ALBANY — Laszlo Szegfu and his wife, Diana Szegfu, drove from their home in Metairie on Friday to purchase pulled pork sandwiches from members of the Hungarian Historical Society.
But the Szegfus admitted that they didn’t really come for the food but to support the Hungarian Historical Society’s continued renovations on its museum, slated to open in 2015, Hungarian Historical Society President Alex Kropog said.
All of the money raised during the annual pulled pork dinner fundraiser will go back into the museum, Kropog said.
“The museum would be a memorial to the Hungarians that have lived here over 100 years,” Kropog said.
The museum is 14 years — and lots of blood, sweat and tears — in the making, which includes renovations to the building, which dates back to 1906-1907. A few display cases sit inside the unused building awaiting additional display cases being crafted by a local cabinet maker, Kropog said.
“We see daylight,” Helen Kropog said of the end to years of work. “It’s really changed from when I went to school here.”
“There was a big Hungarian settlement here,” Julia Ourso said. “I lived right down the road, so this means a lot to me” to see the former school transformed into a museum.
The historical society is now gathering items to display at the museum.
“These would be simple things because the Hungarians weren’t extravagant people,” Alex Kropog said.
He said the museum is accepting items that were used by Hungarians and items from the former school. Other items that will be included in the museum will be items from Hungarian Presbyterian Church and St. Margaret Catholic Church.
“The churches were primarily the ones that kept the Hungarian settlement together,” Kropog said.
The museum includes a display area, a meeting room and storage areas as well as restrooms.
The Hungarian settlement received its first school in about 1920, Kropog said.
That building, however, burned during the 1927-28 school year. In April 1928, a delegation from Hungarian Settlement asked the Livingston Parish School Board for a new school.
In November 1928, the School Board moved a no-longer-used building in Springfield to Hungarian Settlement, Kropog said.
The school building could not be easily moved in its entirety, so it had to be divided into sections to allow it to move over the narrow roadway. The largest segment was moved first.
With a system of pulleys, blocks and tackles, cables and ropes attached to the building section, oxen walked in a circle around a drum, tightening the ropes and chains, to move the building.
Logs were placed under the building to act as wheels. The moving process took three weeks, Kropog said.
From 1928 to 1943, the school was the main educational facility for the children living in Hungarian Settlement, according to information provided by the Hungarian Settlement Historical Society.
The nearest schools were in Albany and Springfield. Some children went to those schools, but the majority were educated in the Hungarian school, which included first through seventh grades and is where many Hungarian children learned English.
Upon graduation, students then went to Albany or Springfield for high school.
In 1943, the Livingston Parish School Board closed the Hungarian school. From 1944 to 1976, the building served as Our Home nursing home. For the next 24 years, the building sat abandoned.
In 2000, the Hungarian Settlement Historical Society, led by Louis Bartus, signed a 50-year lease with the School Board so it could renovate the building into a Hungarian museum, Kropog said.
For information on the Hungarian Historical Society, visit www.hungarianmuseum.com.