Relocating the Kent Wells Sherman House

 

 

 

Kent Wells Sherman House, ca. 1858

 

Breaking news:  Two articles about the temporary move:

 

Record-Courier:   http://www.recordpub.com/news/article/5209128

 

Kent Patch:  http://kent.patch.com/articles/video-wells-sherman-house-moved-to-stave-off-demolition#video-10979360

 

***

 

 

Fundraising for KWSH, Inc. through the Kent Historical Society

 

As we await our full tax-exempt status from the IRS you may send donations directly to the Kent Historical Society which has kindly agreed to collect funds on our behalf. Write "for the Kent Wells Sherman House Fund" on the memo line and you will be able to deduct the donation from your taxes. We, at KWSH, Inc. will receive the monies thanks to this temporary arrangement helpfully provided by the Kent Historical Society. Call the KHS at (330) 678-2712. The website is http://kentohiohistoy.org and there is a Facebook presence as well. With such community help we are moving forward toward a new location for an important surviving vestige of our history.

 

***

 

--For Immediate Release--

 

 

The Friends of the Kent Wells Sherman House organize to move and restore a priceless historic building in Kent, Ohio.

 

 

Beginning last March the 1858 Greek Revival architectural gem had barely five months before demolition to clear the way for Kent State’s Esplanade project. Originally built on family land for Frances Kent Wells, a daughter of patriarch Zenas Kent, the noble timber-framed house served as student housing the past 43 years. It was moved toward Kent State from the original downtown location in 1924 to make way for an office building. Soon it will find a new residence where layers of vinyl siding will be peeled away to uncover the serene, confident classicism of the original design. From ten-inch square hand hewn fitted and pegged structural beams to delicate horizontal clapboard siding capped by bold corner, gable and frieze boards raising an Athenian pediment, the structure is a veritable testament to American democracy as it struggled to take hold amidst the political turmoil prior to the Civil War.

 

Concern by local citizens was heightened by research which revealed the building’s provenance. The realization that it is the last full two-storied Greek Revival house added to the urgent need for cooperative action. Over a dozen potential new locations were studied one-by-one and deemed unavailable or unsuitable. Midway through the process one location, an available vacant lot, emerged as an almost ideal new home for an ancient house.

 

Situated near downtown, in a neighborhood with several Civil War and antebellum structures immediately nearby -- and at the other end of the same street which originally hosted the Kent Wells Sherman House -- the site’s historical context could not be more convincing. Indeed, barely twenty years earlier that very lot was occupied by a smaller Greek Revival house.

 

The restoration of this important part of Kent’s history will serve to educate the public on the need to preserve and rehabilitate neighborhoods by recognizing the value of original buildings. The Friends of the Kent Wells Sherman house are accomplishing this goal in record time, forming a non-profit corporation while establishing for the means and methods to complete the task. The deadline of August 4, 2012 will soon be upon us. Some neighbors have been confused by the implications of sudden change to that part of town. Even so, the Friends of the Kent Wells Sherman house have no doubt that the beauty, grace and history embodied by this old, strong building will open all our eyes to something truly new.

 

--//--

Vacant lot at 247 North Water and future home of the Kent Wells Sherman House

 

 

Note the Kent Wells Sherman House reflection when it stood originally on the east side of S. Water.

The year is 1910 and Emmit Kline stands in front of Kline's Market (now Sue Nelson Design).

 

At the northeast corner of S. Water and Erie St., the house faced west.

~From the 1874 Portage County Atlas~

The house was moved east to 250 Erie in 1924 and faced north.

 

~Important Documents~

 

A History of the Kent Wells Sherman House

 

Provenance of the Kent Wells Sherman House

 

A Descriptive and Historic Overview

 

Original 1858 Deed    p.1       p.2

Transcription of the 1858 Deed

 

Web Page: KentWellsShermanHouse

 

A Statement concerning the Kent Wells Sherman House relocation to North Water Street

(including a list of locations not achieved)

 At its board meeting of July 3, Kent Wells Sherman House Incorporated discussed the continuing concern of people associated with Standing Rock Cultural Arts and their use of the property on North Water Street.  We discussed the need to provide some clear and concise statements regarding the project and the process used because there have been many statements made that express assumptions, presumptions and misunderstanding of the facts and circumstances.

We understand that this statement will not satisfy those who have a principled objection to the development of this site.  We are sympathetic to these concerns, but also realize that we can only do so much to allay them.

Our Group began in  March as the “friends of the Kent Wells Sherman House” in response to the news that an important part of Kent’s History could soon be lost to the development of the Kent State University esplanade into downtown Kent.   A few of the folks involved knew of the house as a fine example of an ante bellum, Greek Revival structure  but had not made the connection to the Kent, Wells or Sherman families.

Our first response was to ask the university to keep and restore the structure and perhaps use it for some educational or administrative function.  This seemed like a beautiful solution to us because the  house could be moved but 60 feet and placed on the soon to be  developed great lawn.  Unfortunately, KSU did not agree with this concept, but did graciously offer $40,000 towards the move.  Over the next 6 weeks we explored a large number of sites that fit multiple criteria, including limited relocation of utilities, a prominent location in or near downtown, and approximating its original siting as an early downtown building.  (It was moved in 1924 to its current location from the Northeast Corner of Erie and S. Water Street.)  The sites we considered included:

1.      The old Robin Hood Site at Main and Lincoln (already sold)

2.      The end of College Street at Depeyster (too Small)

3.      The Northwest Corner of SR 59/Haymaker and Depeyster (already sold to developer)

4.      East of the PARTA Transit Facility along Haymaker. (Not enough room)

5.      The SE corner of College and Franklin (privately owned, not for sale)

6.      NE corner of College and Franklin.  (Committed to downtown parking.)

7.      South End of Haymaker Farmers Market site (Railroad not interested in selling)

8.      SW corner of Franklin and Summit (Site of High Tech Incubator Project)

9.      SW Corner of Franklin and Elm (Zoned Residential, too small, requires removal of a dozen mature trees, and relocation  of dozens of power lines on Franklin, or hundreds of utility lines on S. water.

10.   Tannery Park (too small of site, removes parking in already congested site, in flood plain, too costly to develop)

11.   West of Kent Free Library on Main Street, site of former Christian Science Church.  (Library Board not interested)

12.   East Side of Gougler Avenue, south of Fairchild Ave Bridge (not room, would break up development site, too costly to move)

13.   N. Mantua south of Condomiumns  (Residential Zoning when Kent State Has Stipulated a public use )

14.   North Corner of Lake/Crain/Water (Owner not interested)

15.   Depeyster Field site owned by Kent City Schools (zoned residential, would require massive removal of trees and relocation of utilities on Columbus Street)

16.   Lake Street Sites (Zoned Residential)

17.   Lot at 247 N.  Water Street.

For each of the sites we considered possible “public” uses for part or all of the building and how we could use the “Pufferbelly Model” of having a rent paying tenant help cover the carrying costs of the building.  We considered uses such as canoe liveries, retail, office, residential, exhibition, preservation and sustainability resources centers, visitor’s centers and the like.

We settled on the North Water Street lot because it fit the criteria of being an appropriate setting relative to its original location on South Water, in a commercially zoned district, close to the trail head of the bike hike trail, and was available.

As soon as it was considered as a possible site, our committee contacted Jeff Ingram and discussed how the building and site might be, with an agreement, shared with Standing Rock Cultural Arts. (SRCA)  We believed then and believe now that the availability of high quality, state of the art facilities for art exhibits and meetings, as well as a small pedestrian oriented front yard and a substantial rear yard and garden would accommodate the programs of SRCA.

Part of the process of locating a suitable site and use was also finding a suitable owner.  Since we found much inspiration in a whole host of preservation centers that focus on the environmental benefits of restoring buildings, we thought that the Non-Profit TransPortage Inc. would be a suitable partner. (given its mission of the mitigation of climate change through sustainable development.)  Rick Hawksley, one of the original friends, has been acting executive director and member of the originating board of three people, only being able to confirm the purchase of land and acceptance of the building with one of the other board members, kept the project alive as a TransPortage project.  Given the reluctance of the City, Kent Parks and Rec, Kent State University or Kent Free Library, this was a last minute effort to make this project work.  Subsequently, lack of consensus on the TransPortage board resulted in the project being assigned to the newly incorporated Kent Wells Sherman House Incorporated. (KWSH)  This includes the purchase agreement which includes a clause permitting the right to purchase to be transferred to a third party.   Rick Hawksley remains involved as project architect, without compensation.

Kent Wells Sherman House Inc. is, like SRCA, a private organization.  While both of our organizations serve a public purpose, they are run by private individuals and the decision making process is not a matter of transparency or opaqueness.  We have followed the public process and have worked in good faith to be good neighbors.  We have gone to the Architectural Review Board, made an informal presentation to the Planning commission. We will be going to the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Planning Commission for final Approval.  We have secured assistance with the house move from the City and a loan of $15,000 . We have agreed to purchase the house for $1 from the university.  We have agreed to accept the support allocated by the university to move it to a new site, and have arranged private financing to bring the building and site up to contemporary codes.  We are negotiating a lease for the upstairs for private offices and will make the downstairs into a gallery and preservation (historical and environmental) resource center available to non-profit organizations and private groups for meetings and social functions on a sliding scale.

From the time we began considering this location we have made repeated efforts to negotiate the use of such space and open areas of the site with SRCA.  We have also worked to accommodate the placement of the house on the site, setting it back 15 feet from the sidewalk, per recommendations for the Architectural Review Board, in order to provide a pedestrian use area that could be used by SRCA.  We intend to work with SRCA and other interested parties to develop the rear half of the lot into a yard and garden space that will be open to the public and users of the building.  Our design has as much usable open space as the lot in its current configuration.

We understand that there is heartfelt attachment to this lot, and that this attachment will not be assuaged by the efforts we have made to accommodate some of the current users in our development plans.  While our efforts have been met with resistance and personal attacks, we too have been less than civil.  We understand that we place a different value on the lot than you do and appreciate that emotion can sometimes get the best of all of us. 

We do hope that over time we can work with anyone who is interested to create a special place that incorporates the best intentions of the current lot while accommodating the preservation of this vital historic structure.  

 

Sincerely,

KENT WELLS SHERMAN HOUSE board of directors

Ann Ward, Roger Thurman, Allan Orashan, Sally Burnell


 

Record-Courier Editorial from July 21, 2012. p. A4

 

CHAD MURPHY, News Editor

Serving Portage County since 1830

        Kent ruling on relocating landmark
should be reversed

• ACTION ON WELLS SHERMAN HOUSE
SWAYED BY ARGUMENTS ON LAND USE

 

THE KENT PLANNING COMMIS-
sion
's rejection of the site plan for
the relocation of a 160-year-old
landmark with direct
'ties to the city's
founding family could jeopardize efforts
to save the structure from demolition.

That's disturbing, not only because loss
of the Kent Wells Sherman House would per-
t
manently and, in our opinion, needlessly
obliterate part of the community's 19th
Century heritage, but also because it ap-
pears the commission overstepped its au
-
thority in its ruling on the site plan.

The 3-2 decision appears to have been
swayed by arguments dealing with the
use of the proposed site for the relocat-
ed structure, a North Water Street parcel
that has been used as a de facto park and
venue for cultural activities. The pros and
cons of the site plan itself appear to have
taken a back seat to more emotional con-
cerns dealing with the use of the property,
which was not the issue at hand.

 

The Kent Wells Sherman House, now
located on Erie Street on a site that will
become part of Kent State's Esplanade
walkway
, dates to the 1850s. One of the
few surviving pre-Civil War era residenc-
es in Kent
, it originally was the home of
a daughter of Zenas Kent
, the commu-
nity
's founding father, and later was the
home of Dr. Aaron Sherman
, a Civil War
surgeon who practiced medicine in Kent
for many years.

 

The plan to relocate the structure calls
for it to be moved to a vacant site at 247
N. Water st
., next to Standing Rock Cul-
tural Arts, which has utilized and main-
tained the location for 20 years with per-
mission of its owner.

 

The site plan presented to the planning
commission would preserve much of the
greenspace at the location and includes
other features, such as a rain garden, that
indicate a sensitivity to the current use of
the area and a willingness to accommo-
date concerns expressed by SRCA mem-
bers and others.

 

The discussion leading to Tuesday's
vote, however, seemed to focus less on
the site plan - which SRCA founder Jeff
Ingram said "looks like a decent plan" -
than on changing the use of the vacant lot.
"We do have to weigh what we're gaining
and what we
're losing," Planning Com-
mission member Anthony Catalano, who
voted against the site plan, said during
the discussion.

 

The decision, if allowed to stand, could
set a worrisome precedent, granting
neighbors with no ownership rights a
seeming veto over the use of the land by
its rightful owner. We hope there is some
way for this ill-advised ruling to be re-
versed.

 

The clock is ticking for the Kent Wells
Sherman House. Kent State has been pa-
tient in delaying final demolition for the
Esplanade to enable efforts to be made
to relocate the structure, but it appears
that work in the area is set to resume in
early August. The loss of 160 years of his-
tory is a shameful possibility.

 

Kent City Council has the power to
overturn the Planning Commission's de-
cision. We hope that they do
.

 

Contact:

Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc.

474 Longmere Drive

Kent OH 44240

email: info@kwsh.org

donate@kwsh.org

 

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