew.
We opened our new home in spring of 2003. With a $25,000 grant through the efforts of Sen. Bob Robbins, we were able to do some major remodeling, including lowering the ceiling to preserve heat and installing new wiring. Other grants obtained by Rep. John Evans included $5,000 to obtain a microfilm machine and $10,000 for renovations have allowed us to continue to make improvements.
As we continued to make the improvements, we decided we wanted to make it our permanent home and negotiated with Borough Council to have it deeded to us. They graciously agreed with the stipulation that should we choose to move or disband, the building ownership reverts back to the borough. We cannot sell it, nor can we lease to anyone else.
We are elated with our home and are happy to show off not only the building, but our heritage as well.
With the help of many volunteers, including our founders cleaning the bathroom, we have updated and improved the building.
In addition to all of the serious work we’ve done with the building, displays and archives, we’ve found time to have lots of fun and fellowship.
Now, in our third decade of operation, we are thankful for the community support and proud to consistently maintain a membership of about 350.