Stow historical homes will be decorated for holiday tour

Laura Freeman
Kent Weeklies
Andy Foreman of the Historical Society scrapes and paints the Minnie Darrow house to prepare it for the Heritage Home for the Holidays event Dec. 5.

STOW – Although the traditional Harvest Festival was canceled due to COVID-19, the Stow Historical Society with the help of Venture Crew Troop #2177 are preparing historical homes for a free festive celebration for the holidays.

A Heritage Home for the Holidays drive-thru will be from 5 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 5 with the historical homes decorated in the period of the 1800s and different activities on the grounds like caroling and a blacksmith demonstration. The Stow Arts Commission is co-sponsoring the event. Because of COVID-19 nothing will be sold to raise funds.

Visitors will remain in their cars to view the activities. The homes will be decorated for viewing but not open for tours. 

"It's a community event for residents to enjoy," said art commission member Sarah Harris. "It is a way to create a safe way for people to enjoy the holidays and bring attention to the homes in Heritage Park."

A handout about the historical homes will be given out at the beginning of the driving tour, and St. Nick will safely hand candy and a coloring page to the kids at the end.

The art commission is creating silhouettes of carolers, villagers and a book with "The Night Before Christmas," Harris said. Member of the art commission will join members of the historical society in mid-1800 costumes in safe family groups to sing carols or portray villagers.   

Heritage Reserve Park, 5120 Young Road, has four historical buildings located on 79 acres which were added to Silver Springs Park in 1972.

Along with members of the Stow Historical Society, multi-generations of Venturing Crew #2177, past and present, worked on the Mary Starr house and the Minnie Darrow house, scraping and painting to prepare them for the holiday event.

Stow Historical Society president Bryan Menke said when he was a teen, he painted the Heritage House for his Eagle Scout project and recruits members of Troop #2177 to help with the historical homes and events.

Menke's son, Kevin, also completed his Eagle Scout project in 2012 by groundhog-proofing the Darrow House.

"It's important that we teach the younger generation what Stow was like then compared to the luxury lifestyle now," Bryan said. "I enjoy doing it and hopefully, generations after us will continue to do it."

The Crew Scouts, ages 14-21, help out every year at the events, Tammie Menke said. They stir the apple butter and haul wood for the copper kettle and coal for the blacksmith.

Multiple generations have worked on the buildings at the Heritage Reserve Park. Tammie was working on the basement of the Heritage House in 1985 when she met her future husband.

“I was making popcorn and took it upstairs,” Tammie said. “We were advisors and he had a scouting uniform on.”

Starting in the 1980s, Historical Society member Meredith Morgan stirred apple butter for the Harvest Festival with her parents, Marylee and Houston Morgan and longtime volunteers Ed and Willa Williams.

The four would reminisce about the Great Depression and World War II while stirring and Meredith listened.

Meredith, who taught second grade for 20 years in the Copley-Fairlawn School District, passed on those stories. 

"The children were always interested in learning about the past," Meredith said.

Meredith said her son, Ben Delaney, will do the blacksmith demonstration. The copper kettle for apple butter will be set up but no apple butter will be made this year, she said. If the weather is good, they'll demonstrate Dutch oven cooking.

Bryan Menke is giving the Mary Starr house a new coat of paint in preparation for a holiday drive-thru tour past the historic homes.

The Heritage Reserve Park is under the direction of the Stow Historical Society, founded Nov. 15, 1949.

In 1970 developer Stan Boltz donated the White House Tavern/White Haven, a former stagecoach stop located at the corner of Fishcreek and Graham roads, to the city of Stow to make way for the Graham Road Plaza. The house was built by Elizabeth and William Parke in 1849 on 50 acres in what was known as the Western Reserve. Later, when used as a stagecoach stop, a traveler posted a sign pointing west with "Oregon - 1,000 miles" and the intersection was dubbed "Oregon Corners." 

“Heritage and Harvest” was the theme of the Stow Historical Society’s first annual harvest festival held the second weekend of November 1978. Artisans demonstrated old time crafts. Fresh apple cider and apple butter, cooked in a kettle over an open fire, were sold, and the Heritage House museum was open for tours. 

In 1980 the Historical Society collaborated with the Stow Players in building a barn near the Heritage Museum for both organizations to share. The first event held in the barn was the 1981 Harvest Festival, which also included an evening square dance. By the next year the building had also become the year-round theater for Stow Players.

In 1985 the Minnie Darrow House was added to Heritage Reserve Park. The house was donated to the Historical Society by Bank One after it had purchased the property on Norton Road in Darrowville. The house was built around 1850 by Lyman Darrow, son of Joseph Darrow, surveyor of Stow Township. 

The third house at Heritage Reserve Park is the Mary Starr house. Originally located at the corner of Norton Road and Route 91, the house was built in 1849 and moved in the spring of 1992.

The Historical Society added a fourth historic building, the Stewart’s Corner one-room schoolhouse, to the park in 2012. The historic buildings are used as museums to preserve the history of Stow.

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at lfreeman@recordpub.com