FREMONT - Growing up in McCutchenville, Christie Weininger had easy access to history. Her home was within walking distance of the cemetery where her father's ancestors, who had come to Ohio from Germany, were buried. In addition, longevity tends to run on both sides of the family.
"My family has lived in Wyandot County for seven generations. Our family history was right there. It was local," Weininger said. "There were people around to tell lots of stories, and both sides of my family are very good story-tellers. For me, history was interesting and personal."
Sept. 4, the Mohawk High School graduate officially began her duties as executive director of the Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont. Now, Weininger is learning the stories associated with the former home of the 19th U.S. President, Rutherford B. Hayes. She succeeded Tom Culbertson, who retired in August.
In 2004, Weininger earned a master's degree from the University of Toledo, where she was a member of the Phi Alpha Theta History Honorary Society and was recipient of the Grosbeck Scholarship awarded by the Ohio Chapter of the Colonial Dames of America.
While still at her former position as director of the Wood County Museum, Weininger had worked with Culbertson on the Ohio Local History Alliance. They often rode to meetings together. When she learned he was retiring, she asked about various aspects of the director's position at the Hayes Center. Weininger decided the job would be a good step for her and would cut her daily commute time from Oak Harbor.
"It's been nice because Tom is still in the area. He's retired but he's still around, so it's good to know he's just a phone call away, if I have a question," Weininger said. "One of the first things I did was walk the grounds. The interior of the home is stunning, gorgeous, but when you walk around the outside of the house, there's some work that needs to be done, particularly the verandah," Weininger said.
Shortly after she started, one of the docents at the home died. The other volunteers took up a memorial collection and designated it for verandah repairs. Although Culbertson oversaw a major interior restoration at the Hayes Home, Weininger will be responsible for raising funds to finish the "Little Smithsonian" and the "Inner Sanctum" components of the project.
The center still is looking for donations of books dating before 1900 and in good condition to fill bookshelves that have been returned to their original positions in the Hayes Home. Books can be brought to the museum reception desk for consideration. If accepted, they will become part of the home's permanent display.
Some vintage draperies are being remade. They were a gift from a women's temperance group to former first lady Lucy Hayes.
"They call them 'portiers.' They hang in the doorway between the drawing room and the president's library. They have incredible hand-done embroidery on them," Weininger said. "The originals were in very bad condition."
Weininger also shared other updates.
The contents of the Dillon House have been auctioned, but the house is still for sale. Weininger said expenses had been exceeding income, and the center had not been able to find a way to make the house sustain itself. It also needs numerous repairs.
The free summer concert series and ice cream socials are to continue and the center's croquet club has expanded.
Weininger said she would like to update the permanent exhibits in the Hayes Museum. Some of the cabinets need repairs and the interpretive panels have faded.
In addition to her duties in Fremont, Weininger is as an adjunct instructor in the history department at Heidelberg University and in the American culture studies department at Bowling Green State University. She is the president of the Ohio History Alliance and chairman of the Public History Committee for the Ohio Academy of History Executive Council.