Avon Lake council completed the process to name the Folger
Home/Assembly Hall in Veterans Park an Avon Lake landmark on Aug. 26.
Councilwoman Jennifer Fenderbosch said it was important to designate the building as a landmark, which will allow its owners to seek grants and provide a layer of protection to ensure its continued existence.
"It’s character, interest and value is part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics (of Avon Lake), make it a historic landmark,” Fenderbosch said.
The Queen Anne Victorian-style home’s history includes its connection with Thomas Folger and his connection to Benjamin Franklin, the stock exchange and Avon Lake vineyards.
It’s unique location, type of home and “visual feature” on Lake Erie are also traits making the home historically significant.
Councilman David Kos similarly supported the designation which his peer, Councilman Dan Bucci, said the move was "symbolic.”
Kos said history is important.
“We don’t know where we’re going until we know where we’ve been,” Kos said, adding the house provides plenty of links to the past. “It’s important to note the symbolism,” he said.
He discussed expanding its future uses.
“We can make it a real go-to spot,” he said.
“This designation is symbolic and granting the needed recognition the home, and the Folger family deserves,” he said. “There are layers of protection these properties have earned.”
Any consideration of demolition in the future would require numerous permissions including that of the Historic Preservation Commission and city council.
Descendants of the Folger family are expected to attend this year’s Homecoming ceremonies.
The process, which is required for all buildings seeking to
earn the historic designation, requires property owners to apply to the Avon
Lake Historic Preservation Commission as well as receive approval from the Avon
Lake Planning Commission.
On July 2, the city’s Planning Commission approved the building, which is owned by the city, for designation as a historic landmark, beginning the 30-day process between the first and second reading.
Councilman John Shondel, who was the original chairman of the Avon Lake Historic Preservation Commission, said the rules allows for flexibility for future use of any property designated as a historic landmark.
“It’s separate from requirements and restriction that may be set upon a property on the National Historic Registry of Historic Places or the state of Ohio. The building is already recognized by the Lorain County Historic Society as a landmark.
The designation does not completely restrict council from future decisions that could occur if the building was on a national registry.
Lake Shore Cemetery and Peter Miller House Museum were the first to city buildings to receive the Avon Lake historical landmark designation.
The resurgence of the Folger Home
The resurgence of the Folger Home in Avon Lake dates back more than 10 years.
Folger was a mayor in Elyria and built the home in the early 1900s.
Councilman David Kos recalled years ago when then-Avon Lake mayor Rob Berner said he wanted to see the home, which was built in 1902, razed to expand the park area. Few protections were available to prevent the home, which had no historic designations at the time.
A group of residents countered in 2002, with an effort to preserve the home.
Avon Lake’s Kirchner sisters Debi Loebich, Diane Scarpelli and Kris Burns along with Connie Field and Wally Paine were instrumental in saving the building.
With their help, the Avon Lake Landmark Preservation Society, a 501 (C) 3 was formed helping to renovate the building including the addition of a new roof, re-painted, and the Henry Ford Room has been renovated for use by community organizations and families for special occasions.
The building has seen a host of uses over the years including functioning as the municipal court, a teen center in the 1940s and 50s, and as the home former mayor Vince Urbin grew up in, when his father was the caretaker.
Fenderbosch said the designation opens the door for grants and attract more tourism.
The building is now available for rent for special occasions.