Benwood has had 14 mayors since creating its city charter in 1882, and Mayor Ed Kuca is seeking photos and information about his predecessors as he researches the city's past.
In recent weeks, Kuca has sat in Benwood's archive room on the second floor of the city building, flipping through the pages of the city's past council minutes. Books from 1889, 1924 and 1942 show what precise penmanship past city clerks had. The records are still very readable today.
"There was always a feeling we shouldn't open these books," said Kuca, who has served as Benwood's mayor since 2003. "But if we don't ... what are they here for?"
Kuca's interest in Benwood's past was sparked by a letter he received in October from Jane Walsh of Bay Village, Ohio. She was seeking information about her great-great grandfather, James L. Brown, the first mayor of Benwood. Walsh said Brown owned a grocery store in Benwood during his tenure, and later after his term ended he moved to Brown Hollow Road in Bellaire.
Benwood's records show Brown served as mayor from the city's inception in 1882 through 1889. Other mayors include Joseph Mahood, 1889 to 1895; Thomas Shepard, 1895 to 1904; John Manley, 1904-1905; Mahood again from 1906 to 1910; Manley again, from 1910 to 1912; John Scanlon, 1912 to 1914; Clark Sprouts, 1914 to 1921; John Cox, 1922 to 1926; Fred Olson, 1926 to 1928; Henry Healy, 1930 to 1936; Raphael Deegan, 1936 to 1959; Henry Musilli, 1959 to 1962; Anthony Scaffidi, 1962 to 1996; Larry Ferrera, 1996 to 2003; and Kuca.
In his response to Walsh, Kuca told her Benwood is renovating its city building, and he asked if she had any photos of Brown she could send to the city.
Kuca wants to get photos of as many of Benwood's mayors as he can, and to hang these in the council chamber. If he isn't able to obtain a photo of some mayors, Kuca said a plaque will be placed on the wall in their honor.
All 14 mayors will be recognized on the wall, he said.
Walsh has sent him a photo of Brown, and Kuca said he has also received a photo of Musilli. He hopes the families of the other past mayors will step forward with photos.
"There's a lot of history here," Kuca said. "I hope this will become reality by the end of the year."