Toledo, Cleveland and Columbus Properties and Achievements The Museum Properties have always been a jewel in our crown and we should be pleased with the extensive changes and enhancements that have taken place among the Ohio properties, always looking toward the future, partnering with other organizations and redefining and honing our stewardship role. We can only ask what will be the next challenge and dream, and hope we can follow the example set down by our predecessors who persevered so well.
We cannot in this history forget the ongoing efforts of Dames across the state from Toledo, Cleveland, and Columbus to enhance their communities and enrich our knowledge of history, renewing with each generation our commitment to the public and our heritage. Many times Dames from around the state collaborate on projects. Ohio Dames collaborated on the book, Guide to Historic Houses in Ohio Open to the Public, and on October 17, 1984, 2,500 copies were delivered from the printer. In 1996, our Centennial Year, a second updated edition was published by the society and this effort was directed by Mrs. John E. Willi, State Historical Activities Chairman from Columbus. The Guide was a successful joint effort because of the hard work of all of our town committees who contributed descriptions of historic houses in their areas.
In Cleveland there has been in the last two years a revitalization of the Society through the efforts of Dame Grosvie Cooley who has created a lively "Candidame" program designed to help potential members through the lengthy candidate process with grace and humor. From this, Cleveland has renewed the spirit of the Dames in that great early Ohio city. Cleveland sits at the apex of history in Ohio and the Dames of Cleveland can be proud of their efforts throughout the years. In 1984, they undertook a project to restore the Stencil Room of the historic Robinson Goldsmith House built in the 1830s in Willoughby, Ohio and moved in 1973 to the Hale Farm and Village in Bath, Ohio. In 1995, The New Citizens Guide — a guidebook was written to aid those qualified to become American citizens. The guide was created and written by Mrs. Nelson P. Rose who proudly holds the copyright. The Cleveland Town Committee distributed more than 5,000 copies of this innovative narrative which encourages the highest ideals of citizenship and patriotism. But no history of Cleveland can fail to mention Dame Frances "Frannie" Gale who steered the Cleveland Town Committee for twenty years as Chairman of the Cleveland Town Committee.
In 2003, the Cleveland Town Committee hosted the Semi-Annual Meeting and arranged tours of key sites of Cleveland, including tours of Western Reserve Historical Society and the Cleveland Botanical Garden Glasshouse. Over the years, Cleveland has been a gracious host to our meetings as have the other Ohio town committees, and in this manner we have enjoyed historic tours around the state, visiting the four regions and relishing the history of each.
In Toledo, the Dames have been unmatched with their dedication to the Wolcott House Museum Complex and the preservation of early Ohio history. In 1988, the Dames implemented the restoration of the original log cabin around which the house was built, a section that had not yet been restored. Both the stationary and maps sold in the gift shop were originally Toledo Town Committee Projects. From the underwriting of the renovation of the Wolcott History Room to the opening of "The Talking Turtle Shop" in 1990, a gift shop on the property, the museum has benefited from the Toledo Town Committee's dedication, beneficence, and leadership. In 1998 the Toledo Dames celebrated their "100th Anniversary" and feted the history of the "River Towns" by hosting the Semi-Annual Meeting for the Ohio Society. Understanding the importance of history, they also wrote and produced the monograph, Toledo Town Committee, 100th Anniversary, 1898 - 1998 which highlights the Toledo Town Committee projects and contributions such as their donation to the Toledo Public Library of "a large framed portrait of George Mason" and the underwriting, as well as the "creation of an authentic replica floor cloth" for the Wolcott History Room.
Dames in Toledo are responsible for sparking interest in the history of the Toledo region. Uniquely, in 1978, "Mrs. William Crawford, a Toledo Dame, researched James Wolcott's genealogy which was published in 1973 in 'Northwest Ohio Quarterly'. She also researched and wrote the genealogy of Mary Wells Wolcott as part of the National project, 'First Ladies of Museum Houses' for repository in the Library of Congress." Dame Marty Wendler, the former Director of Wolcott House, and a member of the Toledo Town Committee, returned in 2005 to Wolcott as a volunteer curator and her expertise has been "invaluable" in the restoration of the History Room as well as the reorganization of new exhibits. In 1998, Marty's book about Wolcott genealogy, The Kentucky Frontiersman, The Connecticut Yankee, and Little Turtle's Granddaughter: The Blending of Cultures was published.
From innovative programs like "Climb Your Family Tree,” a program funded and promoted in Toledo since 1980 or in undertaking the writing of the histories of the eligible ancestors of new members and publishing the" Ancestral Profiles," the Toledo Town Committee has found ways to bring history into focus, influencing the Dames on a national level. It was Mrs. A. Lewis Bentley, Sr. who had been at the forefront of many of the historical programs initiated in Toledo. And as if handing off a baton, it was her daughter-in-law, Mrs. A. Lewis Bentley, Jr., Dame Carol Bentley, who served from 1995 to 2002 as a Projects Consultant on the National Historical Committee and, "Carols' husband Peter Bentley [who] was a consultant to the Dumbarton House Board with regard to the building project.” Just as notable, it was Dame Nancy Fairhurst who distinguished herself and our Ohio Society in 2000 when she was appointed Chairman of the Dumbarton House Board, after years of dedicated service as Ohio's Lady of Dumbarton.
Columbus, our Capital city and home of the Ohio Historical Society sits at the heart of our state and from this perch the Columbus Town Committee has brought forward programs of equal excellence. Our history is dotted with mention of Dame Kay Willi (Katharine Shepard French) whose love of history was contagious, and who was the Society's National Historian at the time of her death. In an early mention of Kay in 1976, the minutes relayed that, "Mrs. John C. Willi of the Columbus Circle has been a welcome addition to many of our board meetings this year." In 1988 Kay saw to it that the lace found in the Charleston Room was donated to the Historic Costume and Textiles Department of Ohio State University. In 1993 she provided leadership in rewriting a pamphlet describing who the Colonial Dames are to candidates for membership. It is sad not to be able to interview her for this history but she left a great deal to us through her dedication to the society and in her interest of history and the in its purest pursuit.
In Columbus, the Town Committee has each year made donations to and visited the Veteran's Hospital at Chillicothe, a time honored commitment since World War II. In 2003, the Columbus Town Committee organized a tour of beautiful Adena, the restored home of Thomas Worthington (1773-1827) and we found ourselves transported to "Dames Day at Adena" through their efforts. The Columbus Town Committee generously hosted in both 1995 and 2002 the Semi-Annual Meetings for the Ohio Society.
Sitting on so much Ohio history, the Dames of Columbus have shared their talents and stewardship with many organizations in Ohio and are to be recognized for these contributions. For instance, they have supported through donations the historic Orange Johnson House Museum in Worthington. Recently the Columbus Town Committee also donated to Saint Luke's Episcopal Church in Granville, built in 1837 and, "considered by many authorities as one of the finest examples of Greek Revival Architecture in the United States." The Columbus Dames presented a beautiful pair of wall sconces to this historic early Ohio church. The Columbus Dames have been involved with the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio at the Reese-Peters house located in Lancaster and have previously given the Center a "set of stunning girandoles" and most recently donated, in memory of Kay Willi, a period "astral lamp" to the center's growing collection. Dames Caroline Rockwood and Polly Lindemann and the entire Columbus Town Committee must be recognized for keeping history before us. Our Scholarships and Programs We are a culturally rich organization that has given generously to many patriotic causes and made a distinguished mark within our communities. We send through the Washington Workshop program each year young men and women from Ohio who have competed in our national essay contest. We provide support annually through the Ohio Groesbeck Scholarship for graduate students of American History.
All the town committees have worked with the Girl Scouts of America and other patriotic organizations over the years. In 2002, the society participated in the American Heritage Girl Veteran's Day Program at the Heritage Museum Village in Cincinnati. Over three hundred elementary level girls attended our exhibit of flags. In Toledo, Dames sponsored programs that helped Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts earn genealogy badges.
Most recently, we have worked on a variety of programs throughout the state to support the soldiers serving in the Iraq conflict, for instance, Cleveland collects gifts for the troops at every meeting.
Ohio supports generously the National Museum Properties; Sulgrave Manor, Dumbarton House, and Gunston Hall and continues to provide leadership on the national level. The remarkable and encouraging aspect of our history is that we have met with so much success. With a membership hovering around 200 for the last decade in a state that is far flung and diverse, we have kept the faith of our ancestors.
Thirty years, it seems, is not too short a time to have an impact and to make some history of our own. In this state, called the "Birthplace of Aviation" our dreams have taken flight and our history bravely struggles to keep up with all of you. —Dame Sally Connelly, Cincinnati, May 5, 2005