Outgoing Summit County Historical Society Director: John Brown's Legacy "Just Not That Important" to the "Foundation Community"
She Tried Unsuccessfully "For Years" to Raise Enough Money to Have John Brown's Home in Akron Renovated*
To Paula Moran, abolitionist John Brown ''is the quintessential historic figure'' from Summit County. That is just one of the things she has learned about local history after heading the Summit County Historical Society (SCHS) for the past dozen years.
Moran, 51, worked her last day Wednesday as executive director of the nonprofit group and will be moving to Maryland and then to Norfolk, Va., to join her husband, Harry P. ''Hank'' Lynch, former president and CEO of Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. He is now executive director of Nauticus, a marine science museum. Leianne Neff Heppner, curator of the historical society, has been named interim executive director.
Moran answered Beacon Journal [Akron, Ohio] questions about Brown, Akron and her hopes for the future of the historical society.
Q: What are you proudest of during your time here?
A: I am most grateful — I never say proud — for the incredible relationships I have enjoyed, many of whom have assembled to work together for the benefit of the Summit County Historical Society [SCHS]. It was a pure team effort, and I am a very lucky woman to have been right here, right now, as a part of that wonderful team.
Q: What story will you tell people when they ask you for a quick tale about the history of Summit County?
A: The story I will tell is Akron is home to many firsts, such as public education, mass-produced toys, breakfast cereals and marbles . . . but all we talk about is the big ditch. We have what is arguably the best park system around, between Metro Parks and the National Park, easy access ski resorts and unique shopping experiences to rival much bigger cities. West Point Market and Mustard Seed Market I will miss terribly. We forget that the catalyst for the Civil War was our very own John Brown, discounting his life and legacy by pronouncing him a madman. Our weather may leave something to be desired some of the time, but it is still a wonderful, warm, and friendly place to live with myriad opportunities for living a wonderful quality of life.
Q: Can you talk more about John Brown and would you like to see more done at the John Brown home to explain his life here?
A: John Brown is the quintessential historic figure here and I have fought to get that recognition for him the entire time I have been at the helm of SCHS. However, SCHS does not and will not for the foreseeable future, have the resources to renovate the exterior of his historic home. The assessments (city highway maintenance taxes) we pay the city of Akron are so high that we have often had to access a line of credit just to pay them. I quite frankly am appalled by this. I have tried for three years to raise the $100,000 required to cover the John Brown Home [with special siding] to preserve and maintain it and have been able to raise only a fraction of that thus far. It just isn't that important to the foundation community or to international history and to the cause of civil rights.