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Published: Saturday, 5/29/2004

Group opposed to move to offer its involvement

Members of Alpha Phi Boule, a fraternity of African-American professionals, will hold a news conference today regarding their future involvement in the historic Lathrop House.

The structure on Sylvania's Main Street, said to have been a way station for escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad, now stands off its foundation waiting for a final move to a new foundation to be built in Harroun Community Park.

In a written statement, members of the fraternity, which opposed moving the house from its original site, said they will work to make the house an educational facility for "everyone interested in learning our shared history."

The house and its grounds are owned by the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, which says the property is needed for the expansion of the campus of St. Joseph Church, across Main Street from the house.

The fraternity will hold the news conference at 11 a.m. at the shelter house at the front of the park.

Contractors hired by the city have cleared away trees in the park to make a route for the house to be moved to its new site.

Sylvania city council approved a bid of $28,000 by the Stansley Group to excavate a basement and pour a foundation for the house, but has delayed signing the contract until funds are available.

Mayor Craig Stough said he expects the money, part of $50,000 committed by Sylvania Township trustees, to be in hand early next week.

The fate of the house has been the focus of a contentious dispute between preservationists - who first fought to save it, and then to have it remain on its original site - and the church.

The church had taken out a demolition permit in 2001 to raze the building, but agreed later to let it stand as long as it was moved from the property.

The city had attempted to take the house by eminent domain, but that was rejected by voters, and an agreement for the move was then worked out between the city and the parish.

Once the house is relocated, the Toledo Area Metroparks will restore the house and then use it to present educational programs primarily about the Underground Railroad.

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