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History's edges fixed at Hayes Center


Paul Berringer, left, and Tom Lafever look over stones from gate pillars being rebuilt at the Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont.


FREMONT - Rain has caused nearly $1 million damage to the stately gates, fences, and pillars surrounding the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center.

Now the same culprit is stalling progress on a renovation project at the historic landmark.

Rain is keeping contractors from renovating the 130-year-old wrought-iron fence and stone pillars surrounding the center, which includes the home of the 19th president, the presidential library, and a museum.

The elements and some reckless drivers have damaged 4,800 feet of walls, gates, and fencing enclosing the 25-acre grounds.

When the gates were removed last week and sent to Covington, Ky., for restoration, the center's spokeswoman, Nancy Kleinhenz, said she thought she saw a ray of hope for the project.

“We thought with things starting last week, things would really be cooking. Weather has really hindered our contractors,''

Ms. Kleinhenz said she has no idea when the three-phase renovations, which are expected to cost between $800,000 and $1 million, will be completed.

An $800,000 state grant will be used to pay for most of the renovations. Donations will be used to cover the rest.

Born in Delaware, Ohio, in 1822, Hayes was president from 1877 to 1881.

After leaving the White House in 1881, he returned to his Fremont home, where he campaigned against giving women the right to vote, promoted scholarships for black students, and was a trustee of Ohio State University and president of the National Prison Association.

A general in the Civil War, Hayes held several offices, including governor of Ohio, before moving to Fremont in 1873.

He died in 1893 in his Fremont home at the age of 70.

The first phase of renovations involved removing the gates - which Congress gave to the Hayes presidential library in 1928 - from the center's five entrances and shipping them to Stewart Iron Works Co. in Covington. The gates will be refurbished and protected with a coating that will “help the gates last for another century or so,'' Ms. Kleinhenz said. The gates should be returned to the center in December.

While the gates are gone, B&W Welding of Fremont will work on stripping 8-foot sections of fence, painting and repairing them as needed, with replacement as an alternative.

Stathos Construction of Akron, Ohio, will replicate the 12 stone pillars using concrete. The original pillars, which date to 1927, were rebuilt at least once, in 1960, using a stone facade filled with rubble.

“A lot of the stones fell out when they were struck by ... vehicles sliding into them,'' Ms. Kleinhenz said. Most of the stones have been salvaged and will be used to make the pillars' facades.

Other renovation projects, including expanding the museum and restoring the inside of the Hayes home, have been put on hold due to state budget cuts, she said.

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