The new year brought a new chapter to the way history is presented in Northwest Ohio. On January 1, Heritage Sylvania was officially born and is ready to help share the story of the region’s rich past with audiences of all ages.
The organization is the result of a merger of three smaller groups: The Sylvania Area Historical Society, The Friends of the Lathrop House, and the Sylvania Historical Village. Each organization had individually successful programs, but realized that by joining forces they could become even stronger.
“While the groups worked closely together, we still found at times we were competing for the same audiences and sometimes even hosting events on the same days,” explains Andi Erbskorn, Executive Director of the Sylvania Historical Village and now Heritage Sylvania. “There was also a great deal of audience confusion as the public often didn’t realize that we were separate organizations.”
The merger process began in 2017 when the Historical Village hosted a brainstorming session with the outside facilitator from Creative Oxygen for the three groups. It became clear that the three shared not only similar goals but also similar challenges, and the idea of merging was brought up. A smaller group spent 2018 working through the details of the merger with the help of Tom Blank, a lawyer and President of the Historical Village board. The group spent a lot of time working through the details of the organization of the new entity to ensure a smooth transition. The deal culminated with the unanimous vote of members of all three organizations and the Sylvania City Council in their role as voting members of the Historical Village. Paperwork was filed and the new organization took effect January 1.
“It certainly is a benefit for us,” notes Liz Stover, treasurer of the former Historical Society. “We were an all-volunteer organization, and our volunteers were aging. We knew we had to plan for the future and by joining with the other groups we have more resources to insure that our work continues into the future.”
Sue McHugh has been the president of the Friends of the Lathrop House since its founding in 2000. “This merger is a big step forward for all of us,” she contends. “It gives us a larger presence in the region. It also challenges us to present Sylvania’s role in our regional and national history in a very intimate, close up level. This is critical as we look to secure grants and other funding, particularly for the continuing restoration of the Lathrop House.”
The new organization now oversees the Historical Village, a collection of 19th and early 20th century buildings, a vast archive of regional history, the early 20th century Cooke/Kuhlman home (the historic home and office of Dr. Uriah Cooke) and the 1850s Lathrop House which is the only Underground Railroad site in Northwest Ohio open to the public. All the sites are located within a three-block area of historic downtown Sylvania.
Ms. Erbskorn continues, “Each organization had a special piece of the puzzle. By bringing these pieces together under one umbrella the picture becomes clearer and expands. Our name, Heritage Sylvania, and new logo reflect that new vision. We say we are the bridge to the past and the path to the future. We want to connect audiences with the past in a way that helps them understand where we are today and to better guide us in the future. We plan to offer a wide range of experiences from programs for toddlers and school field trips to adult classes and workshops, fun presentations and speakers. It’s not the dusty history and museums of ages ago!”
A new website is in the works!