TIFFIN-SENECA COUNTY OHIO'S
MOST ENDANGERED PLACES
"When we build, let us think that we build forever." — John Ruskin
Part of the battle when it comes to preserving our architectural heritage is bringing endangered places to the public's attention before it's too late. Some structures are more of a challenge to rescue, particularly those owned by a local, state or federal agency. The key is to spotlight endangered architectural gems before they are lost to us forever. Saving historic structures takes time, a plan, money and effort. The most vital aspect in regard to restoration and revitalization is the citizenry who speak out and fight to save these treasures for future generations.
This page spotlights historically significant structures in Tiffin and Seneca County, Ohio, that are slated for demolition, are endangered, are on the road to rehabilitation or have been destroyed.
River Cottages • Jr. Home Orphanage
600 N. River Rd., Tiffin (Tiffin Developmental Center)
Slated for demolition/Demolition in progress
The river cottages were built as part of the Junior Order of United American Mechanics' National Orphans Home. The grounds — listed on the National Register of Historic Places — were home to hundreds of children from 1896-1944. The river cottages were used mainly for the older children, as a means of teaching them independent living before they left the home upon graduation. Each cottage was named for a state, since chidlren from across the country were welcomed there, provided their fathers had been members of the Junior Order of United American Mechanics fraternal organization.
The Tiffin Developmental Center, operated by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, now owns the property. Because the State of Ohio has deemed the buildings no longer useful, officials have chosen to demolish this important piece of Tiffin/Seneca County/Ohio/National history. On April 11, 2014, the first of the four cottages was burned as a training exercise for the Tiffin Fire Department. The rest of the buildings are slated to be burned at various times throughout the summer months.
Tell Ohio Gov. John Kasich this is unacceptable! Call the governor's office at (614) 466-3555 or visit http://www.governor.ohio.gov/Contact/ContacttheGovernor.aspx to send the governor an email.
Kiessling Bros. Livery & Coach Stable
(Later known as Benner's Garage)
Rear, 25 E. Market St., Tiffin
This building that sat just across the Market Street bridge behind the vacant Pryzm Night Club was the site of much of Tiffin's transportation history. In 1891, Dr. Charles Benner purchased the Kinzer Hotel property that stood at the front of the lot, and by 1902, he erected this brick livery stable behind the hotel. The livery business was owned by brothers George and John Kiessling, whose father was Seneca County Commissioner Julius Kiessling.
The brothers ran the livery together until 1906, when George was killed on New Year's Day after he and a friend attempted to ride the train to Fostoria — by grasping the outside handles of one of the sleeping cars while standing on a narrow step. The night was so cold that about 3 miles from Fostoria, George lost his grip and was run over by the train.
John Kiessling continued to operate the livery for several more years. By 1914, the building — still owned by Dr. Benner — was used as an annex for the nearby W.C. Holt Livery. But by that time, the automobile was gaining popularity, making livery stables virtually obsolete.
In 1915, the livery was transitioned into one of Tiffin's earliest automobile garages and was renamed "Benner's Garage." The property was transferred to Dr. Benner's children — Proctor Benner and Nina Cox — in 1919, and that same day they sold the garage to Mary and Agatha Eckert. For the next two decades, the structure was home to Eckert's Garage and was operated by Charles Eckert, except for a brief stint in the late 1920s when Harry Moehlman ran it as Veele Sales & Service.
Most recently, the old livery was used during Halloween as "The Nightmare Within" haunted house. Its rustic facade and ample parking would be the perfect place to house a farmer's market or perhaps a microbrewery.
Side view of the Kiessling Livery. The windows that adorned the individual horse stalls were bricked in long ago, but the building maintains most of it originality.
(Also Stallsworth Hotel and Pryzm Night Club)
25 E. Market St., Tiffin
Built in 1929, the Snyder Hotel at 25 E. Market St. was owned and operated by Arthur Snyder. It was constructed on the site of the former Kinzer Hotel, Commercial House and the Bell Hotel.
Throughout the years, the Snyder changed hands and was known as the Stallsworth Hotel and finally, the Prysm Night Club.
Tiffin Edison Electric Illuminating Co.
(Former Salvation Army)
45 S. Monroe St., Tiffin
Slated for demolition
One of Tiffin's most unique structures, this building was constructed to house the Tiffin Edison Electric Illuminating Co. that was incorporated in 1883. According to the book Between the Eighties, the Tiffin company contracted with the Edison Electric Light Co. of New York City and became the exclusive licensee of all Edison patents for incandescent lights.
The electric plant housed in this building (erected by the Edison Construction Co.) boasted a 100-horsepower boiler, 120-horsepower engine and two dynamos (generators) capable of supplying 500 lights each. The plant was in operation by Christmas of 1883.
This building housed the first central station incandescent light plant west of the Allegheny Mountains and the third in the United States.
(Former Columbian High School/East Junior High)
East Market St., Tiffin
This stately structure was built in 1893 as Columbian High School. It was named for the World's Columbian Exposition (also referred to as the Chicago World's Fair) that commemorated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World.
It is now owned by Tiffin native Andrew Kalnow and at present, is being proposed as the new site of the Tiffin-Seneca County Joint Justice Center. The building is about to undergo a private feasibility study that will determine renovation costs.
1884 Seneca County Courthouse
Courthouse Square, Downtown Tiffin
On Jan. 9, 2012, the first hit of the wrecking ball signaled the end of this ornate, Beaux Arts-styled palace of justice. More than a decade of on-again/off-again renovation decisions by the Seneca County Commissioners finally ended abruptly in late 2011, when two commissioners — Ben Nutter and Jeff Wagner — voted to demolish the 1884 courthouse that was on the National Register of Historic Places.
This continues to be an illustration of what can be lost when preservation is not a top priority in a community. DECOMMISSIONED: Final Days of the 1884 Seneca County Courthouse offers a complete photo essay of the demolition in a coffee table-style book, scheduled to be released May 2014.