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Published: Friday, 1/23/2004

Input asked on plans for slave house in Sylvania

Toledo Area Metroparks officials yesterday asked opinions about the site for and eventual programming at Sylvania s Lathrop House from about 100 people who attended a public meeting at the Sylvania Senior Center.

Responses at two earlier meetings indicated a strong preference for moving the house, reportedly once a station on the Underground Railroad, east of its Main Street location and into Harroun Community Park.

The new location would keep the house on a ravine that is said to have been used as cover by fugitive slaves moving from the South on their way to Canada.

Questionnaires distributed yesterday asked about the amount of landscape screening that would be desirable as well as including modern facilities such as restrooms.

Jim Speck, director of planning for the metroparks, said the earlier responses indicated a desire for programming that described the life of abolitionists in the mid 1800s and from the perspective of escaping slaves.

As part of a future program, he said, visitors would walk through the park s ravine system and approach the house from the rear, using the outdoor stairs to the basement as an escaping slave would.

Mr. Speck said it is likely that advisory groups will be formed in the near future to deal with the specifics of moving the house, educational programs to be presented there, and how to fund them.

The house, owned by the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, has been the center of a dispute for more than two years between those who have argued that its historical significance will be diminished by a move and by St. Joseph Parish, which wants the house moved so its campus can be expanded across Main Street.

Voters in November halted an attempt by the city to take the house and its property by eminent domain. That would have left the house at its present location.

Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough has said he hopes for an agreement next month between the church and city on the issue.



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