This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on December 8, 1978
Barn idea sparks 10-year marathon
By EILEEN HAWK
Melba Hunt and the Kettering-Moraine Museum and Historical society are synonymous.
When Mrs. Hunt joined the historical society 10 years ago, she “had no idea that I’d get involved like I have.”
What really aroused Mrs. Hunt’s interest was Deeds Barn, where Delco got its start.
“I wanted to help preserve the Deeds Barn. The society which was formed in 1962 couldn’t at that point raise the necessary money to preserve it.
“I was finally able to get the barn listed in the Register of Historical Places and on May 6, 1973, at 6 a.m., the barn was moved to its present site. It took three years of mostly volunteer work to restore it, and the barn was dedicated and opened on Aug. 29, 1976,” Mrs. Hunt said.
AT THAT SAME ceremony, Mrs. Hunt and her husband, Richard, received an award, including the keys to the city, from the historical society “for total dedication to the restored project.”
Getting the Deeds Barn preserved was only one of Mrs. Hunt’s contributions to the area that has been her home since 1956.
She has been president of the historical society since 1971—“I keep getting re-elected.” She has arranged our Heritage Home Tours, the latest one April 30. She arranged the state’s first Shaker Festival in 1977 and led the second in August.
Perhaps less spectacular but nonetheless important was Mrs. Hunt’s efforts in uniting Kettering and Moraine to form one historical society.
“In 1972, I walked in cold on the City of Moraine and volunteered to put in a history of the local area in their new government building. Before I knew it, Carl W. Gebhardt, then the mayor, asked me if I would monitor their open house.
“THIS TOOK PLACE one week after the centennial celebrating the 100th birthday of Orville Wright, which was held at the Kettering Government Center.
“It seems providential the way everything has tied together,” she continued. “After the celebrations were over, Gebhardt, who was quite a historian, and I were able to get through a series of meetings, Kettering and Moraine, to tie together and have one historical mission.
The museum, at 35 Moraine Circle south, in Kettering, opened in 1973. It was formerly the Kettering Courts Building.
Among the museum’s prized objects are displays of Shaker furniture, both from the Watervliet Colony (its location is now the Dayton Mental Health Center) and from an interested Shaker historian, Steve Kister, of Cincinnati. Some of the 100 pieces of furniture from Hawthorne Hill, which Orville Wright built in Oakwood, are also on display.
WE TOURED HAWTHORNE Hill, now an NCR guest house in 1973 and saw the furniture in the attic. We asked NCR if they would consider lending it to us on a long-term basis, and they agreed. With the help of volunteers of the society, I catalogued, photographed and in some cases, refinished the pieces in our museum,” Mrs. Hunt said.
Mrs. Hunt, who uses Charles Kettering’s desk in the museum, said that she always has been interested in history.
She came here shortly after high school and married Richard Hunt, who is a food broker.
“While my children, Lynn and Jim, were growing up, I didn’t do too much except for PTA and Goodwill, which was a particular interest of mine,” she said.
IN 1966, THE HUNTS bought the Abner Creager farmhouse at 821 E. Stroop Rd, where they have lived ever since.
“The house was in bad condition at the time and we had to restore it,” Mrs. Hunt recalled. “This got us interested in other old homes in the Kettering area, and I wound up by photographing many of them. Some of them have since been torn down.”
Mrs. Hunt has received several awards from the community. In 1974, she received the first Kettering Citizens Award for outstanding volunteer work for the betterment of the community. That same year, she also was appointed by the Kettering City Council to be chairman of the Kettering Bicentennial.
She has served with the Kettering Holiday-at-Home committee since 1959, both as a vice president and as a trustee. She organized the first Colonial Craft Show at the Government Center, which takes place during the Holiday-at-Home weekend, and was chairman for the craft show for six years.
WHEN KETTERING decided to give a Bicentennial Ball on Dec. 31, 1975, to usher in the Bicentennial year, Mrs. Hunt organized the Colonial Dancers. The dancers first performed at the ball and now give performances once or twice a month.
Mrs. Hunt remembers the Bicentennial year as “one meeting after another, culminating in the barbecue at the Government Center on July 4. We thought everyone would be out of town and didn’t order enough chicken for the many people who turned up for it. I remember not only worrying about the barbecue but performing—in that heat—with the Colonial Dancers who entertained.”
Mrs. Hunt is vice chairman and former chairman of the Kettering Citizens Award Committee and was chosen by the Kettering City Council to serve a four-year term as a member of the new Kettering Arts Council.
When she is not at the museum or at one of her committee meetings, Mrs. Hunt enjoys sewing, gardening and photography.