Returning for heritage and a look at the future

I was prepared to hate the usurper. There it was, standing bold and brash, head and shoulders over the vanquished downtown. I mean, what’s not to hate? Yet, as I made my way down that final stretch of East Market Street, expecting waves of repulsion as it fully revealed itself, I was stopped short by an unbidden emotion: Huh.

OK, “huh” isn’t an emotion. It’s just what I said to myself as I finally beheld the finished Justice Center, tall and clean and crisp against the blue sky. As in, “Huh, that’s really not so bad. In fact, I kind of like it.”

When you’re expecting a dollop of displeasure, and don’t get it, it’s possible to feel vaguely cheated. I find that the best way of dealing with any such feeling is to let it dissipate harmlessly, and go with the new flow.

The last time I was in Tiffin, it had been easy to behold the work in progress with a shudder of distaste. Buildings under construction don’t exactly win beauty contests. Of course, it didn’t help that the vanished courthouse had been a Beaux Arts beauty, included in Preservation Ohio’s list of most endangered historic sites.

Built in 1884, the year president interruptus Grover Cleveland was elected, the old girl finally had succumbed after a bitter battle in which financial spreadsheets presumably took the place of maps. Cleveland, in addition to being the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms, was a fiscal conservative Democrat! I’ve added an exclamation point for those who have never heard of such a political beast.

It was a promising start for my latest visit, timed to coincide with the 40th annual Heritage Day festivities.

Saturday night, I walked over to the also-new amphitheater across from what remains of East Junior High, now looking a little like a false front in a Wild West town, more vanished history behind it. Singing duo Porter and Sayles were fine (the speeches highlighting the new name fitting but perhaps not the ideal warm-up act — sorry), the venue pleasant, but I was restless. Attracted by more live music, I wandered over to lot 7, which on reflection may be as good a name as any for a public space.

You know what it’s like when you hear a great song but can’t make out enough words to track it down later on YouTube? Maybe you don’t, but it happens to me all the time.

Not only that, but I couldn’t figure out who the band was, not having retained the information helpfully supplied on the Heritage Festival website. (The Cellar Dwellers, as it turns out. Somebody in a similar quandary asked them between songs. “Like us on Facebook. Or not,” the guitar player added.)

Music thumping in my chest, at times in place of my heartbeat it seemed, I grew mildly apprehensive about the ticket in my backback for practically front-row seats this Friday at The Ritz to see Blue Oyster Cult, not chosen not so much for who they are but instead for conveniently closing out my week in Tiffin with a bang. Made a mental note to buy a pair of break-in-case-of-emergency earplugs. Who needs tinnitus as a souvenir?

Sunday, I went to the encampment in Hedges-Boyer Park and listened to a Native American give the backstory to that gruesome painting of George Washington’s good buddy Colonel Crawford being tortured by angry natives seeking some kind of horrible cosmic justice, which hangs in the Seneca County Museum and haunted my youth. Then I landed back at Justice’s new digs for the 10-cent tour, which with inflation came to $10.

Once through the lobby, past the usual no-nonsense metal detectors and X-ray machine (at least you don’t have to strike the “you’re under arrest” post like at the airport), it was all spacious coolness. I started as a tour group of one, soon catching up with the visitors ahead, who turned out to be my high school librarian perambulating with the wife of one of my English teachers. I have no idea if he grades my columns.

William Harvey Gibson, 19th century windmill, continued his endless oration on the pedestal below. To be fair, he was said to be a very eloquent speaker, though you probably didn’t want to get him started on temperance.

In the juvenile courtroom, the guide talked about the people who make it work. I gave a thought to the late Kent Nord, childhood neighbor and frequent playmate for shoot-em-ups, later turned lawyer and guardian ad litem. He last appeared to me towering in an aisle of Kroger a decade ago, no pedestal necessary.

I finished my tour, celebrated Prohibition’s end at The Renaissance, climbed creaky stairs to the cavernous old Masonic ballroom at Reclaim It to briefly wonder if the Tornadoes could play a game there, got my free mini-me frozen yogurt and slice of pizza across the street, then walked off into the sunset.

Scott Munn is a former Tiffin resident who has lived in England for 21 years.

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