The Kent Wells Sherman House is now officially designated as a local historic structure, pending its move to North Water Street, after a unanimous decision by Kent City Council Wednesday.
The 1850s Greek Revival-style house, which has ties to Kent's founding family, currently sits on a Kent State University-owned parcel on the dead end of College Avenue.
It was originally located in downtown Kent at the corner of East Erie and South Water streets before being relocated farther east on Erie Street in the 1920s for commercial development. Its prominence was realized by local historians only after KSU planned to demolish the home in 2012 for its Esplanade extension project linking downtown and campus.
"This is an example of craftsmanship that took place in the 19th century, and it's important to see how much that we've turned over to machinery," said Ann Ward, chair of Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc., a nonprofit established for the mission of saving and re-purposing the structure.
Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc., plans to relocated the structure to a parcel at 247 N. Water St., which had been used by neighboring Standing Rock Cultural Arts as a garden and performance space for 20 years with permission from the previous owner.
"Save the Standing Rock Garden," a group of residents opposed to losing the green space for the house's move, has sued the Sherman House organization and city of Kent, contending that city boards violated their guidelines and the Ohio open meetings law when approving site plans for the house.
Roger Thurman, co-chair of Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc., told council he expects a final and favorable ruling to come soon. Site preparation has begun, and he said the house can be expected to move to North Water Street soon.
"We've cleared some trees off the lot and we've secured some private financing to go ahead," Thurman said. "We hope to very soon have that house down there."
Although the Ohio Historic Preservation Office did not deem the house to have historic value, it is still able to receive the local historic designation through the city of Kent, which makes it eligible for grants and tax credits to aid its restoration.
Speaking against designating the house as historic, Jeff Ingram said the fact that the house has been relocated several times tarnishes its historic value.
"The Pufferbelly and the Marvin Kent house are situated right where they started, and what makes them historical is that they're still there," he said, later adding that the Sherman house "has been passed around like a red-headed stepchild."
He said council needs to consider location as an important aspect of historic designation in the future.
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