Residents recognized for preservation efforts

Following Christie Weininger’s talk, Tiffin Historic Trust President Jackie Fletcher introduced Doug Collar, dean of the Heidelberg University Honors Program and chairman of the 2013 preservation awards committee.

“Here in Tiffin, we have a champion of historic preservation and that is Heidelberg,” she said.

Collar called the campus “a gem for our town” as Heidelberg President Rob Huntington accepted the Nevin E.B. Martin Award for restoration of the Bryenton Honors House at Heidelberg University.

“We are proud to have this same plaque … at Adams Hall across the street, which was Laird Hall for about 97 years,” Huntington said. “It’s a privilege to have two of these.”

Before dinner, guests toured Bryenton, which is adjacent to the University Commons. Built in 1868 for the college president, the two-story home has 11 rooms. The first president to live there was G.W. Williard. Successive presidents also resided there until 1969.

With the campus protests of the late 1960s, then-president Wickham suggested the school’s president reside away from the campus. Huntington’s current home also was awarded a preservation plaque thanks to efforts by its previous owners, the Spitler and Lange families.

Bryenton served as the development house and then became the Honors House in 1997. Honors students have access to the house 24/7 to use the computers, library, lounge and study areas. Collar has his office in Bryenton. Another first-floor room is dedicated to Dwight Eisenhower, who spoke at Heidelberg’s Centennial in December 1950.

A collection of posters from appearances by famous visitors at Heidelberg occupies the computer lab. French doors have been added on the north side of the house and will open onto a patio being built this summer. Upstairs, wall art by famous cartoonists has remained in place.

Collar said a benefactor saw the significance of the house, looked at its documentation and provided funds for a complete restoration, including stabilizing the foundation, replacing the widow’s walk, sealing the brick and restoring the slate roof.

“M.J. Brown donated the slate from another building,” Collar said. “It’s going to last a long, long time.”

He added that Heidelberg has made an effort to preserve much of its historic architecture and to make new structures blend with the old. Parents who visit campus often comment on its beauty. That beauty has brought many people back to Heidelberg to emphasize “the power of place” Weininger described.

“I’m in a room here … with professors, retired professors, current professors, current executives and administrators and former students. That is the power of this place,” Huntington observed. “We are doing the best we can to preserve but also move forward.”

Huntington said the person who made the restoration possible is Gary Bryenton, a 1961 graduate of Heidelberg, a Cleveland attorney and a member of the university’s board of trustees.

Historic Preservation Plaques were presented to three other property owners for 2013.

The first went to Nevin Martin and his fiancee, Katlyn Meyers, for work on their home at 19 Coe St. Martin is continuing the preservationist tradition of his father, the late Nevin Martin. The couple invited visitors to stop and see the home’s “great woodwork” and hardwood floors.

Larry Breidenbach received a plaque for his restoration of the Berlin Hotel at 36 Hudson St. Collar called him “one of the essential people in this town … who sees the potential that nobody else can see.” The Berlin sits across the railroad tracks from the depot he restored. It was his fourth preservation award, and he remarked he is “not finished yet.”

“I looked at the Berlin for 23 years … and I always wanted to buy it, take the boards off the windows and turn on the lights,” Breidenbach said. “It’s not an ugly building on Hudson Street any more.”

Accepting the third plaque were Kimberly and Charles Groth for their work on the Einsel Old Stone House in Bloom Township. Both are Heidelberg graduates.

“It’s an 1840 farmhouse built out of fieldstone,” Kimberly said. “We’re very flattered and very honored.”

The final award was the Kenneth Davison Preservation Leadership Award. The 2012 recipient, Mary Lewis, presented this year’s honor to lifelong Tiffin residents Phil and Rayella Engle. In addition to restoring the Erastus Bowe House and several other structures, they also have been involved in the Heritage Festival since its inception.

Rayella has been active in the Seneca County Museum Foundation and other organizations. Phil has many local historical artifacts, including vintage maps showing the routes of Native Americans and settlers into Seneca County. He also has taken his presentation and collection of American flags to many schools and organizations in the area, earning the nickname “Mr. History.”