Underground Railroad stop to be restoredWritten by Autumn Lee | | firstname.lastname@example.org
An informational open house, presented by the Met-roparks of the Toledo Area on May 22 at the Sylvania Library, revealed plans for the 2007 exterior restoration of the historic Lathrop House.
Once completed, the house will serve as a museum offering educational programming about the area’s involvement as a major stopping place on the Underground Railroad.
Now under the ownership of the City of Sylvania, the Lathrop House itself is believed to be a former “station” of the Underground Railroad.
It contains sections constructed in 1835 and 1847 that were joined together, and now resides in Harroun Community Park after being moved from Main Street in the summer of 2004 to avoid demolition. According to an informational brochure on the Lathrop House, the new location placed it in the same ravine system that fleeing slaves used as they journeyed through the woods from the Harroun Barn (another local Underground Railroad “station”).
Friends of the Lathrop House, a chartered volunteer organization of Metroparks of the Toledo Area is renovating the home and Metroparks will provide technical and planning support for the project.
James Speck, Metroparks director of planning and construction, said plans are 65 percent complete for Phase I of the restoration project. Phase I consists of securing the house to make it structurally sound and preparing the exterior so it’s weather tight.
The final set of plans will go to Sylvania City Council for approval in June before proceeding to bid out the project, which will occur in July and August, Speck said.
Sue McHugh, president of Friends of the Lathrop House, said they expect project bids for Phase I to total $350,000 to $400,000 with overall project costs totaling in excess of $1 million.
Since they already have funding in place for Phase I, McHugh said they are already looking at raising funds for Phase II.
Phase II will involve site work, exterior restrooms, restoring the basement and new vertical circulation. Additional phases include lead paint abatement, mechanical and electrical work, furnishings and restoring the second floor and attic.
McHugh commented this area was on the route runaway slaves took as they funneled to Canada.
“I’m surprised how little people know about [Northwest Ohio’s] involvement in the Underground Railroad. This is our chance to open [the Lathrop House] to the public to help make them more aware of that history,” she said.
The former homeowner, Lucian Lathrop, was known as a minister, an Ohio state representative, a postmaster colonel and later an outlaw when he broke the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 when he allowed runaway slaves to stay in his home, according to McHugh. Lathrop came from five generations of abolitionists, and passed laws that were “very progressive” that provided for the education of black children and allowed fugitive slaves to be present at their trial and have legal counsel, she said.
McHugh said the Lathrop House “has things to teach us — not just historical lessons, but also moral lessons.”
The Metroparks of the Toledo Area will raise additional funds to benefit the restoration project at its annual gala from 7 to 11 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Pinnacle in Maumee. Anyone who wishes to share old photographs or memories of the house may contact Speck at (419) 270-7513.