The city of Delaware is once again home to one of Ohio’s most endangered historic sites, according to Preservation Ohio, the state’s oldest statewide historic preservation organization.
Included in its recently released official List of Ohio’s Most Endangered Historic Sites for 2019 is the old caretaker’s house at Oak Grove Cemetery, 334 S. Sandusky St. The 2018 list included the old brick train station built during the early 1900s on Lake Street in Delaware.
“This year, Preservation Ohio received more nominations for this important list than ever before,” said Thomas Palmer, executive director of Preservation Ohio, “which confirms both that much of our state’s historic properties remain at risk and that interest in preservation is growing across Ohio. Ohio’s Most Endangered Historic Sites is unique in that it highlights historic buildings and sites submitted from local citizens and advocates, each hoping to bring attention and to identify ways to give important historic properties a future. Thirteen properties in all areas of Ohio are included in this year’s edition.”
A Preservation Ohio press release states the original plans for Delaware’s historic Oak Grove Cemetery called for the former caretaker’s house to be built, with the oldest portion dating back to the 1850s.
“The City of Delaware is considering demolition to build a location for cremation remains despite ample space existing elsewhere in the cemetery,” the press release states. “Many suggestions for creative reuse of this house have been offered. Local interests are seeking to save this sole remaining element of the original cemetery plan.”
Lee Yoakum, the city’s community affairs coordinator, told The Gazette that when the local board overseeing Oak Grove Cemetery was no longer able to keep up with the care and services at the cemetery, the city was “forced by deed to take over ownership” in 2012.
“Oak Grove Cemetery has been a central part of the fabric of our city and community for more than a century,” Yoakum said. “We take very seriously our responsibility to operate Oak Grove in a way that is respectful and responsible to all. As part of that, we are currently studying cemetery development, operations, and permanent care, including options for the former Oak Grove office (old caretaker’s house) that has sat vacant for seven years.”
In addition to the old caretaker’s house at Oak Grove Cemetery, the 2019 List of Ohio’s Most Endangered Historic Sites includes:
• Defiance Junior High School, Defiance (Defiance County): This 1918 Collegiate Gothic style architecture school building is situated at the end of the designated Main Street in Defiance, making it the focal point at the end of the business district. The school district continues in conversation with a dedicated citizens group and the City of Defiance about possible preservation, although the building’s fate remains uncertain.
• Hayden Mausoleum, Columbus (Franklin County): The Green Lawn Cemetery Association nominated this large family burial structure designed by noted architect Frank Packard. A monumental, classical building with stone walls, carved wood doors, stained glass windows, and a domed ceiling, this mausoleum built about 1920 is suffering from long-deferred maintenance. The Association is seeking ideas and resources to apply toward restoration.
• 1872 German Furniture Company, Middleport (Meigs County): Built in 1872, this brick Italianate commercial building in a small Ohio River town once housed a furniture manufacturer that marketed its products nationwide. At present, moisture penetration is placing the structure at risk. The local historical society owns the property, has a two-phase renovation plan, and is seeking funding. The society is joined by county commissioners and other officials in supporting preservation.
• Former Akron Beacon Journal Building, Akron (Summit County): The landmark former home of the Akron Beacon Journal, constructed in 1929, is constructed of sandstone and occupies a full city block in the heart of the city with an iconic corner tower. While operating in this building, the paper was awarded four Pulitzer Prizes for its work. Now that it is vacant, the future for its 230,000 square feet of space is anything but certain.
• Libbey House, Toledo (Lucas County): Glass built this beautiful Old West End mansion, home to industrialist Edward Drummond Libbey who founded multiple companies as well as the Toledo Museum of Art. Time and weather is taking its toll on the house, Toledo’s only National Historic Landmark, with deteriorating columns and other features. The Libbey House Foundation seeks to draw attention to the building’s history and plight and to transform it into a showcase for the glass industry.
• Gebhart Tavern, Miamisburg (Montgomery County): The oldest site on this year’s list, the tavern dates to 1811 and was a focal point of social life in this portion of the Miami Valley. Portions of original logs are missing or rotting, and while the community supports preservation of the tavern, resources are limited. The Miamisburg Historical Society nominated the property and joins the city and downtown organization in seeking attention and preservation for this piece of Montgomery County history.
• Unionville District School/Unionville Community Center, Madison Township (Lake County): This brick school building dating to 1855 is now used as a community center, and is located near the Unionville Tavern, a previous Most Endangered listing. In addition to the need for a new roof, the building also requires long-term planning and secure funding. The Unionville Boosters lease the Community Center and need to fund needed repairs or vacate with demolition likely to follow.
• Macon Hotel and Lounge, Columbus (Franklin County): An important Green Book-listed hotel, the Macon housed African American jazz musicians visiting Columbus in the first decades of the 20th century. The building was constructed in 1888 and remains a tangible link to an important part of Columbus’ past and a potentially inspiring adaptive reuse opportunity if secured and renovated. The Macon Hotel and Lounge has twice been listed on the Columbus Landmark’s most endangered list.
• Dayton Daily News Building, Dayton (Montgomery County): Another newspaper home, this 1908 building designed by Albert Pretzinger is modeled after the Knickerbocker Trust building in New York City and sits partially open to the elements. It was the flagship of Ohio Governor and presidential candidate James M. Cox’s newspaper empire. City officials and local preservation advocates are working to save this majestic building after a local developer walked away from development of the larger site. Financing the redevelopment of the site remains a major challenge.
• Traxler Mansion, Dayton (Montgomery County): The 1910-era Trazler Mansion is a grand, 10,000 square foot French Chateauesque residence designed for a downtown Dayton dry goods merchant. It joins others built by Jewish Daytonians who were not welcomed in traditional neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it is also vacant and a sizable arrears on property taxes has accumulated. The nominators hope to draw attention to the Traxler Mansion and to see a preservation-minded purchaser with resources.
• Lincoln Elementary School, Middletown (Butler County): Yet another of Ohio’s historic school buildings is threatened, this time the last pre-World War II school to survive in the city of Middletown. The 1922 building has been vacant for approximately ten years and is facing demolition by the City despite being a prime candidate for adaptive reuse. Local preservation-minded citizens are attempting to build awareness of the building and to promote its future.
• Kern Tavern, Chillicothe (Ross County): This second tavern on the list dates from the 1840s and sits on a highly visible arterial state highway. The building has local significance through its relationship to a German neighborhood of Chillicothe and reflects the era of canal-related architecture. Suffering demolition by neglect, it is available for sale although its commercial location suggests that keeping the tavern intact might not be a priority for a new owner.
Preservation Ohio is Ohio’s oldest statewide historic preservation organization, an independent, nonprofit organization recognized under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Preservation Ohio was established in 1982 to enhance the understanding of and appreciation for Ohio’s historic resources and to serve as a focal point for Ohio organizations, municipalities, corporations and individuals who care about these resources and are concerned about preservation for future generations. For more information and updates, visit www.preserveohio.com.