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VIDEO: Wells-Sherman House Moved to Stave Off Demolition

Non-profit group has until Dec. 1 to find a permanent location for the historic structure

As most of Kent slept, a pre- Civil War era house quickly and quietly rolled down Haymaker Parkway Saturday morning.

For the Kent Wells-Sherman House, Saturday's move was the second time movers lifted the Greek revival style structure from its foundation and set it somewhere new.

And if the stars align, there's a third move yet in this house's future.

Members of the non-profit group Kent Wells Sherman House Inc. gathered just before 7 a.m. Saturday to watch as Stein House Movers, Inc. trucked the house from its last permanent address at 250 E. Erie St. to at the western end of East College Avenue.

The 1858 house has ties to the Kent family and other early prominent citizens. It can be stored on the lot, which is owned by Kent State University, through Dec. 1. If a permanent spot for the house can’t be found by then, it will be demolished.

That’s why Roger Thurman, vice president of the Kent Wells Sherman House Inc. board, wasn’t exactly beaming over Saturday’s early morning move.

“It feels semi-good because this is a temporary location,” Thurman said. “It feels just OK. It’s good the house is saved to this point, but this is not the final resting place.”

Exactly where that final resting place should be has been a contentious point in the Kent community the past several months.

The non-profit group’s preferred permanent location is on North Water Street between the Scribbles Coffee Company building and the Standing Rock Cultural Arts North Water Street Gallery.

But last month members of the Kent Planning Commission rejected .

So the group is re-applying to the planning commission on Sept. 4 with a different site plan that moves the house closer to North Water Street and about 16 inches from the sidewalk.

Thurman said the group has two back-up locations should the new North Water Street proposal be rejected.

The first spot would be at the northeast corner of the intersection of Franklin Avenue and West College Avenue caddy corner from the . The second spot would be along the Cuyahoga River on city owned land just south of the new Fairchild Avenue Bridge.

"Right now it's fenced off and they’ve got all the construction equipment there," Thurman said. "We would sync up with the () trail and face Gougler Avenue."

That river front site comes with a caveat: the cost. Thurman said the estimated cost to move utility lines in order to get the house there is $50,000.

"It would be real expensive to move there," he said.

Fortunately for the group, numerous entities have pitched in thus far to help save the house.

The city has helped with in-kind donations of engineering, service and police staff to help orchestrate Saturday's move. Kent State University, which still owns the house, agreed to store it temporarily on its land and pledged $40,000 towards moving costs. The city also agreed to .

And Stein House Movers, a third-generation family owned business, won't charge extra for the second move if a permanent location can be found, Thurman said. They also removed a 1924 addition from the back of the house that had to go before it could be moved.

"The original estimate was to move it down to North Water and not store it here temporarily," Thurman said. "This is the type of help we’re getting and we’re extremely grateful for it. Stein House Movers has bent over backwards to help us save this house. It’s unbelievable."

Carla Stein, whose husband moved dozens of houses during his career, was one of those early risers who watched as her son, Matt, moved the Wells Sherman House Saturday.

"I always come out for these," she said.

Jessie Humenik, a spokesperson for Stein House Movers, said they like to think of the business, which is a member of the International Association of Structural Movers, as preserving history by keeping houses out of landfills.

"We consider ourselves part of the recycling industry," she said.

The houseoriginally stood at the corner of Erie and South Water streets downtown where stands today before it was moved to the Erie Street Site.

Thurman said the house stood through the Civil War, the era of abolition, the Gilded Age, World War I and World War II.

"This house is a sentinel for our history," he said. "That’s the point we’re getting across on this house. It’s not just an old house. It’s a symbol of continuous history."

Kasha Legeza August 12, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Watching a house move is one of the coolest things ever -- thanks for getting up super-early to shoot the video, Matt! And kudos to Stein House Movers for being so gracious in helping the KWSH group!!!
David Reith August 13, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Here's what BGSU did to one of its "historic" houses: http://www.sent-trib.com/local-news/demolition-of-pop-culture-house-begins
Matt Fredmonsky August 13, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Thanks for sharing that story David. Rather interesting. Kasha, you forgot it was also a Saturday : ) It was fun to watch, that's for sure.
Chris (Kit) Myers August 13, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I think it should stand beside the esplanade as a welcome center for all the people walking from the hotel and conference center up to the university. I don't understand why the university doesn't want to keep it. It is truly a classic. Or they could put it on South Willow on the lot (214 South Willow) just to the north of the Mae Prentiss house.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! August 13, 2012 at 06:07 PM
That is actually a pretty great idea. Welcome Center, get a taste for all the history the city has to offer as you step into the newest portions of Kent.
Roger Thurman August 14, 2012 at 01:19 AM
All this has been suggested from the earliest days of the effort, reiterated, and ruled out again because it does not fit the Esplanade design concept. There are also issures around land leasing and ownership as well as the restoration proceeding on a different timetable from KSU's.
William B Budner ESQ. August 14, 2012 at 01:21 AM
READ: KSU doesn't want this junky house either.
Chris (Kit) Myers August 14, 2012 at 02:22 AM
I beg to differ, Mr. Budner. I find your comment to be rather short-sighted and negative. It is a beautiful old house, of a style very rare here. It may be beat-up inside, but unless termites and carpenter ants have made it unsaveable, it can once again be its once beautiful self. And Mr. Thurman, as far as I know, the house is not yet owned by your group. It can be moved to 214 South Willow, right next to the Mae Prentiss house which is going to stay right where it is. It is NOT going to move one inch! I would think the University would take great pride in having the two historic houses side by side, one a statement to honor a historic first for the university, the second to recognize something historical from the early years of the town that welcomed a college into its midst. Imagine photographs from different time periods, side by side, showing students in both places, how they lived and how they found recreation, and photographs of downtown and buildings on the hill from the same time. I'm sure others will have many ideas for the center. It would truly provide a unique perspective on what we are and how we came to be from the time of the very beginnings of the university. I wish Dr. Lefton would consider it.
Janice Gerda August 14, 2012 at 05:42 PM
I'm excited for the new construction at KSU and in downtown, but all-new construction as far as the eye can see begins to make a place look non-descript, cookie cutter, like all the other newly-built downtowns of this era. There's no character, no landmarks, no sense of place - just another faux-town shopping mall ambiance. It also makes a place seem impermanent, untested, temporary, like a risky deal (especially unappealing in this market). This was the approach last midcentury as the Victorian age was wiped clean and we got ugly, boxy, space-age small town downtowns that were bypassed completely when the architectural fad passed. We need to keep landmarks as anchors and signposts. To me, the progression of time visible in architecture makes a community interesting rather than like a theme park. Keep the house, wherever it can be kept, even if it is not in the main downtown eclectic cluster. Of the options so far, I like having it on the new bike/hike trail where people will be moving at a pace and in a mode of transportation to savor it, appreciate it, and learn about it. (As a model, see portions of the Bike-Hike Canal Towpath in several locations.) Other locations downtown where people walk would be great too. Frankly, I think the Standing Rock Cultural Arts group is nuts to not want it next door - SRCA looks pretty run down and uninviting, with no other reason to go there. I've never been in it. Clustering things attractive to walkers would be a plus for both entities.
Delores Umbridge August 14, 2012 at 06:37 PM
You know they're not the only ones that are opposed to it, right? Council person Kuhar spoke against it at a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, for one. Putting it on the Hike and Bike trail up by Lake and Crane Streets is a good idea, if it becomes safe to use that trail entry again.

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