The new Lake County History Center occupies a building constructed in 1876 by the Lake County Commissioners. The building replaced the former “Lake County Infirmary,” earlier known as the County Poor House, that had occupied the property since 1852 when the County bought a farm house and 110 acres from the Pettingel family. Benjamin F. Morse was hired to design the new structure and Col. Arthur McAllister of Cleveland was named as builder. McAllister had built a reputation through construction of homes on Millionaires Row and the Soldiers and Sailors monument on Public Square in Cleveland.
The two-story T-shaped Italianate structure remains an excellent example of an 1800’s institutional building retaining its architectural integrity and historic significance. The building was designed with four rooms at the front of the building designated as superintendent’s quarters on the first and second floor, followed by two wings extending from each side of the center to house residents, men and women in separate wings. The rear extension held the kitchen, dining hall and laundry area. The basement level was used for storage and workshop areas as well as a number of cells for housing the mentally ill. In 1897, a cottage hospital was added that served the entire county until a modern hospital was built in Painesville in 1924. Residents were supported by county tax dollars, individual donations and a large working farm on the grounds.
The Lake County Home remained one of the few operating facilities in the state until 2004. With only 9 residents remaining, a task force determined the facility needed to be closed. Residents were transferred to other facilities and the home sold to the adjoining school district, Riverside Local.
Visitors today will still be able to see much of the original home, cells, cottage hospital and outbuildings as the Society continues to refurbish the building as the Lake County History Center. The records of the County Home residents and business affairs have been recorded since 1852 and are kept in the Lake County Administration Building in Painesville. The home was sold to Painesville Township who then negotiated a purchase to the local school district, Riverside Local.