History and much more at AC Historical Society

History and much more at AC Historical Society

Image Credit: Laurie Sidle

Come to a class, use the tools, browse the library, relax in the lounge and stay for the history.

Or come for the history and stay for the programs inside the Apple Creek Historical Society.

Either way, the society’s founders want the two-story red building at 185 Church St. to be a community learning center while telling the story about life in East Union Township.

The 17-year project, costing almost $2 million, is nearing completion with finishing touches being added to a second-floor banquet room.

While it was built with history in mind, the project evolved to include an independent volunteer-run library, genealogy lab, log cabin, conference room, MakerSpace, media production room, gift shop and a members-only lounge.

“This facility is unique in all of the state of Ohio,” said Ken Thomas, one of nine members of the society’s board of trustees. “We’ve had representatives from the Ohio Historical Society visit who were amazed by what we have here. They told us the state has a lot of historical societies and museums, but we don’t have a learning center like this facility.”

The trustees organized in 2001 and broke ground for the building in 2004.

For the first 12 years, “Nearly all the work was done by volunteers, and money raised was used to buy materials,” said Gary Rogers, board president.

Volunteers constructed the entire steel frame and moved the earth for the 25,000-square-foot building.

A recent gift made it possible for the society to erect a sign in front of the structure, situated on 2.25 acres of land leased on a long-term basis for a nominal fee from the East Union Township trustees.

“Up until we had a sign out front,” 90-year trustee Leota Buss said, people assumed the building was part of the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute because of its barn-like appearance. “Now that the sign is up, people are more aware of what we really are.”

Thomas said being a part of something unique and creating a sense of community is why he dedicates time to the society. Buss has nearly a lifelong history in East Union Township.

“She’s on the wall,” said her son and fellow trustee Mike Buss, pointing out a display of Apple Creek High School graduating class pictures on the conference room walls. The photos represent classes from 1933-55, with only 1934 missing.

To collect the photos, Buss placed a notice in the newspaper requesting them. “People contacted me, and I went and picked them up,” she said. “One of them came out of a dumpster.”

Most are the originals. In some cases she made duplicates if families wanted to keep a copy.

The conference room is lavishly furnished, thanks to donations of executive high-back chairs and a large conference table that once served the same purpose at the Apple Creek Developmental Center. The society salvaged a number of furnishings from the center after it closed, including a master clock in the building’s lobby and a welcome center desk carved with the seal of Ohio.

East Union Township residents who made their mark in the community are featured in the historical exhibits. The family of Wynne Peppler created a display with memorabilia from Pep’s Service Station, which Peppler owned and operated in Apple Creek for 35 years.

Mike Buss donated a Soap Box Derby car and related items.

Intricately carved pieces by woodcarver Vernon Tschiegg, a former East Union Township trustee, are featured along with original equipment used by the Apple Creek Fire Department.

The building’s genealogy room is in honor of Richard Smith, a former principal of Apple Creek Elementary and Waynedale High School. “He had a strong interest in genealogy and compiled a tremendous amount of history,” Thomas said. It is available for people to research their families.

The society’s media production room, equipped with computers and other technology tools, stores archived pictures and videos of interviews with local residents, many of whom have passed away.

The building’s library was constructed with shelving donated by the Wayne County Public Library from materials it had retained from refurbishing projects at its branches. A grant helped purchase supplies and books.

A large bay area was constructed in the building to accommodate the public library’s bookmobiles; however, those plans did not materialize. Instead the area is used by the organization, A Whole Community, which receives excess produce from the agricultural cooperative, Green Field Farms in Fredericksburg, and redistributes it to local food banks.

“They are very thankful for that space,” Rogers said. Renting the area to the organization provides some income for the society.

The society is keeping pace with the MakerSpace movement by dedicating an area for people to make things through hands-on learning. Equipment available in the wood shop includes 3-D printers, CNC routers and lasers. A concept in the works is to offer classes where participants would pay a fee to learn how to operate a machine, build the machine and then take it home, Mike Buss said.

A members-only lounge, furnished with couches, chairs and a television, provides a place to relax, Thomas said. A deck on the building connects the lounge with the library.

Visible from the deck is a log cabin built in the early 1800s and believed to be the oldest building in East Union Township. It was dismantled as an Eagle Scout project and reassembled by members of the Amish community. “It’s their contribution to this endeavor,” Thomas said.

The cabin will eventually serve as a nature center.

Trustees hope the younger generation will take an interest in the society, Thomas said. “Hopefully, we can plant some seeds when people are working in the workshop or visiting the library.”