Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fairport Harbor Historical Society -- Volunteers Making a Difference

On March 2, 1945, a group of public-spirited citizens representing all civic, social, and cultural groups from the Village of Fairport met and organized the Fairport Harbor Historical Society.  Their initial goal may have been to save the Grand River Lighthouse, which had fallen on hard times since being decommissioned in 1925 after a century of use.  To this end their objective of establishing a marine museum in the lighthouse keeper's dwelling, rehabilitating the building for that purpose, and preserving the lighthouse as a historic monument became a reality on March 17, 1945.  By summer of that year, one room of the Fairport Marine Museum was opened and under way.  George Gedeon, president; George Henry, first vice president; E.H. Brown, second vice president; Lillian Luthanen, secretary; Irene Radike, treasurer; trustees Carroll Mitchell, John W. Laczko, Rev. Fr. Fabian Hoffman, Alma Saari and Joseph Guraly were elected.  The first membership role had 148 members.  On July 2, 1946, the Marine Museum was formally dedicated in a simple ceremony and three rooms were open to the public.  The FHHS was charged with preserving and perpetuating the historic sentiment of Fairport and the Great Lakes region.  In June, 1952 the Village of Fairport under the leadership of Mayor Arthur Ritari partnered to gain permanent title to the lighthouse for the express purpose of maintaining the historical society efforts.  Sixty-seven years have passed since that first calling.  A new group of volunteer officers and trustees hand down that which was handed down to them.  The membership role today totals 220, individuals and families.  The three displays rooms still contain navigational instruments, USLSS / USCG artifacts, uniforms, a lighthouse lifesaving car, foghorns, third order lens as well as marine charts and primary source photos.  The collection has grown to the point where displays are now thematically presented and rotated annually.  Civil War and War of 1812 collection items will be featured in 2013.  The second floor of the keeper's dwelling last housed a curator in 1991.  Today it is used as a library, archival collection room, and society meeting room.  The marine museum remains open to the public from late May through mid-September.  School and private tours as well as unique programming events remain core to the society's mission.

The Grand River Lighthouse at Fairport holds a special place in maritime history.  It is the first lighthouse to be saved from the wrecking ball.  It is the first marine museum in the U.S. situated on a lighthouse reservation.  Finally since 1945 it has been only volunteers who have taken care of Lake County's iconic National Historic Landmark.  No paid members have ever been on staff for the FHHS.  In 2012, approximately seventeen volunteers made a difference.  They donated over 4000 hours to caring for the lighthouse tower and keeper's dwelling.  Will 2013 be the  year you make the difference?

Charter Members Fairport Harbor Historical Society as of March 23, 1945

George I. Gedeon                    Hazel J. Farmer
Frieda Winchell                       Jane Elin Farmer
John W. Laczko                       J.V. Butterfield
Eero M. Liimakka                   Winona K. Zapp
Andrew H. Kraynik                Andrew Haynes
Maynard Hungerford             Mrs. Andrew Haynes
Rev. Fabian Hoffman             Elijah H. Brown
Jimmy Galm                           Lillian W. Luthanen
Carroll Mitchell                      Mrs. B.F. Harris
Irene Radike                           B.F. Harris
Pearl E. Killinen                    Robert Orosz
Matt Killinen Sr.                   Mrs. Andrew Haynes
Bernard L. Farmer                Mr. and Mrs. John Zimny

Contact Information-
Fairport Harbor Marine Museum and Lighthouse
129 Second Street
Fairport Harbor, Ohio 44077

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