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Kent Historical Society celebrates Marvin Kent with tours

By Andrew Bugel | staff writer Published: September 18, 2016 4:00 AM
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Kent's namesake Marvin Kent would have turned 200 on Sept. 21, but the celebration is kicking off a little early.

Saturday marked Day One of the two-day Kent Historical Society Town Tours, honoring Marvin Kent's 200th birthday. Many houses and businesses throughout the city of Kent that have a connection to the Kent family, both occupied and preserved, were on display to the public.

One of those locations was the Kent Masonic Center, also known as the Kent family home. The home, located at 409 W. Main St., was built in 1884. Former U.S. presidents Warren G. Harding, William Howard Taft, William McKinley and Benjamin Harrison were guests to the house and even slept in the southeast second-floor bedroom.

While the three-story house no longer functions as a home, the location is preserved and plays host to a variety of special occasions such as weddings, bridal showers and boy scout receptions.

Fred and Barb Moore are custodians at the house. Fred is a member of The Masons and both have been affiliated with the house for a number of years.

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"We rent the building out to different people who want to do different things," Barb said. "I would love to see this location rented out at least once a month. Today's goal is to really educate people with this building and really to celebrate Marvin's birthday."

Marvin's great-great-great granddaughter, Mary Jo Johnston, made a special appearance in Kent to celebrate the tours and Marvin's birthday. Johnston and her husband reside in Missouri.

"This is the second time that I've actually been inside this house, the first being in 2000," Johnston said. "I don't get the opportunity to come to Kent very often but I love hearing all of the stories about Marvin and I feel he would have been somebody I would have loved to have known. He accomplished so much in this town."

Johnston said her opinion of the city of Kent itself is very high and she is happy to see the town thriving.

"Kent has a very 'alive' downtown," Johnston said. "There's just a lot going on and there are so many people out and about. It just seems like it is really thriving and maybe that could be a little bit do to the good start from Marvin, but also all of the great people that have come along recently and really helped this city thrive."

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Another location that was open to the public during the tour was the Patton House, located at 529 W. Main St. and built in 1902. The location served as the home of W.W. Patton, Kent's postmaster and superintendent of schools from 1872-78. Former Kent State University presidents Dr. James Engleman and Dr. Karl Leebrick also lived in the house.

Emma Patton, daughter of W.W. Patton, started the "Patton House of Coterie," a ladies organization that was founded in 1896 and formed from the merger of a literary and cooking club. The organization maintained the property and provided space for community groups to gather. Mary Wright is an active member of the group and was on hand Saturday giving tours and providing information on the house.

"We've probably had about 30 people come tour during just the first hour already," Wright said. "This is at least the third tour of the house and it's just a great thing to bring people in and let them check out the history."

The Charles H. Kent home was also on display for the very first time. The home, located at 125 N. Pearl St., was built in 1843 and served as the home of Marvin's younger brother, Charles. The location is currently owned by KSU professor Heather Caldwell and her family. Caldwell bought the property in 2007.

"We were house-hunting and this was one of the houses on the market at the time," Caldwell said. "We didn't know about the significance of the house when we first checked it out. We saw all the plaques on the outside and thought, how we were ever going to get a house like this. We love it. The other owners wanted another young family to move into the house. We worked to balance the history of the house, but also have it represent a home-like atmosphere for us to live in. I don't feel like it's a museum piece in here. It's a great house."

Marvin Kent's official birthday will be celebrated at the Hometown Bank Plaza, located at 142 N. Water St., on Wednesday from 7 to 8 p.m. Marvin was born in Ravenna and worked with his father, Zenas, in numerous business enterprises in the community that currently bears his name. He also served as president of Kent National Bank and founder of the Kent Courier. He died in 1908.

Tours will continue today from noon to 5 p.m.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or abugel@recordpub.com

Twitter: AndrewB_RC

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