Because of the beautiful architecture featured on many old buildings, I love to see them renovated and not ripped from the landscape. Many throughout the world have been repurposed in creative ways, and I've seen many of those on my travels in the last few years.

However, many others have been demolished. About a year ago, the old Ashland High School bit the dust. When I visited Ashland over the July 4 weekend, it was sad to see an empty lot where the once majestic building stood.

This column will focus on some of the really neat buildings I'm familiar with which have been saved.

It's tough to pick a favorite out of the many I've come across, but definitely near the top of the list is the Church Brew Works in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

St. John the Baptist Church was built in 1902 and abandoned in 1993. It sat idle for six years until it morphed into the Church Brew Works, a popular craft brewery and restaurant.

Although the new use might be considered sacrilegious to some, the business is thriving and a beautiful structure was saved from becoming an empty lot, or maybe another drug store or gas station.

And speaking of churches saved from demolition, how about the Christmas memorabilia museum in downtown Medina called Castle Noel? It is a year-round attraction in an old United Methodist Church, which has become tremendously popular.

Other former churches have been repurposed, but none that I know of as spectacularly as those two. I've visited two small former churches in Clyde, Ohio, and Moundsville, W.Va. that are now historical society museums.

Many old buildings have found new uses as restaurants, craft breweries and wineries.

Probably my favorite eatery in Ohio is the Barn in Smithville (Wayne County), which once was a dairy barn. It boasts a buffet on weekends on the lower level and an every day, order-off-the-menu restaurant on the top level.

A large barn on the former Athens Lunatic Asylum grounds has been transformed into the Dairy Barn Arts Center. Other old buildings at the former state mental hospital are now owned by Ohio University and are known as the Ridges.

Two old brick one-room schoolhouses in Tuscarawas County have been transformed into the Schoolhouse Winery and Casella Winery. Many one-room schoolhouses nationwide now are private residences.

Larger schools in Wheeling, W.Va. and across the Ohio River in Bellaire now house the Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum and Toy and Plastic Brick (Legos) Museum, respectively.

An old school on Triplet Boulevard in Akron now houses the Haunted Schoolhouse during the Halloween season, old McKinley High in Canton is a senior citizens complex, the former Wooster Highway School in Dover is a church and the 102-year-old Akron West High is a housing complex, as is the old New Straitsville High in Perry County.

Of course, Aurora's Town Hall now occupies the old Union School.

The Warehouse Steak & Stein in Roscoe Village near Coshocton once was an Ohio and Erie Canal warehouse. The now closed Canal House restaurant and bar in the village of Tuscarawas also was a canal warehouse.

Two sections of an old covered bridge are incorporated into Covered Bridge Pizza Parlor sites in Andover and North Kingsville (Ashtabula County). And Cibo's Italian restaurant in Waynesburg (Stark County), one of my favorite places, is in the former Mohawk Theater, with the stage and movie screen still visible to diners.

With the popularity of the craft beer industry skyrocketing, some breweries other than the Church Brew Works are in unique places.

The Phoenix Brewing Co. in Mansfield occupies the former Schroer Mortuary and Funeral Home, built in 1914. Millersburg Brewing Co. in Holmes County is in the old downtown Rodhe's IGA storefront and the Maumee Bay Brewing Co. is in the historic former Oliver House hotel.

Sprague Farm & Brew Works near Venango, Pa. is in a beautiful rustic old barn. Until this summer when it closed, the Main Street Grille and Brewing Co. in Garrettsville was one of my favorite craft breweries. It was in the old Garrett's Mill along Silver Creek.

Thirsty Dog and Aqueduct breweries in Akron occupy portions of the former Burkhardt Brewing Co., and Great Lakes Brewery in Cleveland occupies a portion of the former L. Schlather Brewing Co. The latter's brewhouse / main building was razed and now is the site of a Dave's Supermarket.

Old train depots are another type of building which have been successfully repurposed.

The Erie Railroad depot in Kent (1875) has been the Pufferbelly Restaurant for years, but recently closed. A new eatery reportedly will open there in a few months. Erie, Pa.'s old Union Station is now the Brewerie at Union Station. Right here in Aurora, the old depot houses Demming Financial Services on New Hudson Road.

Depot Pizza occupies an old train depot in Fremont, while the huge beaux arts-style B & O passenger depot in Wheeling, W.Va., built in 1907, is now used by West Virginia Community College as offices and classrooms.

A number of old depots -- in Conneaut, Dennison, Marion and North East, Pa., for example -- house train memorabilia, and Cincinnati's old Union Terminal, an impressive art deco-style building erected in 1933, is the Cincinnati Museum Center. The Dennison Depot also has a restaurant at one end.

Three lodging facilities where I've stayed are unique structures. The Stockport Mill Inn along the Muskingum River in southern Morgan County once was a grist mill. It is my all-time favorite place to stay.

Two other facilities are not buildings, but railroad cars. The Sugarcreek Village Inn in Tuscarawas County offers six motel rooms in three renovated railroad passenger cars, while the Caboose Motel in Titusville, Pa. offers 21 parked cabooses for overnight stays.

The latter is adjacent to the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad excursion line, and each caboose is painted and labeled in the colors and logos of now defunct railroads.

Old banks, post offices and jails are other types of buildings which serve other uses.

The Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool (1909), American Civil War Museum in Tiffin (1915) and Merry-Go-Round Museum (1925) in Sandusky are in former post offices; the Ohio Glass Museum in Lancaster and Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame in East Liverpool are in old banks.

Wayne County's old jail and sheriff's office in Wooster now is occupied by the Olde Jaol Restaurant and Tavern, while the former sheriff's quarters in Belmont County (St. Clairsville) and Noble County (Caldwell) have been transformed into historical society museums.

At the Olde Jaol Restaurant and Tavern, diners actually can eat in the old cellblocks. However, the bars are gone.

Kent's old post office housed a Portage County Municipal Court branch for several years, but is now abandoned.

Many mansions built and once owned by wealthy businessmen have been restored and are open to the public. The old Barber mansion in Barberton, however, is not one of them. That magnificent structure was unfortunately razed in the 1960s. But it lives on in photos.


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