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From a one-room schoolhouse to a department store, these are Ohio’s ‘most endangered sites’

The Hoyt Building in Huron County is one of Ohio's most endangered sites this year. The two-story Victorian building is falling apart.
Preservation Ohio
The Hoyt Building in Huron County is one of Ohio's most endangered sites this year. The two-story Victorian building is falling apart.

A one-room schoolhouse in Akron. A 19th century era Episcopal church in Cincinnati. A century old department store in Columbus. All of these buildings have long sat empty, forgotten with time, and are now under threat of demolition.

They top Ohio’s list of most endangered historic sites this year. For the last three decades, the nonprofit Preservation Ohio has put together the list in an effort to highlight bits of Ohio history they say face extinction.

The nonprofit’s executive director Thomas Palmer said there’s a plethora of properties to choose from each year. Many hold significance not just to their communities, but to the entire state.

“The old adage is that with a building that you demolish, you lose history forever,” Palmer said. “There is no opportunity after the fact to bring that back and to allow it to be a part of Ohio's future.”

The list

Fourteen properties from all over the state made the list this year, including a museum in Miami County and a neighborhood within Cleveland’s first historic landmark district. Each of Ohio’s top major metropolitan areas had areas in need of saving. Palmer said that’s unusual, but it goes to show that preservation is an urgent issue no matter a community’s size.

Related: Columbus Landmarks places Ohio State University East Hospital tower on endangered list

He said rural and urban areas both need assistance when it comes to finding the funding to maintain old buildings.

“We work with local communities. When we have the chance, we’ll go and do site visits for these endangered properties. We’ll introduce the people who are looking to preserve them to resources,” Palmer said.

For each property, Palmer said history hangs in the balance. Northern Ohio University is considering the demolition of an iconic classroom building in Ada, which has held classes since the late 1870s. And, in Findlay, the construction of a new probate court could mean the northwest Ohio city loses its oldest religious structure. It first served as a church, before housing its juvenile courts.

“Not every element of the past needs to be preserved, but significant properties have a role to play in making sure that Ohio maintains its high quality of life, moving on into the next century,” Palmer said.

Past successes

Being put on the list does not ensure any formal protections will preserve the buildings. But Palmer said the attention alone has been enough to rally communities to support their local historic sites.

He credits the list with helping to save a house designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Springfield and ensuring the preservation of the Athenaeum Theater in downtown Columbus.

The Wescott House, in Springfield, is one of the only Prairie Style commissioned homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Visit Springfield
The Wescott House, in Springfield, is one of the only Prairie Style commissioned homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Ohio is far from the only state with endangered buildings. The program is partly modeled off the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s own endangered listings. No Ohio buildings made it to the top of that national list this year, but in years past, gems like Cincinnati’s Union Terminal and entire Ohio villages have been featured.

Each of the properties on Palmer’s list will remain ‘endangered’ until local governments step in to save them.

Kendall Crawford is a reporter for The Ohio Newsroom. She most recently worked as a reporter at Iowa Public Radio.