The Esplanade, the pedestrian walkway that will link downtown Kent to the Kent State University campus for the first time in its history, is nearing completion. The central archway has been installed, the lawn and landscaping have been planted and pathways are already being used.
Two landmark homes that were reprieved when KSU demolished structures along Willow Street and the portion of Erie Street that was vacated for the Esplanade also are being relocated to their permanent sites after more than a year of being parked temporarily.
The May Prentice House, dating to the early 20th Century, was moved to its new location at the eastern end of the Esplanade, near Lincoln Street, on Monday. The house takes its name from one of its first owners, May Prentice, who was the first woman faculty member of Kent State Normal School. Miss Prentice taught English, education and other classes until she retired in 1930. The Prentice Gate, located at Main and Lincoln streets, is named in her honor.
Her former home will become the new home of the Wick Poetry Center, now located in Satterfield Hall. Adjacent to it will be a green space, Poetry Park, including the Edwin S. Gould Amphitheatre, which will serve as an outdoor classroom site as well as a location for open-air art performances and other gatherings. Plans call for Prentice House to be completed later this year and the park to be completed next summer.
The second structure reprieved from the path of destruction is the Kent Wells-Sherman House, a Greek Revival structure located on Erie Street that dated to the 1850s. Its claim to fame was its direct tie to the community's namesake family; its original owner, Frances Kent Wells, was the daughter of Zenas Kent and the sister of Marvin Kent, for whom the city was named. Among its later owners was Dr. Aaron Sherman, a Civil War veteran, state legislator and prominent Kent civic leader.
The historic nature of the home came to light in late 2011 when plans for the demolition of homes along the Esplanade route were being finalized. As one of the few remaining structures in the community with direct ties to the Kent family, its historic significance prompted Kent State University to preserve the structure. The university, to its credit, also recognized the historic nature of the May Prentice House and spared it from demolition.
Kent State paid for the relocation of the Prentice House and also enabled the Kent Wells-Sherman House to be moved to a temporary location at the end of College Avenue while work on the Esplanade was under way. The landmark structure is scheduled to be moved to its final location on North Water Street on Aug. 24.
In addition to the pedestrian walkway, the Esplanade also will become the site of Kent State's new architecture facility, which will span the block between Lincoln and Willow streets. The distinctive design of the multi-level structure, which will include a sustainable, "green" roof, will make it a 21st Century landmark.
The Esplanade is a wonderful addition to Kent, an exciting element in the revitalization effort that has transformed the downtown area and an important, literal link between the campus and the center of town. Kent State is to be commended for its investment in the future of Kent as well as its sensitivity to the community's history.