West Chester history group soon to unveil restored school house museum

It has been years in the making, but patient officials with the West Chester Twp. Historical Society are getting close to the public opening of their new museum and headquarters inside the township’s most iconic and now restored school building.

The society officials are spending the summer preparing and renovating the historic West Chester School House on Station Road, just a quarter mile east of the Olde West Chester downtown area.

The group acquired and began restoring the two-room schoolhouse three years ago, working to convert it into a local history museum and office for the society.

Built in 1900 on the foundation of a previous, burnt down school constructed in the 1870s, the West Chester School House is an iconic reminder of the Butler County township’s rural past now brought alive again into the 21st Century, said West Chester Historical Society President Mary Jo Bicknell.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 has caused most of the delays in opening the society’s new headquarters to public tours, said Bicknell.

“It’s taken a long time but we are so happy now,” she said of the upcoming, Sept. 9 public preview event of the site at 6670 Station Road.

The building and surrounding grounds were bought from private owners by the township in 1999 and later the township sold it to the historical society for $1 with stipulations that it would eventually be converted into a museum.

West Chester Twp., which originally was named Union Twp. until voters approved a name change in 2000, will be celebrating its bicentennial in 2023 and the society and museum will play an important role in that celebration, said Bicknell.

In recent decades the township has seen booming residential and business growth making it one of Ohio’s fast-growing communities.

“So many residents think of West Chester the way it is now, but a lot of things came before,” Bicknell recently stated in a township newsletter. “Our community history is often overlooked, but I think many people would find it quite interesting.”

The two-room schoolhouse, which used to house two classrooms of local children until a larger school was built in Olde West Chester in 1916, has held up well for more than a century and is a fitting showcase for historic memorabilia and exhibits, she said.

“Our displays are curated from the collection of our community’s earliest families. Families have been sharing bits of our history with us for years and now there is a permanent place to share our story.”

Barb Wilson, spokeswoman for West Chester Twp. said “the community looks forward to celebrating the opening of the history center.”

“The historical society, led by Mary John Bicknell has been working tirelessly to transform the historic West Chester school into a place where the community can learn about our history and that will be an amazing resource as we mark our bicentennial in 2023 and into the future,” said Wilson.

For more information on the West Chester – Union Township Historical Society and how to get involved through donations or volunteer work, see their Facebook page or call its office at (513) 874-4373.

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