Suddenly, it seems as if there will be no shortage of historical museums on this side of town.
|Samuel J. Bonifas
The Oregon-Jerusalem Historical Society is well-established at its base, Brandeville School. The National Great Lakes Maritime Museum, thanks to a $6.1 million grant from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission, is being relocated from Vermilion, Ohio to the Skyway Marina building in East Toledo’s Marina District, next to where the James M. Schoonmaker (formerly Willis Boyer) historic lake freighter museum ship will also be relocated.
The newest venture, the Harbor View Historical Society, has begun a soft opening of its museum in the former Harbor View Missionary Baptist Church at 2083 Autokee St. in Oregon. Over the past year, volunteers have started working to convert the former church into the new home of the historical society. The renovation is ongoing.
“We’re still converting from the church to a museum. We’re still working with zoning regulations. We’re about six months behind where we want it to be, and a lot of that is some of our local activities with the local government just slowed it down — especially in the acquisition of properties surrounding the museum,” said the society’s program manager, 30-year Navy veteran and Chief Warrant Officer Michael Joseph.
“It’s all on private donations, and right now the museum is funded for the next 10 years,” Joseph continued. “A lot of our investors are private and don’t want to be mentioned, but they were supporting a lot of other activities in Toledo, so we’re kind of glad that they ended up giving us money through our platform.”
Society officials say its goal is to preserve the history of the city of Oregon, the village of Harbor View, and the area once known as “The Northwest Territories” of the United States. But he says the activities of the Harbor View museum will be “totally different” from the Oregon-Jerusalem society’s activities in that they will not deal with genealogy as much.
“The museum will highlight shipping activities at the mouth of the Maumee River as well as showcasing the five villages that existed before Oregon became a city. They are Immergrun, Momeneetown, South Shore Park, Ironville, and Harbor View,” Joseph said.
Officials with the Harbor View society recently announced the appointment of Samuel J. Bonifas as its first president.
“Mr. Bonifas, I’ve known for many, many years,” Joseph said. “He is involved with a lot of different historical and genealogical groups across the state of Ohio.”
Bonifas, who resides in Hilliard, Ohio, was selected in part due to his years of experience in management of historical and genealogical societies throughout the State of Ohio, says Joseph.
“A lot of people ask why we didn’t pick somebody local. We wanted somebody who has experience not just locally but on the state level, but connections on the national level,” Joseph said. “He was the guy who met that.”
Currently, Boniface has memberships in the Ohio Genealogical Society and he has served as president and vice president of the Allen County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society. Bonifas currently is a member of the Delphos Miami Erie Canal Commission.
“We’re still setting things up, but as president I am going to be organizing some program meetings and so forth, and will bring in some other instructors of history in the area,” Bonifas said. “Our primary (goal) is to allow the university or high school students to come in, do their own research on the history of the area, set up the displays, and that will provide our primary historical displays for the museum.”
Bonifas says he has a deep interest in the cultural and historical development of the area that was once called the Northwest Territory of the United States prior to the War of 1812. That area included Oregon, which he says holds deep historical interest from the War of 1812 until 1957 when Oregon voted to become a city.
"Many villages once existed in the Oregon area that are now lost in time,” said Bonifas. “The Harbor View Historical project was of great interest. There’s an abundance of local history that we need to pass to the next generation. Much of that history will become extremely topical over the next two years as we commemorate the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie — the results of which gave us much of our local history. If we are going to engage a student’s interest in history, now is the opportunity.”
Bonifas has already started working at his new position — meeting area residents and talking about the future of the historical society. Bonifas says the appointment currently is not a paid position, and he plans to be at the museum for events at least once a month, if not more.
“Residents have an incredible interest in this project and it is something they can truly call their own,” he said. “They seem to have perceived historical items they want to donate. However, the museum is not accepting artifacts at this time due to the project guidelines, a lack of space, and ongoing redevelopment of the new home for the Harbor View Historical Society.”
The society and its museum project were initially presented to the City of Oregon in December 2010. The founders represent a group of individuals who have been working on many projects in the Greater Toledo area. The Harbor View Historical Society also receives volunteer aid from the United States Navy located in Toledo.
The project, on a three-to-five year plan as submitted to City of Oregon officials, is at the end of the first year. Those interested in helping out may contact Bonifas at 419-236-6924.