A labor of love PDF Print E-mail
Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer   
Thursday, 14 March 2013 11:24
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An outside view of the Spafford House. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
PERRYSBURG — The public got its first glimpse of the remodeled Spafford House Saturday.
Years in the planning, the project is slated to become a museum to house artifacts and exhibits celebrating the history of the Perrysburg area.
“We still have the outside to do,” said Phyllis Morton, who founded the Perrysburg Area Historical Museum group and is now vice president. “We still need $100,000 in the endowment fund. We hope people will get excited and make donations.”
The house, a two-story Greek Revival structure located at 27340 W. River Road, just west of Fort Meigs, was built on a portion of a plot of land, known as the Spafford Grant, inherited by Aurora Spafford, an area judge, from his father, Amos, one of the first settlers in the Perrysburg area. The home was built in 1823 with wood shipped from Buffalo, N.Y. In addition to being a residence, the home for a time was also a meeting place of the Perrysburg Methodist congregation before they built their church at Second and Walnut Street in 1835.
The home was moved 75 feet off the road in 1995 to accommodate changes in River Road, and was in dilapidated condition before previous owner Frank Keating III worked continually on its preservation. The house was sold to the PAHM for $130,000 in 2009. The building was gutted to the studs — not even the ceiling remained – and a total of $300,000 has been put into the property thus far to prepare it.
The PAHM is currently in the midst of a $150,000 fundraising campaign to get the museum open, and has raised about a third of that amount thus far; a “thermometer” sign in front of the Commodore Building on East Indiana Avenue marks the group’s progress. A number of items must be completed, including sidewalks for the public and the disabled, concrete aprons near the roadway, and the creation and lighting of a parking lot, before the opening can take place.
“What’s not been done is, basically, they need to raise money, because the basement meeting area and artifact room downstairs, it just hasn’t even started yet because they don’t have the funding,” said township resident and retired township and Perrysburg policeman J.D. Justus, who is construction liaison for the project and son of Judy Justus, a founding PAHM member and the group’s current president. For him, the renovation of the Spafford House has been a labor of love.
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One of the refurbished rooms
“I’m a big history buff, so I’m able to help out with some of the things, like (determining) what would have been here” or there in the house. “I’m proud to work on it.”
“The floors were shipped here in 1822 by a guy named Capt. William Pratt, and his great-great-grandson is Doug Pratt, here in Perrysburg.”
Pratt, who owns a farm, had 100-year-old walnut wood on his property and donated it for use as trim in the house.
“Any carpenter would kill to have this wood,” said Justus.
Other parts of the house were built from even more serendipitous materials — a new fireplace constructed inside the “kitchen” area was made of bricks found during a dig in the backyard. Handmade blacksmith nails and even a portion of a gun were turned up while digging on other occasions.
Among those working on the house has been Jim Mackiewicz, a historical carpenter.
“He’s taken it back to the way it looked in 1823.”
The interior of the house has been fully painted, with simple signs posted to designate what each room will be used for: exhibits, for example, showcasing Native American culture, military history, or recreating an early bedroom. The original pole pine floors, which remained at the house, have been refinished, and electrical lighting, security systems, and other modern amenities, including a restroom, have been installed. No actual exhibits have been brought into the home yet, but in the “study” a large section of one wall has been glassed in and left untouched, displaying the bare studs and ancient wood beneath. On hand at the open house were historical interpreters representing such subjects as pioneer education and the War of 1812.
There are plans for Phase II and III constructions at the site, including a barn to house items such as the original fire engine used by the Perrysburg Fire Division. Many of the artifacts to be exhibited at the house remain in storage throughout the area.
Justus emphasized that the museum is not simply for the city, but for the entire area.
“I get people asking me, ‘Well, you know, this is a Perrysburg City museum.’ It’s not a ‘Perrysburg’ museum. That’s why the name of it is Perrysburg ‘Area’ Historic Museum.”
“It’s a community, it’s an area museum. It’s not one entity. It’s all of our museum.”
Justus says he is committed to the project through thick and thin.
“My motto is, if we run out of money, fine. We’re not going to slap things together.”
“As we get the money, we’ll continue and do it the proper way.”
 

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