Ravenna flagpole friends promote 'hidden treasures'

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published: September 6, 2013 4:00AM


Ravenna flagpole friends promote 'hidden treasures'

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published: September 6, 2013 4:00AM  
The Friends of the Flagpole have invited the Ravenna community to an event they hope will help the group reach its goal of restoring the downtown flagpole by Memorial Day.

The Friends of the Flagpole were guest speakers at the chamber's monthly coffee networking event Thursday.

Jack Schafer, one of the founders of the nonprofit group, said $90,000 has been raised toward the $150,000 goal, and the group was looking for "significant contributions" in order to restore the downtown Ravenna landmark by Memorial Day.

In addition to taking the flagpole down and shipping it out of state so it can be restored, the money also includes improvements such as a fence around the pole and providing lighting for the flag at all times.

Schafer said the Oct. 6 event, titled Ravenna's Hidden Treasures, will feature a catered meal, desserts and wine.

The event takes place between 2 and 5 p.m. and includes tours of three buildings Ravenna residents have rarely seen from the inside -- Riddle Block No. 9, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows meeting Hall, and the Converse-Bentley House at 224 S. Walnut Street.

Riddle Block No. 9 is a multi-use building that Schafer said was before its time, and "pretty remarkable for a small town like Ravenna in 1911." The yellow brick building at the corner of Main and Chestnut streets has retail on the ground level, commercial on the second floor, and apartments upstairs, including an atrium with a skylight.

Riddle Block 9
Inside Riddle Block 9

The IOOF Hall on East Main Street was built in 1854 and redecorated in 1875. The elaborate meeting hall looks much the same as it did in 1875, Schafer pointed out. The meeting hall is separate from the portion of the Phoenix Block being turned into apartments by Coleman Professional Services.

Odd Fellows Hall
Odd Fellows Hall

The Converse-Bentley House at 224 South Walnut Street is being restored by Jack Kohl and will be the site of the reception. The brick, Italianate house features large rooms, an original fireplace and a winding staircase.

Converse-Bentley House
Converse-Bentley House at 224 S Walnut

all pictures by Tom Riddle

"This is something you really should not miss," said Peggy DiPaola, a co-founder of the Friends of the Flagpole. "Those of us who have moved away from Ravenna for a few years and returned see what a wonderful city Ravenna is, and its beautiful historic downtown."

She noted that G.C. Bentley, one of the owners of the Walnut Street house, was the great-grandfather of Bruce Kirby, president of the chamber of commerce board of directors.

Robert Bruegmann, emeritus professor of architecture, art history and urban planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will be there to give a perspective on architecture as well as history.

Tickets are $50 each and limited to the first 200 people. To purchase tickets or for information, call DiPaola at 330-297-7387.

In 2011, after two people climbed the pole, township trustees considered the possibility of giving the flagpole to the city of Ravenna or Portage County, but ended up having a study done on the flagpole's structural integrity. The resulting report from Osborn Engineering called for $206,000 in repairs. After adding $30,000 in construction documents and $10,000 to run a camera inside the main support beams to make sure there's no corrosion inside the pipes, that bill approaches $250,000.

Balking at the price tag, trustees considered razing the flagpole and replacing it with a smaller model, but have since backed away from that plan when the Friends of the Flagpole brought a proposal to save the 120-year-old landmark.

After the restoration work is done, the Friends of the Flagpole think preventative maintenance can be done for less than $10,000 a year.

The group also announced another effort to raise money for the flagpole. David Dix, publisher of the Record-Courier, has agreed to publish a collection of stories that Editor Roger DiPaolo has written about Ravenna's history in a book. Titled "The Ravenna Record," the book is expected to be released in November, with proceeds going to the flagpole effort.

DiPaola noted that there are more stories in the Ravenna collection than a similar collection of stories about Kent history.

"When you see all of them together, you just get a tremendous sense of pride," she said.