TALLMADGE — The city’s American Legion post has a home of its own after 75 years.
The city and the American Legion Kneil-Lawrentz Post 255 have entered into a five-year lease agreement in which the veterans organization will use the Schenkenberger House at 35 Southwest Ave. for meetings and events. The Legion will pay $1 a year to the city in the lease deal that started June 1.
"We’re just going to give them a home," said Mayor Dave Kline.
Jim Forsythe, commander of American Legion Kneil-Lawrentz Post 255, said his organization has hosted its monthly meetings in the Ritchie Center and in other various sites around the city since the group’s inception in 1944. The Legion typically meets on the third Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. The lease with the city will allow the Legion to have a long-term home, according to Forsythe.
"It’s just basically a meeting place and [for hosting] an event that would concern, or be of value, to other veterans in the community," said Forsythe. He emphasized that the building would not be rented out for events.
Forsythe noted Legion members are in the process of "getting [the home] set up [with tables and chairs] for our usage," but added no events are planned at this time.
Kline said the Tallmadge Historical Society had leased the historic home from the city since 2006 and used it as a museum.
"They did some upgrades in it and cleaned it up a little bit," said Kline, who added the society recently decided it no longer wanted to lease the site. "It’s in pretty good shape."
Kline said the Legion leadership approached him about taking over the lease; he noted all of the terms of the new lease with the Legion are the same as the previous agreement that the city had with the historical society. He added Legion members — some of whom are also in the historical society — help take care of the Tallmadge Cemetery, which is next door to the Schenkenberger House.
Tallmadge City Council members praised the new lease arrangement.
"I think it’s a great idea," said Council member Jim Donovan (At Large).
Kline said the historical society will be moving items from the Schenkenberger House to Old Town Hall on Tallmadge Circle. The historical society has displays on the second floor of Old Town Hall.
History of the home
Tallmadge Historical Society president Chris Grimm said the city purchased the home in 2000 with the idea of demolishing it to create a new entrance to the old Tallmadge Cemetery. "The surprise was, the house was over 120 years old," recalled Grimm, who was the mayor at the time. The home was constructed in 1847 by Frederic Schenkenberger, a native of Germany who came to the United States in the early 1830s. "And it didn’t meet the criteria in our own guidelines for the demolition of historical structures, so we weren’t able to tear it down. ... We didn’t want to move the house either," said Grimm.
Having no purpose for the home, Grimm said city officials approached the historical society.
The historical society agreed to enter into a 50-year lease with the city, making a $1 payment annually. The home was subsequently renovated, with the expenses for improvements like new siding, stairs and a furnace borne by both the historical society and the city.
The Schenkenberger House was officially dedicated on May 27, 2007, as a museum showcasing items from the late 18th century. Earlier this year, Grimm said the society decided to drop its lease because both the amount of people touring the home and the number of volunteers available to sit in the home for two-hour shifts had declined.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.