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Mayfield Township Historical Society continues to teach through Rooms of History

Outside the Bennett-Van Curen Historic House, 606 SOM Center Road. (Frank Mecham-The News-Herald.)

Walking through the rooms of the Bennett-Van Curen Historical House, 606 SOM Center Road, may feel like time travel.

That’s because the inside of the house, originally built in 1847, has been transformed into an educational resource by the Mayfield Township Historical Society.

The house began as a single structure by Jacob Bennett, son of immigrants from England, who moved to what is now the Mayfield Village area. During that time, the landscape was different because instead of being dotted with shopping centers and gas stations, it had vibrant fields and healthy streams that could support livestock and agriculture.

Bennett would later pass the house on to his son, George A. Bennett, who would expand it and become the second mayor of Mayfield Village in 1922.

The extensions now carry both new and old thanks to the help of volunteers from the historical society. In the 1980s they transformed the 13 rooms into glimpses of different times, with each room representing a different point in history.

The basement houses a print shop, a schoolhouse and a log cabin, while the upper floor contains a 1930s kitchen and other rooms, all renovated by volunteers.

A volunteer learns how printing worked in the early days of typesetting.  (Frank Mecham-The News-Herald.)
A volunteer learns how printing worked in the early days of typesetting. (Frank Mecham-The News-Herald.)

Joan Gottschling, president of the Mayfield Township Historical Society, said she was pleased her group was able to work with the school system to bring the educational resource to a wider audience. She said the partnership with the school district has been going on for about 25 years, and they involve third graders because that’s when students typically start learning about Ohio history.

“They demolished the house here and at the time it was a commercial building,” Gottschling said. “They had a beauty salon, a dental practice and a real estate agency. So for the next thirteen years, volunteers came by every Saturday and Wednesday evening to restore it to what you see now.

“It was all a passion project for the volunteers. Everyone donated their time and did what they could or were good at. They called themselves the demolition crews and got to work scraping, cleaning and building.”

Schoolchildren visit a log cabin in the basement of the Bennett-Van Curen Historical House.  (Frank Mecham-The News-Herald.)
Schoolchildren visit a log cabin in the basement of the Bennett-Van Curen Historical House. (Frank Mecham-The News-Herald.)

She said since all the furniture was donated, they figured out where each item could be used on the timeline and went from there as they organized the house.

“It mostly had to do with the furniture we had at the time that dictated the timeline,” Gottschling said. “We thought it would be great for them to go through our house because we have rooms for different ages so they can go through the decades that way.”

“We really represent the history of four different communities, not just one. We have people from all four communities helping us,” Gottschling added.

They also have a quilting group that meets every Monday from 10am to 1pm where people can meet and practice the art of hand sewing and quilting.

The Quilt Room at the Bennett-Van Curen Historical House.  (Frank Mecham-The News-Herald.)
The Quilt Room at the Bennett-Van Curen Historical House. (Frank Mecham-The News-Herald.)

Jan Muhle, who has been helping with the Historical Society since before the house was moved to its current location, said they are looking for new members for the quilting group. She said the club was the first group in the house when it was moved, and she wants to see the tradition continue with the younger generation.

“We used to have about 25 members, but now we only have about three,” Muhle said. “I was hoping that some of the younger generation would take it over, but I think it’s just not popular anymore. But trends go in cycles, so maybe they will pick that up again.”

A recreated schoolroom at the Bennett-Van Curen Historical House.  (Frank Mecham-The News-Herald.)
A recreated schoolroom at the Bennett-Van Curen Historical House. (Frank Mecham-The News-Herald.)

She said the building’s move from the northeast corner of Wilson Mills and SOM Center Road to its current location in 1987 was a bit of a holiday for the area, with everyone taking time to check it out.

“There were children along the roads,” Muhle said. “It was really fun to see it move. They had to lift it onto the back of a truck and move it here. We have a lot of photos from the day upstairs in the exam room.”

Gottschling said she hoped people in the community would see the building as a resource.

She said people can look up grave locations and previous construction records in the research room. The association is also expanding by offering community outreach opportunities, including their next event, an Ice Cream Social, on September 13, at the Bennett-Van Curen house.