THE LAKESIDE METHODIST CHAPEL AS MUSEUM
In the mid-1800s, the Methodist Episcopal Church had a three-point circuit on the Marblehead Peninsula which included congregations in small churches at Christy, Catawba, and Lakeside/Marblehead. By 1875, two years after the establishment of the Lakeside resort, members of the ME Church then located on what is now Route 163 decided to build a chapel in the center of Lakeside, at the intersection of Third Street and Maple Avenue. The congregation worshipped in the Lakeside Chapel for 25 years until they outgrew the building. In 1900, the Lakeside congregation purchased a brick building on the corner of Central Avenue and Fifth Street from a fraternal organization. During the fire of 1929, the brick church burned and the congregation held Sunday services at Orchestra Hall until 1952 when the present church was completed.
During the period from 1900 to 1952, the original wood-frame Lakeside Chapel was known as the Ladies’ Aid Hall.
It was operated by the Methodist Church women and used for Sunday School classes, church meetings and social events. Once the new church building at Fifth Street and Central Avenue was completed with space for meetings, the church sold the Ladies’ Aid Hall to the Lakeside Association and it was renamed Fellowship Hall.
Fellowship Hall continued to be used for community meetings and events. As the building deteriorated in the 1960s, it was used by Lakeside for storage. By 1968, the Lakeside Association Board decided to raze the building due to its deteriorated condition. Rather than see the historic Lakeside Chapel torn down, a group of history-minded Lakesiders formed the Lakeside Heritage Club, Inc. (now the Lakeside Heritage Society, Inc.) in 1968 to save the building. Based on an agreement with the Lakeside Association Board, the new Heritage Society repaired the building and opened it as a museum in 1969. The Heritage Hall Museum has increased its displays over the past 45+ years and developed activities for children while not charging admission fees.
The Danbury-Marblehead Peninsula
The Peninsula consists of the Village of Marblehead (incorporated in 1891), the unincorporated community of Lakeside established in 1873 and Danbury Township, the eastern most township in Ottawa County. Located on the shores of Lake Erie at the western edge of the Connecticut Western Reserve, this area was originally inhabited by Ottawa Indians and gradually settled by white settlers after the War of 1812. The Peninsula was settled by a diverse population of eastern U.S. farmers and European immigrants who came to work in the quarries, orchards, fishing and ship building industries plus Protestant families who wanted the summer Chautauqua experience in Lakeside.
The American Chautauqua Movement
“Chautauqua” is a Native American word that is the name of a lake and county in northwest New York. The first Chautauqua experience was a two-week assembly for Sunday school teachers on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in 1874 under the leadership of Rev. John H. Vincent and Lewis Miller, Methodist Episcopal men who believed in the importance of education to improve American society. The annual assembly on Lake Chautauqua quickly grew in attendance and esteem. Soon other summer assemblies developed in Eastern and Midwest states, often in places where camp meetings had flourished in the mid-1800s. These new assemblies, most of which had a Protestant denomination affiliation, provided a summer resort experience that incorporated education and religious activities in an environment that promoted cultural arts and recreation to enrich leisure time.
These assemblies or resorts became known as “Chautauquas” due to their similarities to the original New York Chautauqua Institution, which was referred to as “the Mother Chautauqua.” However, all of the assemblies were independent, establishing their own summer programs and building structures suitable to support their activities. In keeping with the nature of a resort, the independent Chautauquas typically had at least one hotel for visitors and cottages owned by summer residents.
The “Chautauqua Movement” continued its expansion across America during the 1880s through the early 1900s, influenced by the Protestant faith influencing much of America at the time. By 1910, it is estimated that there were approximately 400 independent Chautauqua assemblies in the United States. The Movement began to decline in the late 1920s and early 1930s in response to the Great Depression and other cultural changes such as increased use of radios, motion pictures for entertainment and the availability of automobiles to take families anywhere they wanted to go for a vacation experience.
Lakeside on Lake Erie was one of the early Chautauquas. It was established as a Methodist-based family resort in 1873. The first Lakeside Assembly experience for Sunday school teachers similar to the program at Chautauqua Institution in New York occurred in 1878. Lakeside has offered the Chautauqua-style summer program continuously to the present.
Independent Chautauqua resort communities continued to close throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Currently, Lakeside is one of fewer than ten Chautauqua-based communities offering multi-week programs to enrich the lives of guests through varied religious, educational, cultural arts and recreational experiences.