When it comes to the history of our city, people and events, of course, are important. However, there’s another historical component that can’t be ignored, the landmarks that stand as sentinels watching over us and convincing us that, in a sense, time can indeed stand still.
After all, am I really that old if I can drive down North Cole Street and glance to my left as I approach the tracks and see the Alloway Environmental building and instantly turn it into what that same building once was in the early 1960s, American Feed and Hardware, where a certain 8-year-old boy could pull open a door, fill his nostrils with that wonderful commingling of the aromas of seed, fertilizer and metal and head for one of the most underrated toy aisles in the city?
Yes, our historical buildings that have stood for decades do matter. While some often remind us of our cherished personal moments, for the buildings that have been in place even before we arrived, they allow us to imagine Lima’s yesteryears.
And, of course, that’s why I was saddened when late last December the old YWCA was razed. It was a building which, for years, had been revitalized and repurposed from what it once was, the post-Civil War Hughes-Russell Mansion, built in 1870, and a part of the stately Victorians that comprised Lima’s Golden Block on Market and Main streets.
When the two-story fluted Corinthian columns came down, so did another piece of Lima’s history. As for the success stories of Lima’s historical buildings, of course, there’s the MacDonnell House beside the library, built in 1893. However, farther west on Market, just past Jameson, there’s another Victorian even older, one dating back to 1879, and that, thanks to Shannon Wannemacher and her husband Andy, will be around for a long time to come. The couple purchased the former residence to many families in 2014.
While the street address is 1028 W. Market St., Shannon has dubbed the house Jameson Manor, an homage to George Jameson, the prominent lawyer and real estate developer who built the house and was its first of 13 owners despite his never having lived there himself. Among the owners, one family, the Booses, kept the property the longest, from 1910 through 1994.
Recalls Shannon, “Andy and I fell in love with the house quickly. Despite the cosmetic work such as wallpapering and furnishing it with period-appropriate pieces, and also some plumbing and electrical work that would be expected for a house 135 years old, it was obvious to both of us that the building had good bones.”
Following the restorative work, Shannon opened a business there, an event center for small weddings and other special occasions. Despite the success of the business, it proved to be an all-consuming venture, so she was thrilled when, last October, the Lima Symphony Orchestra floated the idea of renting the house for its offices.
Says Shannon, “Andy and I were thrilled to rent the property, especially to an organization we support so enthusiastically.”
Shannon feels the house has remained so viable thanks to the great care provided by the owners, especially the Boose family that owned the house for over 80 years. She also acknowledged previous owners David Tebben and Perry Hux, who meticulously used dental picks to remove old paint from the grooves of window and door frames.
The uniquely patterned wood floors are original as well as the doors, transoms and windows. In some closets there can still be seen the original floral wallpaper, which Shannon used as a template to wallpaper some of the rooms.
As for why the number of historical houses has diminished over time, Shannon points to the growing commercialism in some neighborhoods on the outskirts of downtown and to many people’s reluctance to live close to a business.
As for the reticence of business owners when it comes to moving into older buildings, Shannon wonders if some lack the vision to see their businesses thriving in unconventional spaces or lack the patience to work with local government to open businesses in these types of spaces.
Certainly, some have made the move and thrived, such as Kent Fultz, who, in 2015, moved Crankers Cycling from Lima’s north end to 410 N. Main St., an historic building repurposed a number of times over the decades, once used as a gathering space for conventions. On the second floor, Fultz found a stack of programs for a morticians’ convention dated April 17-18, 1890.
As staunch supporters of the arts, the Wannemachers worry that buildings like the Ohio Theatre and Memorial Hall may fall victim to what Shannon calls with more than a tinge of sarcasm, “the wrecking ball of urban renewal.” Both husband and wife hope there are enough people willing to step up and invest time and funds to bring Memorial Hall, built in 1908, back to full functionality.
And, for all who cherish the familiar landmarks that speak so eloquently of Lima’s past, they both recognize the Wannemachers’ efforts in revitalizing Jameson Manor and also share their hopes for even more preservation and repurposing and less of those wrecking balls of urban renewal.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at email@example.com.