SALEM - The birth of the Salem Historical Society on July 29, 1947 came about when old friends Roy Harris and Frank Yengling met on a city street and started talking.
More than 65 years, four buildings and countless treasures later, the group they formed will celebrate its anniversary today, along with the 40th anniversary of the museum and the opening of the newest facility, the Dale Shaffer Research Library.
"I don't think they could have ever envisioned the directions we've gone in those 65 years," Salem Historical Society President David Shivers said Monday.
Area residents can join the society's garden party celebration from 5 to 9 tonight at the Dale Shaffer Research Library, located off of Dale Shaffer Way and South Lundy Avenue, featuring a ribbon cutting to dedicate the library named for the late Salem historian, Dale Shaffer.
Besides all of Shaffer's research materials and books and other material significant to Salem, the library will house an industry and travel museum and become the new location for the society's museum gift shop, offices, meeting room and work room. Also included is a climate-controlled secure
room to house precious artifacts and a media room to house all types of information, photographs and other materials.
For the first 25 years of its existence, the Salem Historical Society had no home. Shivers said people were storing artifacts in attics, basements and garages - anywhere they could find.
Then in December 1971, charter member W. Ray Pearce presented the deed to a house at 208 S. Broadway Ave. to incoming president Caroline Lehwald. The house became the first museum of the Salem Historical Society - a place where stored items of historical significance to Salem could be on display for all to see.
In 1974, the society purchased the corner brick building next to the museum, at Pershing Street and South Broadway Avenue, the Schell building, and the two buildings were connected. Using funds from the Salem Community Foundation, a meeting room was added to the Pearce building in 1979.
The Historical Museum Herb Garden was added in 1982 by the former Salem Garden Club, with a horse-watering fountain used during the 1800s in Salem placed in the garden. An addition to the garden area was a metal decorative pediment from the Grand Opera block on State Street from the early 1890s.
The Salem Historical Society continued expanding in 1987 when a replica of the historic Liberty Hall from North Ellsworth Avenue was constructed on land donated by the city, located behind the meeting room. The museum is known as Freedom Hall.
The society keeps its members informed through the "Bugle" newsletter named after the Anti-Slavery Bugle published in Salem during the abolitionist period in history. Each year the society celebrates the April 30, 1806 founding of Salem and announces the names of the latest Citizens of Honor, formerly known as the Wall of Fame.
The society hosts Underground Railroad Trolley Tours and Ghost Trolley Tours and now the new Dale Shaffer Research Library is opening.
"Having the first museum was the biggest step," Shivers said.
With the old meeting room and gift shop area cleared out, he said they'll begin building a new music room in the now empty space.
They're saving artifacts and looking to the future, he said, offering people a place to come and do research in the new library. Anyone with any type of artifacts dealing with Salem that they want to donate or loan, including from local businesses and industry, can contact the museum at 330-337-8514.
To learn more about the Salem Historical Society, visit the website at www.salemhistoricalsociety.org. Museum buildings are open from 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays from May through October.
During the Salem iFest, formerly known as the International Festival, an exhibit celebrating Salem's "melting pot" heritage will be open in the meeting room of the Dale Shaffer Research Library on the lower level off of the South Lundy Avenue entrance.
The display will feature loaned articles from more than 30 local residents representing more than 15 countries, including musical instruments, flags, quilts, ethnic clothing, pottery, dishes, suitcases, dolls and more.
Hours for the exhibit are 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Anyone interested in sharing old international items from their heritage for the display should contact Elaine Reiter at 330-332-8161 or drop off items from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at email@example.com