The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

August 18, 2013

Hungarian church will become D-Day museum

Staff Writer

CONNEAUT — In the near future, a century-old Port of Conneaut church will be transformed into a museum devoted to World War II in general and the D-Day Invasion in particular.

The soon-to-be museum sits a short distance from Township Park, home to the largest re-enactment in the country geared to historic amphibious assault. The 2013 version of the event concluded Saturday night.

D-Day Ohio Inc., the group in charge of the annual event, has acquired the First Hungarian Reformed Church at Lake Road and Harbor Street, officers said. The church, built in 1914, was essentially donated to the organization, said Lori McLaughlin, D-Day Ohio chief operating officer.

Planning for the acquisition began in earnest in 2012, said Rebecca Bashore, D-Day Ohio chief executive officer. “Last year we talked about whether it was something we could accomplish,” she said.

Ultimately, the board voted to pursue the project, McLaughlin said.

The church has a congregation that meets only sporadically, McLaughlin said. Parishioners will continue to use the church occasionally before relocating, organizers said.

The building comes complete with a pipe organ and pews, McLaughlin said. “It’s a gorgeous church,” she said.

In the future, the building will be home to World War II and 1940s artifacts.

“People had offered us items and we couldn’t take them (for lack of display space),” McLaughlin said. “We’re now accepting donations.”

There’s much to be done before the museum throws open its doors, and organizers are not predicting a debut date. The first priority is to make the building accessible to all, and D-Day Ohio will be seeking grants to build ramps that will circumvent the steep stairs. A small parking lot is also a consideration, organizers said.

“There are some big things we have to do first,” Bashore said. “We have a lot of ideas, and luckily some on the board and some volunteers have museum experience. The space is limited and we have a big story to tell.”

A museum nearby the re-enactment site will help the committee continue its mission of education, Bashore said. “I think we can continue to tell the story of World War II and D-Day,” she said.