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Published: Wednesday, 5/16/2007

Lathrop House restoration planning

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The public's next chance to hear about plans for restoring the Lathrop House's exterior will be during an hour-long open house at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Sylvania branch library.

With work scheduled to get under way late this summer, public comment is sought on proposed interpretive themes.

One open house would invite visitors to see the home from a slave's viewpoint through active interpretations and interactive programming. Visitors could walk in Harroun Community Park, where the house is. They could get an understanding of a slave's exposure to weather and hunger, plus an appreciation for how slaves traversed woods and streams while being pursued.

It would involve a journey - one that would take a moderate to high commitment of time and energy. Arrival at the Lathrop House would denote a rest station along the route.

Visitors can fill out questionnaires on the proposed interpretive themes, interior finishes, and other facets of the project. They are asked to share memories of the house and any old photos of the structure.

Sue McHugh, president of Friends of the Lathrop House, talked about the project's lengthy to-do list at an open house at the Mott branch library in Toledo earlier this week.

Display boards showed proposed renovation on the outside of the 1847 home, which sheltered slaves as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Representatives from the Toledo Area Metroparks and Friends of the Lathrop House explained the project, answered questions, and collected comments.

The Lathrop House, owned by the city, is being renovated by Friends of the Lathrop House, a chartered volunteer organization of the Metroparks. The Metroparks is providing technical and planning support.

Restoration on the home's exterior could be done by the end of the year, Mrs. McHugh said. Four phases could cost an estimated $1 million. Grants and fund-raising efforts are generating money to pay for the work.

Proceeds from the Metropark's fund-raising event Oct. 6 will be used to restore the basement, where fugitive slaves first entered the house. Rough-hewn logs in the ceiling - the same ones slaves would have seen in stays at the home - will be kept as unchanged as possible, Mrs. McHugh said, but changes will be necessary to make sure the structure is safe for public use.

"You will see some steel," said Jim Speck, director of planning for the Metroparks. "You will see all of the original timber framing that is significant to the house, but reinforcement is needed for public assembly," he said.

Once the basement work is finished, possibly in 2010, the Lathrop House could open to the public, Mr. Speck said.

Michael Youngblood, director of Black Catholic Ministry with the Diocese of Toledo, said he attended the open house to get an update on the project so he can get the word out about it. "We need to get the black community more involved," he said.

Keith Mitchell of Monclova Township said the project is significant to the entire area, not just to the city of Sylvania. "There is interest in the Lathrop House across northwest Ohio," said Mr. Mitchell, vice president of Friends of the Lathrop House.

Contact Janet Romaker at:

jromaker@theblade.com or

419-724-6006.



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