By Janet Shailer
Southwest Franklin County Historical Society
Grove City’s 19th century buildings are making a significant comeback and the result could be a big draw as a tourist attraction and educational assemblage.
Grove City’s chances of attracting increased tourist dollars grew after action by Grove City Council last month. Council voted to approve the purchase of a two-story brick home and 1.8 acres of land owned by Ruth Jividen at 4126 Haughn Road.
The estate is known as the A.G. Grant Homestead on land originally purchased in 1803 by Hugh Grant, Sr., A.G.’s grandfather. Grant Sr. and his wife, Catherine, and their children were the first settlers in Jackson Township.
Ohio had just become a state in 1803 and Jackson Township was still part of Franklin Township until 1815. It is believed that Grant, Sr. incorrectly settled his family somewhere in southeastern Jackson Township near the Scioto River.
According to A Centennial Biographical History of the city of Columbus and Franklin County, Ohio, Grant Sr. died in a freak accident in 1806 or 1807 and Catherine was left to move her family to the present Haughn Road property where it is believed that a log cabin was erected. The brick home on the site is believed to have been constructed in the 1840s.
Jividen, 98, is the last direct descendent of the Grant family. The city has agreed to purchase her land and home for $360,000. Under the agreement, Jividen can live there for her lifetime and the city would maintain the property.
The Southwest Franklin County Historical Society is working closely with the city to make the Grant Homestead one of the crown jewels of local 19th century history. The goal is to convert the home into a tourist destination where visitors can view life as it was in Ohio’s infant years. Plans call for the 1940s-era barn behind the house to be converted into a museum where 19th century artifacts would be on display.
According to Ann Reynolds, an historical society member and friend of Jividen, the Grant Homestead has a number of unique structures, including a log cabin, milk house, railroad crossing, carriage house, dinner bell, and top to the old Chrome Dome restaurant in Columbus. She also has an original elevator from Columbus’ Brunson Building that she used as a pen for peacocks.
“Ruth loves unique artifacts,” Reynolds said.
Next door neighbor Ben Brace said that some of the trees on the property are home to nesting birds such as Cooper’s Hawks and goldfinches.
The 1840’s house is built on the I-plan – two rooms up and two rooms down. At one time the family hooked a granary on the back of the house to expand the kitchen. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage told the historical society on March 4 that he estimates it could take $1 million over 10 years to bring the building and property into proper shape.
The historical society and the city of Grove City partner on several projects, including Century Village on Orders Road and the Welcome Center and Museum at 3378 Park St.
The museum has a 1912 Model T Ford (the last year they were hand made before assembly lines) and 16 showcases of local artifacts – some dating back to pre-Civil War days.
The city also maintains the historic Gantz Farmhouse, built in 1832, and Gardens at Gantz. Once the Grant Homestead is open, the city’s Visitors and Convention Bureau will increase promotion of Grove City as an all-day tourist attraction and overnight destination for those interested in 19th century history.
Century Village on Orders Road continues to draw interest for its unique structures. The village includes the Kegg-Kientz log cabin, the Black log cabin, Jones barn, Bob Evan’s barn and one room Orders Road School – all used in the 19th century. The latest addition is the Augenstein-Spillman blacksmith shop where classes in blacksmithing will be held. A granary will be added this summer.
According to Bev Babbert, education committee chairman for the historical society, 300-400 school children have visited Century Village in each of the last three years.
“As soon as they can see Century Village from the school bus windows, children are excited to begin exploring the buildings on site,” Babbert said. “They are usually stunned by the lack of modern conveniences and technology. They are fascinated by farm and household tools, descriptions of chores and everyday life, and the differences in their school building and our one room school house. Their questions and comments are both insightful and comical.”
In addition, Century Village holds a Civil War Reenactment every June and an Old Time Harvest Day re-creation of 19th century farm life every fall. Those two events draw several thousand visitors to the facilities at Fryer Park.
Steve Jackson, president of the historical society, praises the Grove City administration and city council for working to preserve the past for future educational purposes.
“We’ve been blessed to have had different city administrations for the last 25 years with visions of what a town with a heritage should be,” he said.
The historical society meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 3220 Columbus St., in room 104.