Judith Schwed has been a member of the Chesterland Historical Foundation for more than 20 years and has always been active in the community. 

For Judith Schwed, love of her home town runs deep. That appreciation includes ongoing efforts to preserve and share the history of Chester Township.

“I am from here, I have lived here all but two years of my life and I’m 82,” Mrs. Schwed said. “So, this is home to me, this is the area I love and don’t intend to move for any reason.”

Mrs. Schwed has been a member of the Chesterland Historical Foundation for well over 20 years.

“It’s a great passion of mine,” she said. “I was president for many, many, many years, I just recently retired from that job. It was about time after 15 years of being the president, don’t you think?”

It all started when the then president called wanting to know if she would be interested in joining and possibly starting up a women’s group. “I thought that was a neat idea, and I kind of liked that because I like history to begin with,” Mrs. Schwed said.

The Chesterland Historical Foundation began with a donation land in 1973 at the corner of Caves and Mayfield roads by the family of the late Walter White, a Cleveland industrialist who had a home in Chester, now the site of Hawken School.

“It was owned by the White Family in Gates Mills, that whole section of property, and one of the White daughters thought that it would be a good idea to donate 5 acres,” Mrs. Schwed recalled, adding that the goal was to keep history alive.

The property donation included the Scotland School built in 1847 with the stipulation that the land be used to preserve and display the history of the township. Over the next three decades the foundation obtained and restored five major historical structures from Chester Township, in addition to several smaller ones, all retaining the historical features present when they were originally constructed, she said.

“Every building is just so filled with history,” she said. “I just wish more people that moved out here would take the time to go up and visit and take their children up to learn the history of the township.”

On the site, the historical foundation maintains the Scotland School, the 1850 Chester Town Hall, the Silas Tanner house built in 1842, interurban station, Stone Family barn, a small wood shed and outhouse and the T.J. Thayer General Store which was originally situated next to what is today Bloom Brothers on Mayfield Road.

In 2016, the foundation received a donation of an additional 5 acres to the west of the property from Mike and Jenny Albino.

“We don’t have any plans of ever doing anything with that property, it’s just as a buffer from all the traffic,” she said.

The historical foundation has approximately 200 members both active and inactive and anyone is welcome to join.

“It doesn’t cost anything to come up and go through the village,” said Mr. Schwed. “We do tours whenever somebody calls.”

The historical village is a hands-on type of museum with docents in every building who love to share, Mrs. Schwed said. “We have it open the first Sunday of every month. There is an open house and sometimes it has a theme to it, sometimes it doesn’t.”

The village is privately owned and is funded by membership fees, donations and fundraisers. “We have people that honestly think it belongs to the township and it’s like a township park, which it is not, it is owned by the Chesterland Historical Foundation.

“Money can be tight sometimes, but you manage somehow if it’s important to you.”

Over the years, the foundation has hosted the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts earning their badges, according to Mrs. Schwed. “We welcome them with open arms,” she said.

The foundation’s major fundraiser is the annual flea market held on the grounds each August. “That event gets lots of people there one Saturday out of the entire year.”

During the pandemic, the village took some time and closed down for a few months before slowly opening back up and concentrating on outdoor activities.

“We’re finding now that people are really starting to stop back in when we have an open house,” said Mrs. Schwed. “The fun part is that even though we will advertise, people will be driving down the hill on Caves Road and all of a sudden they see a lot of cars in the parking lot. It piques their interest, and they turn around and come back.”

Mrs. Schwed said she doesn’t envision the organization will ever be putting up any additional buildings because they just are not available.

“Wouldn’t I love to think that we could get some more buildings, but because the buildings have to be from Chesterland, there’s really not many buildings left that are historically correct,” she said.

But there is more work to do. “I would love a little gazebo in the middle of the village green, that’s something I’ve dreamed about,” said Mrs. Schwed.

Mrs. Schwed’s favorite event is the annual Christmas gathering held in the 1842 Tanner House which is all decked out for Christmas and has handcrafted items for purchase.

“It’s kind of like my baby and I put so much time and energy into it and encourage many people to participate but it also generates some funding for the historical village,” she said. “People come in to have tea then they can do their early Christmas shopping, it’s just grown over the years. There have been a lot of friendships made.”

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