By Jeff Gallatin
North Olmsted City Schools officials and the Olmsted Historical Society have reached a deal with a string attached, allowing the society to move the historic Thompson House to the Frostville Museum campus for rebuilding.
In the agreement, unanimously approved by the North Olmsted Board of Education at its Oct. 21 meeting, the school district will donate $10,000 to the society to help pay for moving the house from its current 27501 Butternut Ridge Road location to the Frostville Museum campus in the Cleveland Metroparks. The money would be in addition to $15,000 the society has already received from anonymous donors to help pay for an estimated $26,000 in moving costs, with the society raising the rest. The school board did stipulate that if the house is not moved by April 1, then the district will proceed with demolishing the building to help make way for the new sixth- through 12th-grade school being built by the district on the current campuses of the old middle school and current high school. District officials had agreed to hold off on finalizing demolition plans which it had before the North Olmsted Landmarks Commission for the nearby old middle school and the Thompson House while society officials looked for assistance in finding a way to move the house.
School and society officials said they’re pleased by the agreement. The Thompson family was one of the first families of North Olmsted when it was settled. The oldest wing of the house dates to the 1830s, and the next oldest was built around 1850. Society officials plan to move both to Frostville for renovation and rebuilding.
“I am excited for the partnership between the schools and the historical society,” said Mike Zalar, North Olmsted school superintendent. “Anytime you have different entities working together for a common cause, it makes the outcome all the more stronger. I think the contribution from the schools is a huge gesture and demonstrates a commitment to honor the heritage of the community. When the house gets moved to Frostville it will provide a great learning resource for our students and the citizens of North Olmsted.
“This is a great example of the board of education, Olmsted Historical Society and the city of North Olmsted working together for the betterment of the community. By relocating the house we are preserving the past and helping to make way for the building of our future at the same time. The outcome is ideal because it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Dave Neville, president of the society and a member of the landmarks commission, said the society is thrilled by the agreement.
“We had just about given up hope of being able to save the Thompson House,” he said. “It’s something we have been working on for a long time, but didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Then, we were to get the $15,000 from the anonymous donors, and then the schools agreed to help us and the commission agreed to postpone a decision. It all seemed to come together.”
Board President John Lasko said the district is happy to be part of the solution, noting that demolition-related costs for the house would be comparable to what the district is donating.
“The district has been working for years both with the city, through its landmarks commission, and with the Olmsted Historical Society to relocate the structure,” Lasko said. “The board is pleased to provide the society not only with a significant donation but also with the time for one last chance to save and relocate the house.
“All parties are aware that the final countdown has started,” he said. “We understand that the structure sits in a critical path both for temporary and for permanent utility work that needs to be done in connection with the construction of the new middle school/high school campus. As a result, the Society knows that it must move the house by April 1, 2016, or it will be taken down so as not to delay the construction of that $90 million project, which the voters overwhelmingly approved last November.”
Neville said society officials are already working on renovation plans, noting Cleveland Metroparks officials have approved the move as well.
“Paul Schumann (a past society president and current city councilman) and I will be co-chairing the committee to raise funds and get the actual renovations done,” Neville said. “We’ve committed to finishing the old schoolhouse building first. Once we get that done, we’ll do the Thompson House next. It will probably be a couple of years.”
Schumann said the society can handle the challenge.
“We’ve moved structures like the church several years ago and other things and this is a project that a lot of people want to do,” he said. “We can get this done.”