Thursday, Tiffin Historic Trust conducted its annual membership and awards dinner meeting at Heidelberg University. Following dinner, THT President Jackie Fletcher introduced several guests, including author Lisa Swickard, who had copies of her photo essay, "Decommissioned," available at the meeting.
Heidelberg President Rob Huntington came to the podium to thank Kenneth Davison for his preservation efforts on the Heidelberg campus.
Having served on the Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. board for two years, Huntington commented on the mission of that agency. SIEDC recognizes growth depends on a multitude of factors and the agency has taken steps to form more community partnerships, he said.
PHOTO BY MARYANN KROMER
Andrew Kalnow addresses members and guests of Tiffin Historic Trust at last week’s meeting.
Tiffin's three "main pillars" - business, arts and education - along with many unique local features combine to create the "power of place," he said.
"We have to grow together. We rise and fall together. If Heidelberg rises or falls, if Tiffin University rises or falls, so will Tiffin and Seneca County. I would say the county does the same with us, and ditto for major businesses, such as National Machinery," Huntington said.
He emphasized SIEDC's commitment to retail development and the manufacturing sector. Now, the focus is on downtown. Tiffin Tomorrow has become a standing committee within SIEDC, Huntington said.
With that, he introduced the main speaker, David Zak, president and CEO of SIEDC.
Zak said improving the quality of life keeps "a stable population of workers" in the area and attracts new businesses. Emphasizing the value of collaboration and cooperation among many elements in the community, he pointed out The Ritz Theatre, the American Civil War Museum of Ohio and Tiffin Police and Fire All Patriots Memorial as examples of what can be done when people work together.
Next, Karin Brown presented the 2014 Kenneth E. Davison Preservation Leadership Award posthumously to her friend, the late Mary Lee Vadalabene. Brown paid tribute to Vadalabene's investment in the former grist mill on the Sandusky River to convert it to a bed and breakfast.
Doug Collar then presented historic preservation plaques to the owners of four historic Tiffin properties that are "excellent examples of reinvestment in our community."
Added to the program on short notice was an appearance by Andrew Kalnow. He announced National Machinery is to celebrate its 140th anniversary in September with a public open house. As reported recently, Kalnow also owns East Tower, the former school building at Jefferson and East Market streets that he has suggested as a potential joint justice center for the courts of Tiffin and Seneca County.
He passed out a photo of the structure.
"I own it, unlike the court house ... which is in public hands," Kalnow said. "Nobody's going to tear it down. ... but this is a very different issue. The issue is how to bring it back to life."
The cost to renovate East Tower will be high, but Kalnow reminded the group construction also can be expensive. Many local residents have shown resistance to spending public money on "old buildings," such as the court house. Kalnow said the same may be true for the justice center, for which the city and county must reach an agreement.
"This situation is complicated," he said. "The old court house is no longer there. Ironically, with it no longer being there, there is a gift. I think it's a huge gift ... an incredible green space that was left in the wake of the demolition and decommissioning of the county court house," Kalnow said.
It is an ideal space for people to congregate and to host community events, said.
Converting East Tower to court space would allow the green space to remain, while combining a modern facility with historic preservation and beautification, he said.
Kalnow added he is willing to work with SIEDC and the commissioners.
"Hopefully, there will be a dialogue that could lead to some consensus and commonality ... but politics is a reality," Kalnow said. "Despite the complications, I think there is a new dawn."
Kathleen Shaw and Ian Mertens accepted the award for the Gross-Mertens/Shaw House at 60 Hall St. This 1874 two-story brick home with a stone foundation has a number of 19th-century features: tall, narrow windows, Roman arches and a Greek cross floor plan. Owned for more than 100 years by the Gross family, it is important historically and architecturally to the neighborhood, the trust stated.
Second U.C.C. Parsonage/
Kaminski House at 168 Jefferson St. was updated by Joseph Kaminski. Tina and Greg Sarver accepted the award on Kaminski's behalf. Built in 1888, this two-story brick house is an extensive and exceptional rehabilitation. Some of the features added are bamboo hardwood floors, fluted solid oak woodwork, concrete counter tops, stained glass, pillars, stucco and new tile. The trust cited it as an imaginative reuse of a solid, well-built home, adjacent to downtown and next door to the historic Grammes-Brown House.
Seney Building/Boone Loft, 66/68 S. Washington St., was built in 1889 by George Ebbert Seney, an attorney, judge and U.S. congressman of the Victorian era. This commercial building is in Italianate style. The renovation by Scott Boone, who accepted the plaque, is a prime example of renewing second-story space. The contemporary rehabilitation makes this space an attractive and modern apartment in downtown Tiffin, according to the trust.
Tomb/United Insurance Building, 51 S. Washington St., was built in 1855. The Tomb block has been a host and cornerstone of many downtown businesses. The building features three identical fronts. Brian Smith, representing Mitch Felton and United Insurance Services, accepted the award. United Insurance chose a unique way to expand and gain office space within the Tomb building, the trust stated.