History surrounds us. Each of our cities, townships and villages have tales of women and men who worked to settle and grow the communities that today we call home.
We have the written words to document the progress over time as well as street signs with famous local names and buildings that tell the stories of yesteryear.
But preserving aspects of local history is not always easy. It takes citizens willing to devote time, and it takes money. What’s worth saving, and when is it time to let a structure go?
Right now, residents of Hunting Valley, Solon and Chagrin Falls are engrossed in emotional battles to save pieces of local history.
Sylvia Korey continues her 17-year quest to find a buyer for the Roundwood Manor that was home to brothers O.P. Van Sweringen and M.J. Van Sweringen, known for developing iconic areas of greater Cleveland. She has said that buyers might want to raze the house and build new, so she has asked Hunting Valley village officials to allow her to divide the mansion into six luxury condominiums. Officials say the request violates the zoning code. The case is now in court. So, is preservation of a historic mansion more important than abiding by zoning that officials say preserve the integrity of the village?
Members of the Solon Historical Society are continuing their effort to save the Lynch house that was scheduled to be razed today, but delayed after residents filled council chambers and presented a petition with 1,200 signatures to preserve the house on Bainbridge Road.
Jason Robbins and Isaac Bull, who co-founded Solon in 1820, bought the land on Bainbridge Road where the Lynch house sits today. The Lynch house was built in 1905, but we have heard few details about that family.
Some residents envision a historical corridor in the city center where the Solon Historical Society Museum, the historic Bull house and the Lynch house stand today across from City Hall.
The museum and Bull house will remain, but city officials say razing of the Lynch house would help clear the way for a grassy town center with an amphitheater where residents can gather for entertainment.
In 2015, the city was poised to level the house that it bought in 2005 but delayed action amid protests.
The most recent plan involved the historical society coming up with $300,000 in escrow for the much-needed repairs on the Lynch house. Although the society did this, Solon council still voted down a proposed agreement between the society and city that would save the house. Mayor Edward Kraus said he will not veto council’s action.
Though the battle has been going on for years, the impending demise of the Lynch house likely will come in 2020 during the bicentennial celebration in Solon.
In Chagrin Falls, citizens have come out in force to save a house perched on Grove Hill. The historical Bancroft house on 3 West Summit St. needs a host of repairs. Developer Robert Vitt bought the house with plans to level it and build modern luxury townhouses on the lot just steps from the iconic downtown. He initially was stopped by the village Architectural Review Board whose members said Mr. Vitt had not provided the required documents. Some residents fear the proposed townhouses would put too much stress on the steep hill shored up by a stone wall built during the Great Depression.
Chagrin Falls Historical Society President John Bourriseau said one measure of historic significance is that a notable person resided on a property. According to Mr. Bourriseau, the Bancroft house once belonged a portrait painter whose work is now displayed at the Ohio State House.
The Western Reserve Land Conservancy has offered to help organize an effort to raise money to buy the Chagrin Falls property, repair the house and use the surroundings as a public park.
Saving any of these three houses will take time and money. So, when do we step in as caretakers of heritage? Preserving the past for tomorrow’s generation can be a long emotional road.