Monday, May 17, 2004

Move on to preserve homes that gave refuge to slaves

The Associated Press

TOLEDO - Nearly 150 years after houses along the Underground Railroad ceased to be needed to help free slaves, preservationists are fighting to keep them for another purpose: history.

"The African-American experience and the Underground Railroad in Ohio is an important story to tell," said Steve Gordon, survey and national register manager with the Ohio Historic Preservation Office. "I think it's more compelling when people can actually see the sites. The real place is going to have more of an emotions impact than a document or a museum."

However, finding the funds to carry out that mission is difficult. Even when the property is secured, renovation costs can be monumental.

A handful of houses around the state are dedicated to preserving the trail.

The Lathrop House in Sylvania was moved last week over the protests of those who wanted it kept at its original location, although town officials say it will be restored and operated as a historic site. Groups in Zanesville and Springfield own other historic houses but need to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore them.

"We have the sense to know we'll probably lose more than we save," said Beverly Gray, vice president of the Ohio Underground Railroad Association. "

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