OUR VIEW: PRESERVING RAVENNA FLAGPOLE A VICTORY FOR CIVIC PRIDE


Published: July 27, 2014 4:00AM

When the iconic flagpole in front of the Portage County Courthouse is lowered to the ground Tuesday, the loss of the Ravenna landmark will be only a temporary one.

That might not have been the case had it not been for a grassroots historic preservation effort led by Friends of the Flagpole, a citizens’ group spearheaded by Ravenna residents Jack Schafer and Peggy DiPaola, who decided that the flagpole was worth saving and set about raising the funds to preserve it.

 

Friends of the Flagpole succeeded in preventing the demolition of the 120-year-old structure, which has become one of Ravenna’s most familiar landmarks, and they deserve to be commended. This is a victory for historic preservation, civic pride — and proof of what a determined handful can accomplish.

 

The fate of the flagpole appeared uncertain after Ravenna Township trustees, who own the structure, expressed concerns about liability issues after the pole was climbed twice in 2011. An inspection of the 150-foot tall structure revealed serious structural defects; cost estimates of upwards of $250,000 for repairs and restoration led trustees to consider removing the flagpole and replacing it with a smaller structure.

Schafer, DiPaola and other preservationists determined to save the landmark rallied forces and launched a fund-raising campaign to underwrite the cost of restoring the flagpole and installing security measures, such as lighting and an ornamental fence, to deter future climbers. The township trustees relented and said they would preserve the structure if Friends of the Flagpole raised the funds to restore it.

 

The volunteers set a goal of raising $130,000. The fund-raising campaign continues, but they have attained enough to cover the cost of dismantling the flagpole to ship it to Newbury Sandblasting Co in Geauga County, where it will be sandblasted and restored. A new concrete base will be poured, and the flagpole is expected to be returned to its location by the end of August. With luck, it ought to last for at least another 120 years.

While the distinctive design of the flagpole may not be aesthetically appealing for some — indeed, there were detractors even in 1893 who compared the structure to an oil derrick — it remains a symbol of Ravenna, making the sight of Old Glory visible for miles around the downtown area. It deserves to be preserved.

 

The restoration of this landmark is a victory not only for historic preservation but for the power of a determined group of citizens who refused to see it lost to history, pushed back and rose to the challenge of raising the money to save it. Ravenna — which has lost far too many landmarks to “progress” or indifference — is a better place because of their efforts.

 

Pictures are here.