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Published: Friday, 5/14/2004

Lathrop House begins move off foundation

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Gaye Gindy, a local historian and one of the first to demonstrate against the church's plan to demolish the structure for expansion of the parish, yesterday replied only with a repeated, "What can I say," as she looked at the house and its former foundation.

The house was lifted from its foundation Tuesday. Yesterday, it was moved slowly a few yards to the east and then turned north, essentially sitting in its own backyard until a site is prepared for it in Harroun Community Park.

The house appeared stable as it was being moved aboard steel beams on the flatbed of a truck.

Portions of the rear basement walls came down during the moving process, which began a week ago.

The basement has been of particular concern to those who waged a battle for more than 2 1/2 years, first to save the house from demolition and later demanding that it remain on its original site.

Gaye Gindy, left, and Jackie Konwinski spent time yesterday at the site of the Lathrop House. Behind them is what's left of the basement where runaway slaves reportedly hid. Gaye Gindy, left, and Jackie Konwinski spent time yesterday at the site of the Lathrop House. Behind them is what's left of the basement where runaway slaves reportedly hid.
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It is said that slaves used the ravine, which runs to the east, as cover while they made their way to the house and then hid in the basement while escaping slavery and traveling to Canada.

Ms. Gindy was among the residents who formed the Friends of the Lathrop House, whose demonstrations caused the church to agree not to raze the building. That movement eventually became one to keep the house from being relocated, and the city attempted to take it by eminent domain. That, however, was thwarted by voters in November who told the city to end that action.

Linda Bunda, of the Friends of the Lathrop House, yesterday said architectural drawings show the church could expand and the house could be saved.

"It's just a shame that both didn't happen," she said.

Church leaders have said that the necessary configuration for buildings in the planned expansion required that the house be off the property.

Mrs. Bunda said members take some satisfaction in the fact that the house wasn't torn down and will be used by the Toledo Area Metroparks.

Sue McHugh, active in the fight to keep the house on its original site, echoed Mrs. Bunda's thoughts and added that she looks forward to volunteering for the metroparks in its efforts to restore the house.

Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough said the basement walls were photographed and that the stones that came down are in trash bins that will be hauled off-site for storage. The remaining walls also will be disassembled and stored, he said.

Once the house is at its new site, the stones are to be attached to the basement to give it the appearance it had when slaves used it has a haven.

St. Joseph has insisted since it bought the property in October, 2001 that the house had to be torn down or moved to make way for expansion of its campus.

The church hired the firm that moved the house from its foundation and will put it in place once a foundation is built in the park.

Sylvania City Council is expected to review bids Monday on the work that will be required to build a foundation and to remove some trees to complete the move.

The city did not act on a lone bid of $193,000 to do all the work. The mayor said yesterday that individual bids for the work should enable completion of the move for about $100,000.

The city and Sylvania Township each have pledged $50,000 to relocate the structure.

Once the house is placed in the city park, Metroparks will begin to refurbish the structure and eventually will run programs about the structure and the Underground Railroad.

The programs will stress the dangers posed to both the escaping slaves and to those who allowed them to stay in their homes on the trip to freedom.

Michael McGowan, an attorney for the church, said the church decided to begin moving the house to get the process started.

Contact Mike Jones at:

mjones@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096.



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