ASHLAND -- Ashland County Historical Society recently received a $170,000 cultural facilities grant from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) to fund its building’s restoration.
The funding will be used to install a roof, replace and repair HVAC, electrical and plumbing and make other interior upgrades, specifically ones that will bring back and highlight the building’s history and character.
“We hope to bring back the original beauty and finishes in the building,” said Director of Operations Jennifer Marquette. “There are some unique features in the building such as a spiral staircase and jail cells from when the building was used as a juvenile detention center.”
Over the years, the building has served multiple purposes -- a children's home, an office for Ashland County Family Services, a juvenile detention center and other private business office space.
Donated to Ashland County in 1897, the Freer Home was used as the Ashland County Children's Home from 1907 to 1989. As an important piece of Ashland history, the Freer Home was fitting to be preserved, said J.C. Benton, communications manager for the OFCC.
The OFCC-administered grant program provides funding for the design and construction of Ohio’s cultural facilities through cooperation with nonprofit and local government project sponsors. This might include science-technology centers, nonprofit theaters, museums, art education facilities and historical sites located within the state.
“This project supports culture through the preservation of a facility of local historical interest,” Benton said.
During fiscal year 2019, the OFCC approved $18.8 million of appropriations for 76 projects previously authorized by the Ohio general assembly. As part of the administration of the grant program, the OFCC disbursed $28.8 million to 127 projects during the fiscal year.
Other cultural facilities grants awarded in Ashland County have covered a portion of the renovations at the Schrine’s Theatre in Ashland and the Loudonville Opera House to the southern portion of Ashland County. The Hayesville Opera House received a grant for its sound system.
The Ashland County Historical Society’s intention for the grant is to more effectively tell the building’s historic story, Marquette explained.
“This grant is very significant. We are looking to expand our outreach into the community and provide additional areas where we can display the heritage of Ashland County,” she said. “This building will also provide expanded areas for gatherings where we can hold lectures from guest speakers and a common space for the community to use. We have many significant museum collections that can now be displayed.”
The preliminary work -- identifying contractors, budgeting costs and collecting furnishings -- is complete, allowing the historical society to accelerate the remainder of the project. It’s expected to be complete by late spring or early summer 2020.
“Our partnership with the OFCC has been wonderful, and they have been very helpful along the way,” Marquette said. “We look forward to providing Ashland with the renovation of an important historical landmark that can be used and enjoyed by the community.”