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Published: Thursday, 8/14/2003

History lives in old photos at new library


A train depot, a steam engine, a diner, a dirt path lined with parked horse-drawn carriages and wagons - collectively the images reflect life in a sleepy little unincorporated village that hasn't changed all that much in the last 160 years.

“That one's of a hearse from Feinauer's Funeral Parlor and Furniture Store,” explained Russ, 14, as he pointed to a large, framed black-and-white portrait above a freshly-filled shelf in the new Ida Township branch of the Monroe County Library.

“For your comfort in this life, and the next,” the Backyard History Club member said, cracking a smile as he imagined the former business' advertising slogan.

Workers were putting the finishing touches last week on the township's new $585,000 library/municipal building/community room; a veritable palace compared to the spaces the former library and township offices have occupied for the last several decades.

Oak wainscoting lines most of the walls around the 7,600-square-foot building, and natural oak trim and doors are intended to accentuate the train depot-like look of the structure, which is to open this month.

Head librarian Barb Drodt and others from the county library system have already filled most of the shelves of their new facility.

“I just love it,” said Mrs. Drodt from behind her new circulation desk.

“I think people are going to be just amazed when they see their new library for the first time.”

But while the focus of the library and township office's move may be into something new, its primary decoration will be of something old, thanks to the Backyard History Club, its teenaged members and their adult director, Jeremy Potter.

“We tried to hit a range of decades in Ida if we could,” explained Mr. Potter, a teacher at Ida Middle School.

“The kids have been pretty excited about this.”

Earlier this year, the members of the Backyard History Club went through the collection of Ida-oriented photographs of the deceased Bill Capaul, a longtime funeral director and historian whose collection is now stored at the Monroe County Historical Museum.

Mr. Potter said his club members winnowed through the photographs, picking out about 45 or so that best represented life in Ida through the ages.

Those were later narrowed down to 25 shots, including photos of Ida's original high school from 1895, a former creamery from 1910, and shots of the railroad that once traversed the center of town.

The photographs, and some negatives, were taken to Fultz's Gallery in Monroe, which blew up the images, matted and framed them, at a cost of a little over $5,000.

The funds came from grant money donated to the library fund and not from taxpayers, Mrs. Drodt explained.

The three club members that got to hang the photographs said they didn't mind giving up an afternoon before band practice to hammer picture hangers into the wall.

“This is something that, when I have kids, I'll be able to bring them here and tell them that I helped put these pictures up when I was a kid,” Mark Andrews said.

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