Partnership brings historic markers to life

Tiffin received many of its new historic district signs just in time for the Tiffin Seneca Heritage Festival thanks to the work of the Tiffin Historic Trust and the Tiffin Public Works Department.

Former Heidelberg University history professor Ken Davison said the historic trust began working on the historic districts and preservation of the city during the bicentennial celebration of the United States as the Tiffin Seneca County Bicentennial Commission.

“This historic preservation movement in Tiffin is an outcome of the national bicentennial celebration and the local downtown revitalization group,” he said.

Between the Tiffin Historic Trust, other historic revitalization groups including Tiffin Tomorrow and Heidelberg University, Davison said the Tiffin preservation movement is growing.

“I think we can honestly claim that Heidelberg is the center of historic preservation activity in the community,” he said.

The original six districts were created in the 1970s by the historic trust and included downtown, Fort Ball railroad area, North Sandusky Street, northeast Tiffin, Heidelberg and the former National Home, Jr. Order United Mechanics at what is now the Tiffin Developmental Center.

The areas were registered with the National Register of Historic Places and since then, the boundaries have not changed.

The original project began in the late 1980s and was completed in 1992. The original signs were made of wood by Village Signcraft.

“They’ve done a number of excellent signs in Northwest Ohio,” Davison said.

They also made the sign for the Erastus Bowe House at 108 Franklin St.

In 2010, inquires were made into repairing the district signs. Of the 14 district signs, 11 still were standing. The signs at Heidelberg University, near St. Mary’s Elementary School and adjacent to City Hall were missing or removed.

MLAD Graphic Design Services LLC made the new aluminum signs. They fit into the original frames and will be mounted on the original poles. Public works replaced missing posts and iron frames, along with repairing and restoring all 14.

Davison said MLAD Owner Mark Levans had a “curious connection” to the signs and the Tiffin Historic Trust. During the bicentennial celebration, Davison said the commission started a contest to create a logo for the commission.

Levans, then a student at Tiffin Columbian High School, won the competition.

“Levans did an excellent job on the 14 new signs,” said Davison.

Davison said the trust wanted the signs completed by the Tiffin Seneca Heritage Festival. At this time, 11 are placed.

Davison said the historic trust has plans for the districts now that signs are replaced with the neighborhoods.

“Years ago, we also produced for the community local tour maps, either walking tours in the city of Tiffin, bicycle tours that would include the city and some parts of the county and auto driving tours,” he said.

He also wants to provide information about important buildings in each historic district.

“We have some marvelous domestic architecture,” he said.

Davison hopes that with the changes the Tiffin Historic Trust are backing, tourism will grow. He also hopes the trust will be able to get grant money to further improve the districts.

“It’s not just the downtown that’s important,” he said. “But Tiffin Tomorrow is working constantly to do things there. It’s good to have more than one group working for the benefit of the community.”

Along with more improvements, he said he wanted the city to become involved in the Ohio Main Street program. Through Heritage Ohio, the program would help to revitalize historical areas and improve the downtown district.

“They can show how money can be developed through grants and private support to make your town better,” he said.

Davison said the work the city has done with the Tiffin Historic Trust was what made the project possible.

“The current, new signs are an excellent example of cooperation between a private entity, namely the Tiffin Historic Trust, and the city Public Works Department,” Davison said. “This is the way our society should work. I hope that will be the beginning of more cooperation between public and private entities in Tiffin.”