A Home at Last: The Origins and Construction of the WHS Building

by Diane Brenner and Evan Spring

The Worthington Historical Society building.

The Worthington Historical Society was formed in 1933, but for 62 years it had no real headquarters for storing historical artifacts or hosting exhibits and events. Meetings took place at the First Congregational Church, the schoolhouse at Lyceum Hall (now Hillside Electronics, at 17 Buffington Hill Road), the Worthington Library, and several private homes.

In 1969, Henry and Eva Snyder donated the Capen School and its accompanying land on Dingle Road to WHS. Volunteers donated time and money to renovate this one-room, 19th-century schoolhouse, and a grant from the Bicentennial Commission helped finish the interior. The WHS held its annual meeting at the Capen School from 1974 through 1989, but it was too small and cold for regular use, with no electricity or running water.

The Snyders envisioned that the WHS would transport the Capen School to the Corners, near their home. In 1984, the Snyders’ daughter and son-in-law, Peg and Art Rolland, donated a small parcel of land on Old Post Road as a site for the schoolhouse. In 1989 the WHS received a $100,000 bequest from Peg Rolland’s estate, earmarked for a building.

Discussion was prolonged on how to establish a more permanent home. The lot on Old Post Road was deemed too small, and it was sold in 1990. At the May 28, 1991, meeting in Town Hall, the board discussed “the possibility of acquiring the property owned by the Packards north of the large common at ‘The Corners.'”

Negotiations ensued, and plans were made to relocate two historic buildings to the Corners site: the Capen School and the West Worthington Chapel, an abandoned, 1847 Methodist church in the Greek Revival style.

The West Worthington Chapel, c. 1900.

WHS President Ted Claydon visiting the West Worthington Chapel.

Interior of the West Worthington Chapel.

Proposed plan to relocate the West Worthington Chapel and Capen School to the Corners.

On November 22, 1992, the WHS received a large lot at Worthington Corners – a generous gift from Arlene and Merwin Packard.

The Packard boulder at WHS.

Moving the West Worthington Chapel seemed sensible at the time, but it was not in great shape. WHS abandoned the idea in the winter of 1993, and during the winter of 1994, the building collapsed.

The Country Journal, November 25, 1993.

There was nothing left to do but design and construct a new building. Architect Scott Heyl, who still inhabits the Jonathan Woodbridge House across from the WHS building, designed an enlarged likeness of the West Worthington Chapel. On July 7, 1994, the plans were approved by the WHS board, headed by president Edward (Ted) Claydon. At that time the WHS had only 35 members.

The groundbreaking took place on Saturday, June 17, 1995, attended by dignitaries and curious onlookers.

Arlene Packard starts the construction work with a ceremonial shovel, as State Representative Steve Kulik, Pete Packard, and Ted Claydon look on.

The first scrape.

Sign of the future.

Architect Scott Heyl and excavator Bert Nugent at the groundbreaking.

The Country Journal, June 1995.

Many volunteers contributed their time and expertise to the building. Bert Nugent donated labor and equipment for the excavation, and Charles Nugent donated his services for the foundation. The Legoy family helped with the power line. Many others joined in. The building team included David Veleta, Kent Hicks, Jim and Phil Lawrence, and Jim Dodge. 

Excavation and footings.

Brandon LeGoy helps lay the power line.

The first floor.

The walls go up.

Intrepid contractors David Veleta and Kent Hicks.

Jim Dodge at work.

Ted Claydon, WHS president, spearheading the building effort.

The roof is lifted into place.

Treeing ceremony marking completion of the roof’s highest beams.

The ceremonial tree.

Finishing the roof and belfry.

The window crew: Muriel Claydon, Lois Brown, Judy Fisk, Pat Pease, and Dottie Fitzgerald.

The building wasn’t complete in the fall of 1995, but that didn’t stop the WHS from holding the annual meeting in their new home. 

WHS president Ted Claydon addresses the 1995 annual meeting in the new building.

WHS annual meeting, 1995.

The winter of 1995-96.

Work proceeded over the next three years. 

Event on the WHS lawn, September 27, 1997.

Lyn Horton (then Lyn Horton Newell) put together an outstanding exhibit for the 1998 annual meeting.

Exhibit for the 1998 WHS annual meeting.

A Grand Opening was held Sunday, June 13, 1999, with talks, exhibits, musical performances, and skits by the fourth graders. The keynote speaker was Daniel Porter, a Worthington native and Professor Emeritus of Museum Studies at the State University of New York.

The Country Journal, June 17, 1999.

Country Journal article, continued.

Worthingtonians gather for the WHS grand opening ceremony, June 1999.

The Gateway High School Marching Band performs.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 710 raise the flag.

Historical skit presented by the fourth graders of the R. H. Conwell School.

Levi Martindale introduces the next skit. Left to right in background: Keenan Phillips, Jackson Mansfield, Kathleen Ryan, Maggie Mansfield, Zack Fay, and Luke Ryan.

Luke Ryan presents the next skit.

Christina Pease presents the next skit, with Lizzy Lewis in background.

Gravestone rubbings by the fourth grade class on display at the Grand Opening.

Amber Dodge, Muriel Claydon, and others at the WHS Grand Opening.

Since 1999 the building’s archives have expanded dramatically, and the large, open interior has accommodated a variety of exhibits, talks, oral history events, and social gatherings as well as private parties and choral rehearsals. 

The multi-year building effort throughout the 1990s was spearheaded by WHS president Ted Claydon, who turns 100 next month (October 2021). Thank you, Ted, for your vital and lasting contribution to the civic life of the town and the preservation of its history.

The WHS building in 2019.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Diane Brenner has lived in Worthington with her spouse, Jan Roby, since 1994. She was a longtime member of the Worthington Historical Society board of directors, and continues to guide WHS in archiving and historical research. In her spare time she works at her day job as a book indexer: www.dianebrenner.com.

Evan Spring, a jazz historian and freelance editor, moved to Worthington in 1998 and currently serves as WHS president.

Posted September 23, 2021.

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