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John Galbraith has owned a piece of his city’s history for more than forty years. The gray, wooden-frame building at 117 W. Wayne St. in Maumee passed through many hands before his — doctors, pharmacists, a grocer, and a tailor-cum-dry cleaner, among others.
But Mr. Galbraith recently learned he may be its final caretaker.
After examining the site April 4, Maumee Building and Zoning Inspector Bruce Wholf deemed the structure unsound and ordered it demolished unless Mr. Galbraith could rehabilitate it in compliance with city building codes.
The Maumee resident, 89, bought the property in 1972 to rent out as office space and to run his own construction company. It was probably built in the 1840s right after Maumee became a city.
The building’s condition has naturally deteriorated throughout its more than 150 years of use. Although Mr. Galbraith’s addition of aluminum siding has kept the outside looking presentable, Mr. Wholf says the inside shows evidence of structural disrepair, including sloping floors, windows and doors sagging to the exterior walls, and large cracks in plaster and drywall.
Mr. Galbraith disagrees. “It’s not in a state of decay,” he said. “The building has had no significant changes since I’ve been here.”
He feels reluctant to dive into a costly rehabilitation effort. He looked into appealing Mr. Wholf’s decision but has yet to do so.
Two charges have been filed against him for failing to respond to the city’s orders, and he is to appear June 26 for a hearing in Maumee Municipal Court. He recently rented new office space for his business and moved out of the building this week.
According to Maumee historian Marilyn Wendler, the structure epitomizes Greek Revival architecture, a style popular in Maumee between the 1820s and the Civil War. “The Greek Revival exemplified the spirit of new nationalism and patriotism that came about after the War of 1812,” she said.
The building is Maumee’s last Greek Revival building used for commercial purposes. It stands in Maumee’s Uptown Historic District and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Buildings such as Mr. Galbraith’s have been rehabilitated, said Barbara Powers of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office. “There are hundreds and thousands of properties across the state that are this age and vintage that are used [after rehabilitation] and add to the economy of the community,” she said.
Mr. Wholf wishes Mr. Galbraith would repair the structure. He said estimating the cost of rehabilitation would be difficult without getting into the building and seeing what needs repair. “It’s unfortunate,” he said. “We don’t like to see buildings like this demolished.”
Mr. Galbraith said a friend gave him an informal estimate of about $100,000.
Mr. Galbraith’s wife, Cynthia, hopes a company or outside organization will step in to save the building by offering to pay for the work and then donating the restored structure to the city.
Mr. Galbraith hopes that when he celebrates his 90th birthday in August, 117 W. Wayne will be standing along with him. “Some things last longer than others,” he said. “Like me.”
Contact Arielle Stambler at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.