By John C. Lutsch, CAAM Program & Marketing Manager
Macedonia. The name conjures images of the ancient birthplace of Alexander the Great, or perhaps of the recently formed breakaway republic of the former Yugoslavia. But there is a Macedonia of local repute as well, not ancient, but loaded with significance.
In 1999, the Western Reserve Historical Society purchased a nearly 60,000 square foot warehouse in the southeast Cleveland suburb of Macedonia, Ohio. Its purpose was to house museum artifacts, documents, and perhaps most importantly, classic automobiles and aircrafts in the Crawford Auto-Aviation Collection. Additionally, space was allocated for the maintenance, preservation, and restoration of those vehicles.
Today, the facility’s three-tiered storage racks hold around fifty-plus cars, trucks, motorcycles and aircraft, all awaiting attention, or an opportunity to be displayed in the Crawford. Although the building is unmarked (and rather unremarkable), the activities within are crucial to the operation of the Crawford, and the care of its world-class collection. .
The Crawford’s mission statement establishes the need, first and foremost, to preserve the vehicles for posterity and to avoid a complete restoration whenever possible. The Crawford team has to rely on extensive automotive backgrounds to determine whether a car can be conserved in its present condition, or if it requires a total rebuild to be presentable. It is a delicate balance of judgment, as well as the availability of adequate funding. Many of the automobiles in the collection are nearing the century mark in age, and parts are no longer available. Fabricating them from scratch is both difficult and expensive.
Larry Davis, Crawford Collection Manager, brings a wide skill set to Macedonia, as his machining and construction background can keep the fabrication of parts in-house, reducing costs and margins for error. His is no position for a mere mechanic. Welding, brazing, fiberglass work, sheet metal fabrication, and machine tool work are all daily requirements at The Preservation Facility, as well as guiding the volunteer force as they apply the aforementioned techniques. Engine rebuilding, frame restoration, and safety system upgrades are on tap as well.
Occasionally, the doors of the Preservation Facility are opened to the public, and crowds of over three hundred guests have jumped at the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of activities there. Having a large parking lot allows crowds of enthusiasts to bring their favorite rides to the open days as well.
Although the Preservation Facility usually keeps a low profile, it’s highly skilled team of Davis and his volunteers (many of whom are former engineers and craftsmen) continue to ensure that the Crawford’s vehicles are afforded the best of care, protecting and preserving them for future generations to enjoy.
Open house days at Macedonia have been curtailed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but as state and national restrictions ease, keep an eye out for your opportunity to visit this remarkable facility, right in our back yard! Meanwhile, one can enjoy the results of this work with a visit to the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum at the Cleveland History Center.