by Lauren Krupar
Cuyahoga Falls -- Historical society members in Cuyahoga Falls and the former Northampton Township are hoping to convert an empty century home into a museum and education center, but have no cost estimates for the project.
"We would like to establish a heritage site at the Keyser-Swain property," said Dave Brown, vice president of the Cuyahoga Falls historical society. "We just see the property as having so much potential."
Mayor Don Robart said while he would like to see the property, which is owned by the city, preserved, the city is still investigating the future of the Keyser-Swain house and barn.
"There are people lobbying for it to be torn down, but I would hate to see that," Robart said, adding he has heard the historical societies' plans. "On paper it is delightful, but it's probably more than they can handle."
Parks and Recreation Superintendent Darrell Lovelette said the city has "no plans" to renovate the property, located at 851 W. Bath Road.
"There's asbestos that has to be removed in order to renovate the house," Lovelette said. He said he could not provide figures on how much the asbestos removal might cost.
Despite the possible asbestos, Dreama Powell, president of the Northampton Township Historical Society, said the property deserves to be salvaged.
"We would like to preserve the historic nature of the house," Powell said. "There is a rich history, full of all sorts of intrigue."
Brown and Powell presented their ideas in a more than 15 minute presentation at the Parks and Recreation board meeting June 14.
Powell and Brown said they hope to see a "living history" center at the site, with volunteers giving tours to school children and explaining the history of the Keyser-Swain property.
The site also would be an educational center, with opportunities for wind and solar power available. Solar panels and a windmill, which would replace the original windmill built in the 1800s on the property, would power the center.
In addition to renovating and restoring the home, built before 1870, and the barn, built in 1905, the historical societies also hope to establish a meeting room and a small museum that they and other historical societies could use.
Powell also hopes the site could be used for local festivals and markets, with the barn hosting dance contests and concerts.
"Your ideas are wonderful and exciting," Parks board chair Carolyn Shroyer said. "I wish we had the pocketbook to fund them."
Powell and Brown said they will present their ideas to City Council members June 18, but added the plans are still preliminary.
"We're in the very infancy of the project," Brown said, adding the society would need partnerships, either with the city or with area businesses and citizens, to develop the plans.
Powell said the Northampton society has tried to work with the city in the past -- first to establish a community bandstand and now to restore the house -- but has not succeeded.
"We've approached the parks and recreation department for 13 years and never been successful," Powell said. "We want to give it one last shot before it's condemned and torn down."
Council will meet at 6:15 p.m. in the community room of the Natatorium, 2345 Fourth St., June 18.