By Rick Palsgrove
It was once a building filled with bustling activity in the days of the Ohio and Erie Canal in the 19th century.
For much of the 20th century it served as a farm outbuilding until the farm was replaced by industrial development.
By the 21st century the deteriorating structure sat idle and seemed destined for the wrecking ball when warehouse development was planned for the site.
But now the building has a new home in Groveport.
In 2015, the Groveport Heritage and Preservation Society saved the one story brick structure that had sat on the southeast corner of Pontius and Rohr roads since the mid-19th century in an area that was once known as Sharp’s Landing. The GHPS feels the more than 170-year-old, 62×21 foot building where canal boats docked in the 19th century has historical significance as it is believed its three sections were used as a smokehouse, bakery and ice house.
The GHPS came to an agreement with the developer who owned the site where the building stood. It enabled the society to have the building dismantled and rebuilt on a new site in Groveport. Under the agreement, Schottenstein Trustees GP donated $80,000 and NorthPoint Development donated $120,000 to the GHPS for the relocation/restoration project.
Groveport City Council deeded a small, triangular piece of land on the north side of Wirt Road across from Heritage Park, which sits along the former canal route in Groveport, to the GHPS to serve as the site for the relocated former canal building.
Now, after three years, the building has been rebuilt and restored as a historical attraction. The GHPS plans to create displays within the building with historical items and artifacts that show how the building was used in the heyday of the Ohio and Erie Canal. Some of the display artifacts were donated by individuals and the society also purchased some items. GHPS President Craig Lovelace said GHPS members Carla Cramer and Karen Richards did much of the research on the items and artifacts and Steven Thomson was the point man on the building’s reconstruction.
“We plan to have a ‘soft’ opening of the building for people to see it on Sept. 15 from 1-3 p.m. as part of the Ohio History Connection’s Ohio Open Doors tour,” said Lovelace. “It’s a sneak preview.”
As part of the Ohio Open Doors tour, visitors will also be able to see the Groveport Log House in Heritage Park and the Groveport Heritage Museum in Groveport Town Hall, 648 Main St.
Lovelace said the society hopes to have the historical displays completed in the building by Apple Butter Day on Oct. 13. He said a viewing window still needs to be constructed on the ice house portion of the building and the society is awaiting final authorization from the city regarding electrical inspections for the structure.
Lovelace said the GHPS will contract with a company that will allow visitors to use their phones to call a number to hear a narrative description of the displays. Visitors will not be allowed inside the building, but can view the interior displays through windows and doors. There will also be explanatory signs.
“It’s peering into history,” said Lovelace.
The city donated the bricks for the paver walkway around the building that Groveport-based Yard Solutions installed.
Lovelace said the building’s brick walls are original as well as the hooks in the smokehouse and the bakery oven.
“It’s great that the oven has survived all these years,” said Lovelace.
Cramer described how the oven operated.
“They would build a fire inside the oven hoping to get it to about 800 degrees,” said Cramer. “Then, after the fire died down, they would scoop out the ashes. The oven’s brick walls and floor absorbed and held the heat. They would then scatter flour on the floor of the oven and, if it turned black and did not ignite, they knew the oven was ready for baking at a temperature of around 450 degrees.”
Lovelace said saving and relocating the building to Groveport was a natural fit as it sits along where the canal passed through town. He noted that within a short distance of the building are other historical sites in the city including the log house, Groveport Cemetery, Town Hall, and Ohio and Erie Canal Lock 22.
“Groveport can grow by touting its history,” said Lovelace.
He said studying history is important.
“We can use history as a guide for the present and future,” said Lovelace. “The canals opened up Ohio to commerce and their construction shows the ingenuity and foresight of the people who built them.”
Cramer said the presence of the Ohio and Erie Canal is why the city of Groveport is here today.
“Transportation has always driven this community,” said Cramer, noting that Groveport through its history used transportation to grow and develop by embracing roads, the canal, the railroad, the electric interurban railway, trucking, and airplanes.
The Sharp’s Landing building will be maintained by the GHPS.