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Finnish Heritage Museum Has a Home

The museum is located on the corner of High and Third Streets in downtown Fairport Harbor, Ohio just two blocks from Lake Erie and one block from the Finnish Monument. The building served the village for years in various public service capacities and until recently operated as the Fairport Harbor Senior Citizen's Center. The structure is slated for extensive repairs and remodeling in order to accommodate our museum exhibition galleries, library, workrooms and office areas.

FHM is comprised of dedicated volunteers, all of whom have some Finnish ancestry and/or connection. Our members meet monthly to discuss museum business and plan for future events. In just a very short time, we have successfully arrived at a point which says, "we are here, we are serious, and we are active."

The building has existed since 1922-23 and has served Fairport Harbor well as a Police Station complete with a single "holding" jail cell in the back, as a volunteer Fire Department with kitchen and firemen's quarters, and a Village Hall meeting room for monthly meetings. The picture below shows the Museum as it appeared in 2007.

FHM building

TIMELINE  of the Museum

2002 Museum Idea born, Linda Katila, originator. Katila had approached several individuals with the idea of preserving items reflecting their history and heritage.
Co-founder Veikko Malkamaki followed through, called many people, and set up a time and place for the original meeting. The museum was born on that night.
Original name was Fairport Finnish Museo Association.


Founding members: Ailiin Andrews, Vivian Heikkinen, Linda Katila, Raili and Matti Lehtonen, Laura and Veikko Malkamaki, Niles Oinonen, John Ollila, and Viola Pohto.
November 18, 2002 First Meeting held at Zion Luther Center

January 13, 2003 second meeting at Katila home. Seven original members decide to “proceed full steam ahead.”
2003 Board Members:
Co-Presidents: Linda Katila John Ollila
Secretary: Ailiin Andrews
Treasurer: Veikko Malkamaki

March 10, 2003 Monthly meeting at the Senior Citizens Center. Basic by-laws discussed. Temporary artifact storage at Zion parsonage. Fund raising discussed. Raffle planned.

April 14, 2003 Meeting discussed publicity, IRS status, Luther Center display set up, and Beverage Store window display set up. Contributions of artifacts start.
July 14, 2003 Meeting.  Fairport Library Display suggested. Raffle winners announced.

July 5, 2003 Finnish Monument in Veteran’s Memorial Park dedicated in ceremonies. Video taped by Bob Noponen.

August 11, 2003 Monthly meeting.  FHS auditorium discussed as site for Annual meeting and Pikku Joulu celebration. Monument dedication tape sent to the Finnish Embassy by Bob Noponen. Lake County Historical Society display discussed.

September 8, 2003 Meeting. Discussed Fairport Community Day participation. Constitution read and accepted.

October 13, 2003 Meeting. Lake County display progressing.  Gene Kangas presented 11 item objectives for the museum.  Annu Vincent presented himmeli art forms and members tried to make their own.

November 10, 2003 Monthly meeting, new officers slate presented for election, new logo submitted by Gene Kangas, paver bricks discussed, name revision discussed with three ideas: Fairport Harbor Finnish Museo Association, The Fairport Harbor Finnish Museum Association, Fairport Harbor Finnish Cultural Museum, and a “write in” possible.  Quorum changed from 9 members present to 33% of the voting membership.

December 7, 2003 Pikku Joulu and Independence Day Celebration at Fairport Harding High, W.R.Branthoover Auditorium.  Speaker: Hannu Vepsalainen.  New officers for 2004 announced: President, John Ollila; Vice President Chad Malkamaki; Secretary, Lasse Hiltunen; Treasurer, Veikko Malkamaki.

January 12, 2004.  Meeting.  Finnish Monument “foot stones” or “pavers” will be sold by the Museum.

February 23, 2004 Constitution undergoes many revisions.
Name changed to “Finnish Heritage Museum” is a non-profit organization.

March 8, 2004 Meeting. Membership cards, artifact acquisition/cataloguing, letter to FH Village Council asking for use of the old building be drafted and sent. A web site idea born.

May 10, 2004 Meeting.  Gene Kangas appointed Museum Director at Executive Committee meeting on May 3, 2004. Committee is searching for permanent museum sites in Fairport.  Six sites are investigated, two temporary, and four permanent.

June 14, 2004 Meeting at Lake Erie College.  Attendance has grown and is up to 40 members. The slogan “Then and Now/Sitten ja Nyt” considered. (Later changed to “Enen ja Nyt.”) Willoughby Fine Arts exhibition planned with Laura Malkamaki as curator.  Finnish Heritage Museum is live on the web.  Lake County Visitor’s Bureau grant, “The Visiting Art Series—The Kaukonen Connection—a Finnish/American Variety show is written and presented.  Membership cards to be designed. Constitution amended to include Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

August 9, 2004 Meeting.  Museum acquires first “purchased” acquisition, a distaff.

September 13, 2004 Meeting. We have an EIN number for Ohio.   Noted in meeting that US Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was a Finn and went to the moon to get sauna rocks.  Press release out discussing paving stones.  Penttila discussed the Fairport Lighthouse Association’s grant to fix Senior Citizen’s building.  Other possible sites reported upon. Hall of Fame nominations discussed.

October 11, 2004 Meeting.  Acquisitions continue to come in.  The Fairport Public Library may (and later did) permanently loan their entire Finnish book collection to the museum.  Cleveland Plain Dealer carries an article about Finnish Monument dedication.

November 8, 2004 Meeting. Webmaster appointed.  Willoughby Fine Arts exhibit was nicely attended and was well received.  Kudos to Laura Malkamaki.  New slate of officers nominated for 2005.  First class of Hall of Fame inductees recognized. Tara Halonen, Kai Haskivi, Karl Vilhelm Valgren, Eero Saarinen, Johan Christian Julius Sibelius, Paavo Nurmi, John Morton, Akselli Gallen, Eliel Gottlieb Saarinen, Elias Linnrot, Mikeal Agricola, Zacharias Toppelius, Johann Snellman, Vaino Linna, Lasse Viren, Greeta Hapasalo, Eila Hiltunen, Dr. Raymond Wargelin.   Sue Troutman presented a “Finnish Glass” program after the meeting.

December 2004 Pikku Joulu and Independence Day celebration held at W.R.Branthoover Auditorium at Fairport High School.

January 10, 2005 Meeting.  Dues schedule changed.  New committee leaders acquired.

February 14, 2005 Meeting.  Discussed were items to be sold in the museum gift shop.  Additions made to website. Finnish American articles to be submitted to newspapers.

March 14, 2005 Meeting.  Negotiations are proceeding with Fairport Village Council regarding the building and the grant to repair it.

April 11, 2005 Meeting locations changed to the Fairport Public Library meeting room.

May 9, 2005 Meeting discussed the 301 property, the lease, and the work to be done. Blueprints and drawings have been submitted for approval.  Finlandia Foundation grant received.

Dedication of Finnish Monument’s Paving Stones By Rev. Don Tompkins (See for additional info: Cleveland Plain Dealer—Sunday, April 4, 2004 a feature which told the red brick story)

 

November 8, 2005 Fairport Harbor Village Council and FHM agree to lease the building.  Still to be decided are various parts of the lease and renovation plans.

December 9, 2005 Pikku Joulu celebrated at McKinley Elementary School with a Power Point presentation about the “True History of Santa Claus,” a visit from Santa, a skit regarding the sauna, and finally Tango lessons for the audience.

February 2006 Items donated for the museum include oak cabinets and purchased tables and chairs.  Plans underway for Pikku Joulu 2006. 

March 2006.  Open meeting to discuss the direction of our museum.  

There were many comments and suggestions throughout the meeting including:
*Exhibit the log homes of early Finns and documenting their accomplishments

*Coffee Shop possibly decorated in old Finn cabin style. Multi purpose and flexible rooms throughout building to keep options open.

*Revisiting the objectives for our museum put forth in the first FHM meeting held 11.18.2003 which were:  1) to provide housing for Finnish artifacts, memorabilia, and items from Finland.  2) To acquaint visitors with history and current status of Finland.  3) To acquaint visitors with history of Finnish immigrants to this area.  4) To involve those of Finnish heritage and others within wider area in proposed project.

*Develop a video, book, and document library available for research

*Present Finland and Finns Past and Present, Then and Now…tying us in with Finland via
the website and current events.

*Update By-Laws to reflect the Museum today

* Honor the past but be cognizant that we need newer technologies to interest people.  Finland is embracing all the new technologies.  We need to attract the young, the new generations to our museum.

* Need to interest other than Finns.

*Want the past highlighted in our museum.

*Meetings need entertainment or presentations.

*Schools are moving away from expensive field trips and not visiting museums.  Could send educational videos into the classrooms instead.   We need more technology for our museum to be vital. 

*Village needs to market itself.  Survival and growth means money. 
Purpose is to survive – MONEY.  Every person needs to do something to promote museum monetarily.  Hook up with the Mayor and Council, with the Lighthouse, the Perch Fest, the Mardi Gras, and special events coming to Fairport like the Schooner Madeline’s visit this summer.

*Gene Kangas has resigned from his position as Museum Director as of March 3, 2006.


May, 2006 Successful cabbage roll dinner put on by Niles Oinonen and his wife Cathy. 

 

June 2006.  First meeting held in our new quarters at 301 High Street.  Our own blends of FHM coffee are now available for sale.  Flea market sale was a big success.  Finlandia Foundation has given us a large grant to be used for technology.  Proposed was a Steller’s Elder glass piece for raffle, donated by Laura Malkamaki.  Fairport’s Knights of Kaleva donated $2000 to FHM.

July, 2006 Pot Luck Dinner meeting on the FHM grounds.  Mardi Gras parade will have two vehicles with FHM advertising on the sides.  Story appeared in Finlandia Weekly outlining our progress.

August 2006 301 High Street is not listed in the National Register of Historic Places nor will it be.  Architectural plans can proceed. Educational programming starts tonight at the meeting.

September 2006 Community Day plans discussed.

September 24, 2006 Community Day. FHM sold its own coffee and dunks. Information available.

October 9, FHM general meeting. Set October 14 as workday in the Museum. Nominating Committee presented candidates for election at November's meeting. Pikku Joulu details confirmed. Specifications for the bids (for work on the building) have gone to the Village's consultants. As soon as we hear from them, bids will be let. Discussed Local Heroes for the Hall of Fame. Various members presented an overview of Finnish American newspapers still in publication today. Papers presented were: New World Finn, Raivaaja, Amerikan Uutiset, The Finnish American Reporter, and the now defunct, Finlandia Weekly.

October, 2006 Work parties have done major work on the interior.

November 14, 2006 Monthly meeting saw Nominations of officers presented, various reports, plans discussed and a featured program called "Places of Interest of the Early Finns in Pennsylvania and New Jersey" given by Elaine Lillback. Lillback also discussed her new book which will be out soon examining the life of John Morton, the last and most important (at least in our viewpoint, since he was Finnish) signer of the Declaration of Independence. All other signers are covered also. The book will be on sale soon.

November, 2006 New Front Entry frame and door has been installed with glass to be installed by Thanksgiving week. Painting and plaster work has continued on the inside with Veikko Malkamaki and his painting crew doing a great job with colors blue, gold, and a deep red color scheme selected by our architect Heikki Penttila. More work of taking down a couple of walls, changing locations of storage items to get them out of the way, and getting ready for Harbor Holidays. The museum will be selling its "OWN" brand of coffees, home made nissu, gift baskets, and other items during the holiday season. We also plan on being "open" after New Years with limited hours.

Plans are well under way for Pikku Joulu/Independence Day/ Officer Installation ceremonies December 9, 2006 in the W.R.Branthoover Auditorium in Fairport Harding High School. Featured will be a play and PowerPoint display about Finn Hollow (early Finn houses which were built by Finns). A seasonal display at the Lake County Historical Society featuring four nationality groups called Victorian Splurge will show Finnish items.

November, 2006 The GRAND OPENING of the museum will be June 30 and July 1, 2006, a Saturday and Sunday. Plans are being formulated for that weekend celebration.

May, 2007 Bids have been received from contractors. FHM awaits Fairport Village Council approval to proceed with the renovations before the grand opening.

May and June 2007. A furious rebuilding effort is underway. On the outside, windows are replaced, north wall is rebuilt, west window lintels replaced, massive new window in the front is installed, and new rear doors are installed. On the inside, main gallery is expanded to two stories with the removal of the first floor ceiling, electricals are installed, new stud walls positioned, new drywall installed, painted, and touched up. Meanwhile, the exhibit pieces have been made, others collected, labled, and readied, and finally installed. A massive cleanup campaign continued before, during and after all the construction. Also, the Grand Opening Committee worked feverishly to plan and execute the many details of the Opening itself. All went well.

June 30, July 1 weekend. The Grand Opening festivities make an auspicious opening ceremony. Hundreds of well wishers attend and make it a successful affair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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