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$1M historic renovation under way of Lathrop House in Sylvania

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Crews from Mosser Construction Inc. work on the scaffolding-encased Lathrop House.

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The Lathrop House in Sylvania is taking on a new, more historically appropriate look, as its $1-million-plus renovation gets under way.

One month into the project, aluminum siding has been removed to reveal the original timber-frame construction at the former Underground Railroad site. Roofing has been stripped to make way for new cedar shake shingles. Chimneys have been replaced and restored.

By the time construction crews are finished with the exterior renovation in September, windows and doors will have been repaired as well.

"This is pretty darn exciting for us," said Sue McHugh, president of Friends of the Lathrop House, a historical preservation group. "It will be a really nice backdrop for lantern tours."

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Tony Urbas, a volunteer with Friends of the Lathrop House, checks the attic while the roof is being replaced.

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The exterior renovation will be the first phase in a four-part project to restore the 173-year-old house, located in Harroun Park along Main Street. The project will ready the home for public tours for the first time, Ms. McHugh said.

Mosser Construction Inc. has been following standards developed by the U.S. Department of Interior for historic structures, said James Speck, director of planning and construction for Toledo Area Metroparks. The first phase was funded by a $64,000 contribution from Friends of the Lathrop House and a $257,872 grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

"We want to be sensitive to the story of the house," Mr. Speck said, "to try to preserve as much of the existing fabric of the house as possible."

The start of Phase II - or the first round of interior renovations - will be contingent on fund-raising, Ms. McHugh said. About $60,000 has been raised for the $250,000 project. The group hopes to begin by late next year.

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Alberto Zapata of Total Environmental scraps paint.

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The second phase will focus on repairing the basement, which served as a hiding place for escaped slaves. The home's water and heating and air-conditioning systems will be replaced, and its foundation repaired. Upon its completion, public tours will begin, Ms. McHugh said.

Phase III will provide for a complete restoration of the interior first floor while Phase IV will focus on the second-floor interior and attic.

"I think we have good momentum going with this renovation going on right now," Ms. McHugh said. "It is a testament to the people who gathered together in 2001 and said, 'This house is too important for the community to lose.'•"

She added: "There is a lot of history that's happened within those walls."

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