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Historical Society fetes 90 years

7/10/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

A 90th anniversary celebration program will take place July 12 at 1 p.m. on the porch of the Perkins Stone Mansion. Shown above, a crowd gathers to enjoy a past performance.
File photo/courtesy of Chet Walker
Free tours of the John Brown House, shown here, and the Perkins Stone Mansion, will be offered July 12 from noon to 4 p.m. as part of the Summit County Historical Society’s 90th anniversary celebration.
File photo/courtesy of the Summit County Historical Society
This band organ will be on display at the John Brown House during the Summit County Historical Society’s 90th anniversary celebration July 12.
Photo courtesy of the Summit County Historical Society
AKRON — This weekend, the Summit County Historical Society of Akron, Ohio (SCHS) will celebrate its 90th anniversary with a free roaring ’20s carnival with activities planned for all ages.

The event, which is open to the public, is planned for July 12 from noon to 4 p.m. on the grounds of the Perkins Stone Mansion, 550 Copley Road, and John Brown House across the street.

The SCHS began when seven women volunteers, members of the Cuyahoga-Portage Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, came together in 1924 to compile a history of the City of Akron in preparation for the city’s centennial the following year, according to SCHS President and CEO Leianne Neff Heppner. One of the original copies of the 100-year history of Akron is on display at the mansion, she added.

The SCHS owns and manages three properties: the Perkins Stone Mansion, home of Akron’s founding family, built in 1837; the John Brown House, home of the internationally recognized abolitionist; and Old Stone School in Downtown Akron, in partnership with Akron Public Schools.

The small schoolhouse, located at South Broadway Street and Buchtel Avenue, was the first one built in Akron, sometime in the 1830s. The society acquired it in 1930 as a gift from the city, according to SCHS officials.

The John Brown House and the Perkins Stone Mansion, which were both acquired by the SCHS in the 1940s, are open to visitors. Guests at the anniversary celebration can take advantage of free tours offered at both sites.

Inside the mansion, props and dress-up attire from the 1920s will provide guests the chance to try on clothing and take photos.

Also at the celebration, children can get a handstamp and a set of 10 free tickets to play carnival games and compete for prizes like mood rings and fortune teller fish. Bojo the Clown will be on hand doing tricks and making balloon animals. From 1 to 3 p.m., “Mr. Marbles,” Michael Cohill from the American Toy and Marble Museum, will teach children how to play marbles. Other games planned for the day include a sack race, three-legged race, egg and spoon race and more.

Throughout the day, young professionals and local leaders will take turns in the dunk tank, including state Sen. Frank LaRose (R-District 27), according to Heppner. Participants will have the opportunity to attempt to dunk the senator and others for a small fee.

Attendees also will be able to participate in a cakewalk to win cakes from local bakeries. Children can use tickets to participate for free in the cakewalk, which will go on all afternoon, for a chance to win MoonPies. Adult tickets cost $1.

A high striker game will allow participants to test their strength, also for a small fee, said Heppner.

Sue Marocchino will provide free antique appraisals, with a limit of one per person. The celebration also will include an antique car display by Bob Jones. Another display will feature a hobo camp set up by volunteer and hobo expert Dave Gates on the wooded section of the mansion’s front lawn showing what life was like for these migratory people in the 1920s.

At 1 p.m., a brief program will take place on the Perkins Stone Mansion front porch. The honorary chair of the event, Ralph Witt, a longtime SCHS volunteer, who also will be turning 90 this fall, will be recognized. The Summit Metro Park Band will perform following the program. After the performance, attendees can watch a dancing demonstration of moves from the 1920s.

Joanna Wilson, co-author of “A is for Akron,” will be signing and selling copies of her book from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Food and beverages will be on sale from the Sassy Dog food truck, offering hot dogs and Italian sausages. Other food and beverages also will be for sale.

While much of the anniversary activity will take place on the mansion’s lawn, the celebration also will take place at the John Brown House, which will have John Gregory’s band organ on display.

“We’re looking forward to people showing up and having a fantastic time,” said Heppner.

Tours of the Perkins Stone Mansion and John Brown House are regularly available Wednesdays through Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. In celebration of the 90th anniversary of the SCHS, the Perkins Stone Mansion is featuring vintage clothing and artifacts from the 1920s, including replicas of items on display at the Akron Art Museum during that time period.

While free July 12, admission to both sites is regularly free for members and costs $4 for seniors, $6 for other adults and $2 for students.

While maintaining its three properties is a big job for the SCHS, members also help manage the Akron History Exhibit and American Toy Marble Museum at Lock 3, Heppner said. The SCHS also conducts a variety of outreach programs for children up to senior citizens, where history comes to them, including bringing artifacts participants can handle that are sometimes hundreds of years old, said Heppner.

The SCHS has thousands of historical artifacts in its care, with archival materials housed at the Akron-Summit County Main Library and three-dimensional objects placed among its properties, Heppner said.

Other activities include holding an annual road rally, this year Sept. 13. Another event, the Summit Awards program, which recognizes local people making a national impact, is set for March 2015 and will be the culmination of the 90th anniversary celebration events, said Heppner.

More periodic events, including history hikes and paranormal tours, can be found on the SCHS’s calendar on its website.

More than 100 SCHS volunteers log thousands of hours each year, said Heppner.

“Without our volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to provide as many services to our community,” she said. “Our history is important, and we want people to know about it.”

The mission of the SCHS is to preserve and interpret local history and to educate others, Heppner said.

To join the SCHS, annual membership fees start at $20, and all members receive unlimited free admission to SCHS properties, a quarterly newsletter, holiday tour tickets and discounts on programs and special events.

To learn more, call the SCHS at 330-535-1120 or visit the website at www.summithitory.org.

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