by Diane Brenner and Evan Spring
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.
On November 22, 1992, the WHS received a large lot at Worthington Corners – a generous gift from Arlene and Merwin Packard.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Work proceeded over the next three years.
Lyn Horton (then Lyn Horton Newell) put together an outstanding exhibit for the 1998 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.
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.
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.