If architectural history and preservation are your cup of tea, the fund-raising tour of three of Ravenna's hidden architectural treasures that Friends of the Flagpole has set up for Sunday afternoon, Oct. 6, is a not-to-be missed experience.
It combines community, good food --all of it donated -- learned discussion and a visit to three historic buildings in downtown Ravenna, all for the price of a $50 donation to Friends of the Flagpole to help repair the 150-foot tall historic flagpole in front of the Portage County Courthouse.
Business executive Jack Schafer and Attorney Peggy DiPaola are spearheading the event.
Jack holds a degree in architecture from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to returning to Ravenna to help run his family's business, Trexler Rubber, he had a career in architectural preservation out West.
Peggy, an attorney who became general counsel for GoJo Industries in Akron, is passionate about preservation and helped secure National Historic Register designation for her family's home, Byers Castle, in Ravenna Township. To purchase tickets and for more information, call Peggy at 330-297-7387. Space is limited.
The three sites selected for the event are Riddle Block No. 9, the handsome yellow-brick building at the corner of Main and North Chestnut streets, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows meeting room on the third floor of the 1853 Phenix Block and the Converse-Bentley home at 224 S. Chestnut St., a large brick Italianate house with 12-foot ceilings and a spiral staircase.
The Odd Fellows are a benevolent fraternity order that began in England in the 1700s. Dedicated to helping others, its members because of their altruistic mission were considered odd in England, where charity in those days was rare, and that's how the name was acquired.
Editor Roger Di Paolo tells me the last time the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows meeting room was open to the public was in 1992. He was in on that event and found the interior a remarkable journey into the past.
Notes provided by Jack Schafer explain the IOOF has "occupied the third floor meeting room of the 1853 Phenix Block since the block was built. The third floor meeting room features a 12-foot ceiling and large pictorial wall and ceiling murals in oil with decor virtually unchanged since 1875. ... For decades this area was accessible only to members of the IOOF. This is only the second time the public has been allowed inside to view the spectacular interior. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places."
The Bietz family, one of Portage County's premier artistic families in its day, left its mark in the IOOF meeting room. The late Hugo Bietz is remembered for his wonderful murals in the Venice Cafe in Kent. His father, Otto, painted the murals in the IOOF meeting hall in Ravenna.
Tom Riddle, a gifted photographer, provided Jack Schafer with photographs of the IOOF meeting room and one accompanies this column. The other illustration is the Phenix Block as it looked in the 19th century. Coleman Professional Services is now trying to acquire and remodel most of the Phenix Block.
Douglas Steidl, dean of Kent State's School of Architecture and Urban Design, during a Ravenna visit a few weeks ago noted that an unusual number of buildings in the downtown, built between the 1850s and the 1920s, were constructed of brick instead of wood. The buildings, he said, have suffered few alterations and stand today with their architectural integrity largely intact.
Few towns in Northeastern Ohio have an ensemble of such quality and it makes downtown Ravenna an excellent site for his students of American architectural history, he said.
Farewell to Charlotte and Nancy
On another topic entirely, we at the Record-Courier Friday said good-bye to two very fine employees who, between them, have been with the company for more than 70 years and have decided to retire.
Charlotte Doherty joined the Record-Courier in 1960, coming to Kent with her husband, Ralph, who had served in the Marines and was enrolling as a student at Kent State University.
Seeking employment, she was told by what was then the Ohio Bureau of Employment to apply at the Kent office of the Record-Courier, which in those days was at 138 E. Main St. She interviewed with Loris Troyer, the editor, and "he hired me that day," she recalled. Charlotte took time off beginning in 1966 to start a family and then returned in 1973. That makes 45 years with the Record-Courier.
Well organized, intelligent and completely honest, Charlotte has worked in telephone classified advertising, handled laying out the newspaper, typed up "Sound Off," helped in bookkeeping and accounting, and has done everything well. She saved me at one point when our telephone classified advertising department fell into disarray.
She and I have known one another 53 years so we're beyond formalities. Possessed of a heart of gold, she doesn't hold back and like my two sisters, Darcy and Kris, nearly always gives me sound advice.
Nancy Smith, who sells display advertising, is retiring after 34 years with the Record-Courier. She started out in an office job in the advertising department of the Record-Courier in 1966 helping managing design people, but soon was helping us call on advertisers. She left in 1972 to have a family and returned in 1985 and became an outside salesperson. She's been very loyal and a good ambassador for the Record-Courier.
We'll miss them.