News Column

Unionville Tavern up for sheriff's sale in August

July 26, 2014

By Elizabeth Lundblad, The News-Herald, Willoughby, Ohio



July 26--For another year, the Unionville Tavern in Madison Township has made the list of Ohio's most endangered historic sites from Preservation Ohio.

At 216 years old, the building would be considered a baby in Europe, Brian Horgan said.

Horgan is a spokesman for the Unionville Tavern Preservation Society, a nonprofit that seeks to save the building.

"She's a beautiful old girl," says Mo Orsatti, member of the board of trustees for Preservation Ohio, the state's oldest statewide preservation organization.

"Even with her Band-Aids," adds Marian Vance, another trustee with Preservation Ohio, noting the patchwork of plastic tarps covering sections of the roof.

The tavern, 7935 South Ridge Road, has been owned by Larry Rickard and his company, Unionville Tavern LLC, since 2003. Rickard is fighting foreclosure of the tavern with the county in a civil case disputing thousands of dollars in back taxes owed on the property.

Horgan said the society has tried, unsuccessfully, since 2011 to get Rickard to make repairs to the building or sell it to someone who will. The nonprofit hasn't met with the owner in person in two years, he added.

The wooden structure, which began in 1798 as a log cabin and eventually built out into what it is today, is considered one of Ohio's oldest surviving taverns and is one of the oldest surviving structures in the Western Reserve of Northeast Ohio, Horgan said.

"That really makes it a bigger issue," he adds. "It's easy to think of this as a Madison Township issue, or a Unionville issue, but it's a historic structure that has regional importance. And that's the feedback that we've gotten from a lot of organizations."

Another notch on Unionville Tavern's belt includes its use as a station on the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s.

The Unionville Tavern Preservation Society is in the middle of a campaign called "30 Days to Save The Tavern." They hope to raise enough to possibly buy the tavern at the Aug.. 6 Lake County Sheriff's Office auction. The bid opens at $81,000, said Erin Cicero, another member of the preservation society.

The group started a Go Fund Me account, which as of early evening on July 25 stood at a little more than $12,600. Horgan said they're starting to get more assistance from other organizations.

Laural Sheppard, of Hilliard, grew up coming to Madison Township and visiting with family at the tavern.

"We used to come out here for Christmas," she said. "I still own a cabin up here and visit often."

Cicero and Horgan were meeting with Orsatti and Vance to view what they see as further deterioration to the building since the harsh winter.

The overhang to the front porch is noticeably sagging on one end, and the brick entry to the front door off South Ridge Road has fallen away from the building.

Despite its reputation as a historic place, the structure is not protected from demolition, which is something the society would like to change if it is able to buy the building at auction.

Still, nothing is settled even after the sale, Horgan added. Outcome of the owner's civil case is still unknown.

Cicero said another push in their campaign is happening July 27-29 at Tony Sacco's Coal Oven Pizza at Great Lakes Mall in Mentor. If customers present a flier, 20 percent of the meal will go toward saving the tavern. Fliers will be available on the group's website, savethetavern.org, and on its Facebook page.

"The reason we made this trip, and we make trips to other endangered sites, is so that people can be inspired to not look over this as just another old building," Vance said. "It matters here. This place matters."

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(c)2014 The News-Herald (Willoughby, Ohio)

Visit The News-Herald (Willoughby, Ohio) at www.news-herald.com

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Source: News-Herald (Willoughby, OH)


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