Broadview Heights Historical Society wraps up successful Christmas display, settles into permanent home

By Chris M. Worrell, special to

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio -- “Christmas in the Village” at the Broadview Heights Historical Society came to a successful conclusion Sunday (Dec. 15). The museum, located at 9543 Broadview Road, opened in September and is already becoming a significant presence in the community.

The Christmas display focused on the period 1927-1959, when Broadview Heights was still a village. The stately 1940 historical society museum, which originally served as housing for attendants from the Broadview Veterans Administration Hospital, provided an ideal setting for the collection.

The holiday display featured donated or loaned photos, toys, ornaments, collectibles, kitsch pieces and more from local Christmases past. The historical society intends to continue seasonal offerings, although the museum houses a number of other items of interest to local and military history buffs.

The building itself is an architectural gem. Candy Korn, president of the historical society, revealed that the dilapidated structure had to be almost completely gutted prior to becoming an elegant, flowing museum space, thanks to a 2016 grant and the efforts of volunteers. The historical society headquarters is the only structure remaining from the old VA campus.

The building also maintains elements from the VA hospital, which later became the state-run Broadview Developmental Center before being demolished in 2006. A pair of brass light fixtures from the former hospital hang in the atrium.

“They’re very special,” said Korn. “These just had to be in here as you walk in.”

A number of other VA artifacts are housed in the museum, as are relics from the developmental center. The most historically significant is a confinement bed that was meant to help those with developmental issues, but likely caused some residents emotional and physical suffering.

“We really agonized about that bed,” remarked Korn. “We’ve had some people who walked through here who got very emotional.”

Nonetheless, Korn and others recognized that the historical value outweighed the item’s unsettling legacy.

In spite of the “new” home, the historical society has deep roots in the community. The organization was founded in 2000 by Joe Behal, former president, and other city residents. The Waibel family owned the farm that was ultimately purchased by the VA. Significant portions of the collections derive from the Behal and Waibel families, both of which continue to maintain a presence in the city.

The military wing largely owes its existence to Bill Wall, a local veteran and avid collector. Describing her first encounter with Wall’s basement gallery, Korn commented, “My jaw dropped.”

Wall and others have loaned or donated historical helmets, medals, letters, photos, uniforms and more. An Air Force dress uniform belonging to longtime former Mayor Leo Bender is featured prominently, and the wooden horse Wall carved to display a historic McClellan saddle must be seen in person to be appreciated.

The historical society museum, above all, serves as testament to the area’s notable place in Northeast Ohio history. Visitors will discover a treasure trove of information and artifacts relating to local schools, businesses and historic structures, as well as vintage pieces that could once be found in homes throughout much of America.

Among the items is the old Pipers III restaurant sign. The Broadview Heights restaurant thrived for 33 years before closing in 2012. Korn was initially puzzled by the reactions of visitors, who simply stared at the sign.

She then realized, “They’re standing here thinking about the wedding reception they had, the party, the short ribs or the pork chops.”

Korn has been pleasantly surprised by the response to the new museum. “It’s bringing back memories for people.”

The museum had about a dozen visitors in its first 30 minutes Sunday.

Although exceedingly modest, Korn is also an item of interest to many older Clevelanders. The former Candy Lee served as an assistant to Gene Carroll’s Uncle Jake on “Uncle Jake’s House” and remained a local celebrity as a disc jockey and TV personality for years. She later worked for Ohio Sens. Howard Metzenbaum and John Glenn.

The Broadview Heights Historical Society is open regularly from 2 to 5 p.m. the second weekend of each month. Admission is free, although donations are accepted.