Grove City Welcome Center and Museum reopens; train-depot project nears completion

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group
John Hines, Southwest Franklin County Historical Society historian, stands March 30 inside Century Village's newly restored 19th-century train depot, which was moved from its original location at the Grove City Town Center to 4185 Orders Road.

The Grove City Welcome Center and Museum was scheduled to reopen April 6 after being closed for most of the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We can't wait to invite people back in," museum curator Don Ivers said in late March. 

Visitors will be able once again to view the museum's collection of artifacts and memorabilia related to the history of the Beulah Park racetrack, including an original turnstile and the Ohio Historical Marker that eventually will be placed at the former racetrack site that is now part of a mixed-use development called Beulah Park Living

"We were able to open for a few months starting in early October before we had to close again in early January," Ivers said. 

More than 100 people visited the museum in the month after the museum reopened last fall, and Ivers said he expects at least as many, if not more.

"When we were in here getting things ready for the reopening, people saw the lights on, I guess, and even though we had a "closed" sign posted, some of them knocked on the door," he said. 

The museum initially will be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, with a plan to also be open Saturdays once the Grove City farmers market begins later this spring, Ivers said.

"If you haven't been here since before the pandemic, you might night recognize the museum when you come in," he said.

The Southwest Franklin County Historical Society, the organization that operates the museum, had begun a project to spruce up the building's interior and reorganize how items are displayed just before the pandemic hit in March 2020.

The project was designed to mark the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the welcome center and museum, said Steve Jackson, the historical society's president.

Century Village's newly restored 19th-century train depot was moved from the Grove City Town Center to 4185 Orders Road in Grove City.

The facility was opened in September 2009 and was dedicated in May 2010.

Although it was unfortunate that the museum had to be closed for most of the past year, it did allow the refurbishing to occur more easily, Jackson said.

"It would have been really difficult to do if the building was open and we had a regular stream of visitors coming in with all the paint cans and equipment sitting out," he said. "In a way, we were able to make lemonade out of a lemon."

The museum's parlor room has been repainted and redecorated with draperies, floor coverings and furniture that give the room a more authentic look of a parlor from the late 19th or early 20th century, Ivers said.

Other areas of the museum also were repainted, he said.

Various rooms in the museum were reorganized by theme, Ivers said.

The building originally was a bank building, and the former vault now displays items related to Grove City businesses, he said.

The conference room features items related to local schools, including a display of senior class photos from the early years of Grove City High School, Ivers said. The room will continue to host meetings.

The historical society also is nearly finished, with reorganizing and relabeling the collection of thousands of artifacts it stores in the upper floors of the museum building, Jackson said.

Another project to restore a circa-1884 train depot at Century Village also is nearly completed, Jackson said.

The depot was constructed for the Midland Railroad company, which owned the Ohio section of a rail line that connected St. Louis to Pittsburgh, he said.

The depot was moved in January 2018 from its original location at Front and Park streets in downtown Grove City to Century Village, the park at 4185 Orders Road, which features a variety of historical buildings, most from the Grove City area.

"We've restored the depot to give people a sense of what it would have been like in the late 1800s," Jackson said. "At that time, a train depot was really the center of town. It was where people visiting or moving to Grove City arrived and where your furniture or household items would be delivered. It was kind of the FedEx or UPS of the 19th century."

The restoration work was completed by historical society volunteers and city employees, and the project was a joint venture of the society and the city of Grove City, Jackson said.

The plan is to dedicate the train depot when the annual fall harvest event is held in October at Century Village, he said. The event was canceled last year because of the pandemic.

The grounds at Century Village and the Grant-Sawyer homestead on Haughn Road have remained open, but visitors have not been allowed to tour the buildings at the two sites, Jackson said.

"We're hoping to get the go-ahead from the city to reopen those buildings to the public in the next several weeks," he said. "We're really looking forward to being able to hold tours again, especially for school groups. The historic buildings are a wonderful resource for students."

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