Van Wert County’s historical society has been collecting local artifacts since the 1920’s; preserving the story of life in this neck of the woods from the time it was still America’s western frontier. But the museum’s most impressive artifact isn’t behind any glass case; it’s just too darned big.
“Well basically we're trying to preserve the history of this house,” says historical society member Joe Steffan, “and also the history of Van Wert County.”
There’s a transformation taking place at the magnificent Clark Mansion, a Victorian fortress of limestone block hauled to the site by mule teams when it was built in 1895. This was the home of the prestigious John Clark family until the stock market crash of 1929 robbed them of their fortune. The house was sold in 1933 and when the last member of that family died twenty years later, it was given to the historical society. But at 112, the old mansion shows its age.
“The walls were cracked the plaster was falling was only held on by the wallpaper” says society member Larry Webb. “So we took the wallpaper off, naturally the plaster would fall.”
The mansion is in the middle of an 85-thousand dollar facelift. Walls are being repaired, floors refinished, yards of oak and mahogany paneling painstakingly cleaned. The plan is to return the house to the way it appeared in 1895, furnishings and all, and preserve it as a living history museum, so the good people of Van Wert County, now and forever, can experience life precisely as their ancestors lived it.
“ The importance of preserving the past is that you know where you’ve been and you know how people lived” says Joe Steffan. “And it helps to determine what you’re doing now and what the future is like.
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