A Ravenna landmark that has survived two fires will be getting a new life in the months ahead.
Jack Kohl and his wife, Heidi, purchased the former Masonic Temple on Walnut Street, along with several other properties in the area.
The Masonic Temple, which dates to the 1930s, has survived two fires, the most recent one in 2011. That blaze damaged only a portion of the structure, but it has been vacant since. It became home to squatters, who broke down walls to remove the copper pipes and sell them for scrap.
But Kohl's employees are busy removing abandoned furniture and belongings, ripping out damaged walls and preparing the place for rehabilitation.
"It's going to be really good when we get done with it," he said, estimating that the work will be done by mid-summer, if not sooner. "Once it gets done, it has 40 or 50 more years of economic life. It just needs to be restored."
The deal that got Kohl the Masonic Temple at 210 Walnut Street also netted neighboring properties -- the historic Carriage House at 214 Walnut St. and a brick house at 224 Walnut St. An office is expected to soon occupy the Carriage House, while the brick house on Walnut Street is expected to house two upstairs apartments and an office on the main floor.
In the Masonic Temple, three upper floors house a total of 15 apartments, each with one or two bedrooms. The units vary from floor to floor, with large common rooms on each level for gathering or study. Historic light fixtures and wood and marble fireplaces evoke images of a bygone era. On each floor, large windows allow natural light into the units.
"No two units are alike," Kohl said as he led a tour of the house.
The building was constructed in the 1930s by Kohl's great-grandfather, P.L. Frank, who built it as the Masonic Temple. The Masons kept ownership until the 1980s when it was damaged by fire. Miles Friend and Jack Wood transformed the structure into Friendwood Towers and divided the space into apartments, each with a unique floor plan. On the bottom level was a retail space used by several commercial gymnasiums over the years, such as Jim's Gym and Gold's Gym. Kohl said he'd like to see a similar commercial use housed there in the future.
He said he and his wife have restored several properties over the years. Kohl said his wife, Heidi, "has an eye" for things like paint and carpet colors.
"And I'm good at demolition," he said.
The top floor of the building was never developed into apartments, probably because tenants were discouraged by the four floor walk-up. Kohl said he might make one or two loft apartments out of the structure at a later date.
A historic inventory, done when the building was still owned by the Masons, hails its "neoclassical" design. It states that the building was located in the old Phoenix Block at the northeast corner of Main and Chestnut streets before it was moved to Walnut Street.
"Elborate limestone quoins accent the front corners of this building," the report states. Stone is also used to create a strong horizontal division midway up the building and to accent the arched main entrance in the center of the ground floor. The building has a small attic story, which is topped by a massive stone cornice .... This is an impressive Neoclassical building."
A similar report was done on the Carriage House, built by Charles Mertz, a partner of carriage builder Henry Riddle, in 1893. The building has been used for storage by the masons, as an office and once housed a gallery. The report called it "Ravenna's best preserved and most architecturally distinguished carriage barn in the downtown area."
"This is a lively structure, with its steeply pitched roof, gables, arched openings and various window sizes," the report states. "It seems to have changed very little since the building was built. Because of its height, this building also must have served as a storage building on the upper floors or possibly as facilities for housing servants."
The Italianate-style house at 224 Walnut Street was built in 1873 as the home of Nilson Converse. It also includes a carriage barn behind the house, its historic inventory states.
None of the structures are on the National Register of Historic Places, but the carriage house and Masonic Temple are eligible for the registry.
Kohl said the proximity of the apartments to conveniences such as Reed Memorial Library and Walgreens make it attractive, and it is within a short drive of Kent State University, the Northeast Ohio Medical University and Hiram College.
"We feel the time is right to make an investment in downtown Ravenna," he said. "I love this town and feel it has a bright future. We have a good city government, good school system and a beautiful bustling downtown."
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