Bexley Historical Society set to start a new chapter

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 Messenger photo by John Matuszak

Edie Mae Herrel and Mark Epstein, Bexley Historical Society board members, are ready to welcome visitors once a month at the cottage that houses the organization’s collections, including photos and artifacts from schools displayed behind them. The cottage near the city pool will be open the second Monday of the month, from 6:30-8 p.m., and by appointment.

The Bexley Historical Society is ready to open the doors of its newest home for tours, and members plan to set down the story of the community in a book to commemorate its centennial.

The historical society has been headquartered in the former caretaker’s cottage near the city pool since 2005, after losing its office space at city hall.

The building has since been renovated with the support of the city and many volunteers, including Mark Epstein, a historical society board member and a preservation specialist with the Ohio Historical Society.

They held an open house on the Fourth of July of this year, and will be open to visitors for the first time on a regular basis on the second Monday of each month, from 6:30-8 p.m., and by appointment for groups,  beginning in January.

Edie Mae Herrel, a fourth-generation Bexley resident, artist and author and one of the founding members of the historical society 30 years ago, has organized part of the organization’s large collection of photographs and artifacts into displays highlighting aspects of life in Bexley.

"There isn’t room here for all of it," Herrel commented.

But what is exhibited is impressive, as is Herrel’s knowledge of Bexley’s past (did you know that billionaire Les Wexner was water boy for the high school football team?)

One area focuses on Bexley schools, and includes wooden desks, a school bell and lunch pail, along with photos of students, some wearing ties in shop class.

Herrel has contributed stereoscope  photos, three-dimensional images viewed through dual lenses. One portrait is of Mr. Finsterwald, principal of Bexley High School.

Bexley’s first families are recognized, among them the Kilbournes, who married into the Jeffrey family, and the Holtzmans, who owned a piano stool factory on Main Street and whose lineage included the first mayor of Bexley, Frank Holtzman.

Herrel rescued furniture and other curios, such as the mouthpiece from a speaking tube, from the Holtzman house before it was demolished, and many of these are now on display.

Many long-gone businesses are remembered in the collection, from Nelson’s saw and grist mill to McVay’s Confectionary, from the Accurate Measure Oil Co. filling station to Barnett’s Barber Shop, which boasted the community’s only phone.

For this reason, the city had its office there, Herrel related.

Transportation played a big part in the region’s history from the beginning. This part of the collection features a hutch and a tool box brought here by covered wagon by the Huntington family. Above these objects is a drawing of the family stopping to drink from the clear waters of Alum Creek.

Herrel’s drawings include streetcars with signs advertising local attractions such as Norwood amusement park.

There is also a photo of Herrel’s father and grandmother out for a jaunt in an automobile, temporarily slowed by a flat tire.

Herrel would like to have a portrait gallery of famous people who have called Bexley home. She also wants to host more school groups, as the historical society did when they had exhibit space at city hall.

In 2008 the historical society will be compiling and publishing "Bexley: A Special Place to Live, Learn, Labor, Laugh and Love."

The book will be a follow-up to "Bexley Images," with drawings by Herrel, published 30 years ago.

The book is expected to sell for $40. They estimate that it will cost about $75,000 for a printing of 1,200 to 1,500 copies of the small coffee-table size book, and donations are being solicited.

So are the images and memories collected by residents over the years.

A form will be sent out to residents asking for their contributions, and there will be a link on the city’s web site, as well.

"We want to involve as many people as possible," Herrel said. "It makes it more fun that way."

Herrel and Epstein are looking to create a history that is "authentic"  and "personal."

The cottage, which dates from the 1920s, might not be the last stop for the historical society.

"It would be great to move to (Jeffrey Mansion)," once its renovations are completed, Epstein said.

Information about Bexley Historical Society activities is available by calling 559-4200 or at www.bexleyhistory.org.

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