Thursday, March 11, 2010

Silver lining

I was saddened as a fan of history to find out the Arvin Olin house was torn down yesterday by the city of Akron. The Arvin Olin house was built in 1834-1835 an was a listing on the National Register of Historic Places. It was located at the corner of Ravenna Road and Diagonal Road in Franklin Township just north of Kent. It had been included on the NRHP in 1995 mostly because of its age and as a rare example of the late Federal style of architecture it was. Even when nominated in 1995 it was already not being used, so that's pretty much the state it's been in since then so you can imagine what kind of shape the house was in. I took pictures of the exterior last May to include on Wikipedia and there were already places where bricks had fallen off. It was a sad sight to see then, so the demolition doesn't surprise me.

I first even noticed the house probably in 2005 or 2006 while I was working at Geauga Lake. I drove past it going to and from Aurora as Ravenna Road makes an excellent bypass around the northeast side of Kent. I'm not sure when I first really started liking the 1830s style for a house, but I really liked what I saw the first time I saw the Olin house and always hoped it would get restored or would last until I could do it myself. I actually didn't know it was on the National Register of Historic Places until recently, probably last year. I'm glad I had the time to get some pictures of it last year!

Of course the question comes up that since it is in Franklin Township, why did the city of Akron own it? Well, just a few thousand feet down Ravenna Road is the Akron Water Treatment plant and Lake Rockwell, so Akron acquired the land under the reasoning of protecting the water supply. According to the Record-Courier article, they bought it in 1990 and briefly used it to house employees of the plant. The article makes it sound like Akron really tried their best to save the structure by working with the Kent Historical Society and a descendant of Arvin Olin, but I'm pretty skeptical. Moving the house was pretty much out of the question as it was made almost completely of brick, so it weighs a lot more than a typical house. Because it had been abandoned for so long (at least 15 years, probably much longer) it was deteriorating more and more. If Akron really cared, why did they buy it in the first place? Does having someone living there really pose a threat to the water supply? Why invest money in a property like that if you don't intend to remove the house? This is just the latest example of Akron owning waaaaay too much land here. Akron owns all of the land around Lakes Rockwell and Pippen-- not just immediately around the lakes but a significant distance away from them-- so I'd estimate it owns close to 1/4 of Franklin Township. Not only does Akron prohibit any kind of recreation on Lake Rockwell, but they also restrict any use of Lake Pippen even though it is not used as part of the water supply and is actually completely separate from Lake Rockwell. That's on top of the land prevented from any kind of development due to it being near the water supply or occupied by Lake Rockwell, a man-made reservoir built in 1912. What a way for one city to control and limit the development of another. And Akron's not alone in Franklin Township; both Kent and Stow also own land and have their respective wells in the township. Thus, Franklin Township supplies water for three different cities on top of the residents who all have wells of their own.

The silver lining for me was getting a call yesterday from Roger Di Paolo, the editor of the local Record-Courier newspaper asking if he could use a picture I had uploaded last May of the house. Of course I said yes since that's why I took and uploaded them to the Wikimedia Commons (a sister project of Wikipedia) in the first place. In doing that, I gave them a Creative Commons-Attribute license meaning people are free to use the photo for anything, but just give credit to me as the author. Below is the front page and the continuation that I pasted together from the PDF. You can see my credit just below the lower picture on the right.

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