Preservation Ohio, the state’s oldest statewide historic preservation organization, has announced its official List of Ohio’s Most Endangered Historic Sites for 2020. The list includes Harbor View Mansion in Vermilion because the City of Vermilion plans to demolish the home “to make way for greenspace and patio areas which would include informational plaques about the Great Lakes region”. A group of concerned citizens wants to save the Harbor View Mansion from demolition.
This year, Preservation Ohio received more nominations for the list than ever before, which confirms both that much of our state’s historic properties remain at risk and that interest in preservation is growing across the state of Ohio. Ohio’s Most Endangered Historic Sites is unique in that it highlights historic buildings and sites submitted from local citizens and advocates, each hoping to bring attention and to identify ways to give important historic properties a future. Out of the many properties nominated this year, Preservation Ohio’s board was tasked with choosing the most at risk. Ten properties representing all areas of Ohio are included in this year’s edition.
Preservation Ohio accepts nominations from any citizen or organization. Over the 27 years of the program, being named to the list has contributed to saving examples of Ohio’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage. Circumstances that contribute to the endangered status and result in sites being named to the list typically include one or more of the following factors: demolition threat, abandonment, neglectful owner, deterioration, obsolete use, lack of funding for repairs, location or development.
According to Preservation Ohio, “a Vermilion Photojournal article from 1973 said, ‘In reviewing the many fine old stately homes that grace the quiet, tree-lined streets of Harbourtown, all paths eventually lead to the foot of Main Street. Here, located atop a gently rolling lawn stands the original home of F.W. Wakefield, a landmark now a part of what is known as The Great Lakes Historical Museum.’ The city fathers are in favor of raising the entire complex to make way for greenspace and patio areas which would include informational plaques about the Great Lakes region.”
The Concerned Citizens group believes that while the city does not have funds to renovate and maintain the historic property, there are other ways to proceed rather than demolition. The group is attempting to persuade the City of Vermilion, who owns Harbor View Mansion, to lease it to a local non profit organization to maintain and repair the building.
Members of a city subcommittee advised the city to demolish the mansion. The decision for the complete demolition was made in December of 2017 in a Parks Board meeting.
Concerned Citizens feel that since the existing structure has the same footprint as the museum, it would be financially practical and beneficial to the community to restore its original function as a museum, with a collection of exhibits that illustrate Vermilion’s remarkable past.
Preservation Ohio will be reaching out to the various involved parties for advocacy servicing.