Benefit to feature German flavor

Because many Seneca County residents have German ancestry or simply love German culture, a German dinner is to be served 4-8 p.m. Saturday at First Lutheran Church, 300 Melmore St., Tiffin. Presented by Virgin Alley Press and Karin Brown, the dinner is to generate funds to defray printing expenses for the hardcover book “Decommissioned: The Final Days of the 1884 Seneca County Courthouse.”

“The book is the history of the demolition in pictures,” said Lisa Swickard, one of the authors.

“In the book, we have several quotes by John Ruskin, the architect from 1907,” Swickard said.

Co-authored by John E. Huss, “Decommissioned” contains quotes by architect John Ruskin and others scattered among more than 250 pictures comprising 200 pages. Swickard said it is to be printed in a limited edition of 1,000 books. The production cannot be covered by the cost of the books alone. Swickard said she and Huss are “not good at asking for money,” but the dinner offers a way for the public to get something of value while contributing to the project. A preview copy of the book is to be available at the dinner.

“We will be doing pre-orders that night also. If this puts us over the top, we will hopefully have the books ordered and have them by the end of February,” Swickard said.

A native of Germany, Brown has prepared German delicacies for other events to help organization such as the Seneca County Parks, Allen Eiry Center, St. Francis Senior Ministries and Tiffin Historic Trust. The dinner menu is to feature leberkase (German meatloaf), kasepatzie (Bavarian cheese noodles), kartoffelsalat (hot German potato salad), Deutsches sauerkraut, rotweinkuchen (red wine cake) and Deutsches laugen bretzel (salt pretzels imported from Munich). Brown also is making dozens of springerlies to be sold.

Brown said she came to know Swickard during the courthouse demolition.

“I knew about Lisa, but we never talked … we met when the courthouse was torn down. I saw this woman in her overalls – Carhartts – running around and taking pictures all over the place. She was there from the first hit to the last tumble,” Brown said.

“We would talk every day,” Swickard added.

Months later, Brown was translating German documents from the building’s time capsule when she heard about Swickard’s book. The more she translated, the more emotional she became, especially when she remembered the forceful way the capsule was retrieved. In her home country, many laws forbid the destruction of historic structures.

“It got to the point where, I feel, even though I am not a native, that these are my forefathers who put this time capsule in there. There was a huge celebration and people came from all over,” Brown said.

She learned many Italian and German craftsmen did the stonecutting and construction of the 1884 Courthouse, so she has assembled gift baskets with German and Italian themes for the live auction that is to take place at the dinner. She pointed out what happened in Tiffin may have persuaded other communities to to hold off plans to destroy their own historic structures.

“We all realize that it’s done and it can never be replaced again. We know all this, but the book, to me, should be in every single house, in the library, the schools and all over,” Brown said. “This country is so young. It’s still in the baby stages, and already we’re ripping it apart?”

“We want the book to be used as a teaching tool,” Swickard said. “We’re hoping that the book will go on a national level … but it’s got to get out before we can do any of that.”

During the Tiffin Historic Trust Christmas Home Tour, Swickard was stationed at the Grammes Brown House taking orders for “Decommissioned.” She said many people spoke to her and made donations for the book’s publication.

“It’s been a long haul raising the money. People have been very generous. The pre-orders are going well,” Swickard said.

Tickets for the German dinner and auction are $15 per person. They can be purchased at Tiffin Ace Hardware and at the door. A 50/50 drawing is planned, and the auction is to start at 6 p.m.

“We wanted to keep it very affordable.” Swickard said. “People that can’t afford to go out and spend a lot on auction items can still participate.”

Although Brown plans to prepare much of the food in advance, she is seeking volunteers to help cook, starting at 9 a.m. Friday and people to decorate and finish the food preparation, starting at 9 a.m. Saturday.

“We also will need people to help serve the food,” Brown said.

Those who can help should call (567) 220-6203. More information can be found on facebook/senecacounty