The year was 1938. The man was Laurence H. Norton. Norton's idea was to create a Lake County chapter of the Western Reserve Historical Society in order to preserve the James A. Garfield presidential homestead. Joined by a group of Lake County citizens, Norton founded the Lake County Historical Society that same year. The Garfield home, donated in 1936 to the Western Reserve Historical Society had been in state of disrepair and lacking in local management. Both concerns were now remedied. The home had a caretaker, public viewing was now a reality, and a future vision was taking shape. Dr. Eric Cardinal assumed the leadership mantel in the early years. An 1813 pioneer cabin was moved onto the property and the collection of important county papers and archives was undertaken. 1953 saw the LCHS become autonomous and the society remained on the Garfield estate until 1983 when the National Park Service assumed operations of the presidential property.
From 1983-2008 Shadybrook became the home of the LCHS. Shadybrook is located in Kirtland Hills on the Mentor border and was the name of the summer century home of Arthur D. Baldwin. The property is owned by the Holden Arboretum. The log cabin was relocated. Native American exhibits and Pioneer School became signature programs for the society. The Little Mountain Folk Festival had a long run on the site. Historical research and archival collecting remained a key mission.
A final move became necessary by late 2007 as the space at Shadybrook proved to be insufficient for the ever expanding collection. Coupled with only well water and fire prevention strains, a move to the former County Home was arranged. The County Home, built in 1876, was being used by Painesville Township and the Riverside Local School District. A sale was arranged and the 30,000 sq. foot home became the new LCHS home in January 2008. Interior improvements have been made, new exhibits created, old exhibits moved and reassembled and a new legacy is unfolding. The research library continues to gather and share history with the public. With public assistance, the LCHS has attained sustainability. Lake County's past history is being preserved for future generations.
The Lake County Historical Society is located at 415 Riverside Drive in Painesville Township. Open to the public, they are a member of the Historic Lake County Alliance. For information - call 440-639-2945 or visit www.lakehistory.org