Staff Writer

CONNEAUT - - Decades of local history, collected and catalogued by people with a penchant for the past, will be put on public display this month.

The Conneaut Area Historical Society, created 10 years ago, will debut its long-awaited museum over the Memorial Day weekend and regular hours will follow.

"We've talked about this for a long time," said Edwin Wharton, the society's president. "Now, we're at the point where we can open up."

The museum will be open between noon and 5 p.m. Saturday through Memorial Day and weekend hours are planned through the summer, Wharton said. "That depends on the number of volunteers we get," he said.

The former New York Central Railroad freight depot, built during the 1870s, is home to the society's vast collection of artifacts, documents and memorabilia. The depot is located at the CSX Railway crossing on Mill Street, adjacent to Sal's Restaurant. It sits opposite the city's popular Historical Railway Museum.

Volunteers have prepared one room in the building for visitors. "We feel it's now worthy for the public to see," Wharton said.

Renovation is under way on a second room, which could be finished in 2007, Wharton said.

The museum features items from Conneaut, Kingsville and Pierpont. Displays have been created, which chronicle the entire history of the area, beginning with its glacial geology and the prehistoric era. Fossils, arrowheads and primitive tools will be showcased.

Other displays feature products made in now-defunct factories and touch on the region's nautical and farming past.

When members acquired the 140-foot depot from a benefactor a few years ago, the wooden building was in sad shape. Since then, money obtained through foundation and government grants helped the society install a new roof, windows, furnace and alarm system. The exhibit room is equipped with new lights and carpeted floors. Fresh paint adorns the walls.

Volunteers will staff the museum and answer questions from visitors. Wharton said he is looking forward to sharing stories about the region's past.

"I think it will be very enjoyable to explain the displays to our guests," he said.

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