Historical society chair, vice-chair resigning

by Jeff Saunders | reporter Published:

Nordonia Hills -- Efforts to reopen the Palmer House Museum in Northfield Center continue to be stymied by a lack of volunteers, and now two of its five trustees have either resigned or are about to.

Northfield Mayor Jesse Nehez, who serves as board chairman, said Feb. 8 that he was drafting a letter of resignation and Northfield Center Trustee Paul Buescher, who served as vice chairman, said he resigned Feb. 6.

Nehez said last summer that he planned to resign, but delayed it.

"I just don't have time for it," said Nehez Feb. 8.

Buescher also said he has no time to volunteer.

"There was nothing unfriendly about it," said Buescher. "Just time constraints."

Trustee Cathy Fleming, who joined the board in October, said efforts to increase membership slowed during the holidays.

"They're at a crossroads right now," she said. "Nobody knows what to do."

Both Nehez and Buescher said they plan on remaining active as periodic volunteers.

Members of the Historical Society of Olde Northfield, including Nehez and Buescher, cited the lack of volunteers as the reason the museum has not been open to the public since at least spring 2011.

"There is a huge problem getting volunteers," Nehez said last week.

"We've been trying to get volunteers, but when we do, one or two people show up [at historical society meetings]," he added, saying that even the few community members who show an interest tend not to follow through and organizational efforts "fall by the wayside."

Nehez said that the effort to find volunteers has been by "word-of-mouth" and contacting people on a roster of past volunteers.

"People know the historical society is there, but people just don't have the time," he said.

Last September, the society formed a new board with the goal of finding volunteers to operate the museum for at least a few hours on Sundays.

Buescher said the lack of volunteers has been frustrating.

"I tried to get some people together to help get the Palmer House ready for school tours and stuff, but one elderly person volunteered," he said.

Fleming said that the few people still involved with the historical society are aging for the most part and she believes that the society needs to find ways to engage younger people, such as Scouting groups or high school students studying local history.

Northfield Center Township Administrator Sam Ciocco, who volunteers as the society's webmaster, said that area Girl Scouts have helped him as recently as last summer assembling photos, writing photo captions, and uploading documents to the society's website,.

"They did a great job. They showed a lot of creativity," said Ciocco. "They really made a nice contribution."

Nehez, who said his involvement with the historical society has been minimal in recent months, said the idea of recruiting younger people "has been discussed," but nothing had been done about it.

The museum is in the historic Palmer House, just north of Northfield Elementary School and Route 8.

According to the historical society's website, the house was originally the home of Hezehiah Hayden Palmer, who settled in the area in 1832. The school district, which owns the house, has allowed the historical society to use it as a museum since 1965.

Nehez said area residents interested in volunteering can contact trustees via the website, www.hson.info, or can attend a board meeting. Meetings take place at the Northfield Center Town Hall, 9546 Brandywine Road, just south of Route 8, on the first Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m.

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9432

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