ICONIC RAVENNA FLAGPOLE HEADED OUT FOR REPAIRS

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published: July 24, 2014 4:00AM

 

After more than 120 years in Ravenna's downtown, the iconic flagpole will be coming down -- but not for long.

 

The Friends of the Flagpole will be shipping the landmark out for repairs on Tuesday, weather permitting. The crane operator will make the official call on Monday, based on weather and wind conditions.

 

Crews are expected to set up the crane and lift on South Chestnut Street at about 7 a.m. and finish their work by mid-afternoon. The flagpole will be taken down the same way it went up in 1893 -- in sections.

 

The structure will be dismantled and sent to Newbury Sandblasting in Newbury in Geauga County where it will be sandblasted and prepped with a special coating used in the aeronautical industry and known for its strength and endurance.

 

The parking area in front of the courthouse on Main Street will be closed to vehicles, and the bus stop also will be closed. South Chestnut Street between Main Street and East Spruce Avenue will be completely closed to traffic. The city of Ravenna will offer free parking all day at its lot at Cedar and Meridian streets for any displaced courthouse motorists -- and anybody who wants to see the flagpole come down.

Jack Schafer, one of the founders of Friends of the Flagpole, said he expects a big crowd, with county employees stopping to watch and people taking in the action while having lunch.

 

"We think it's going to continue to be an important landmark in the downtown for the next 100 years," he said.

 

The Friends of the Flagpole will have a tent on the Portage County Courthouse lawn, where the group will be selling Roger J. DiPaolo's book, "The Ravenna Record: The People and Events That Shaped a Community." Proceeds from the sale of DiPaolo's book went directly to the non-profit flagpole group. Members expect to take video and document the dismantling for posterity.

 

A new concrete base will be poured and prepped in place. Other improvements include lighting and an ornamental fence, which will be erected by Ravenna Township trustees, who own the flagpole.

 

The flagpole is expected to make its return about a month later, tentatively Aug. 26, in time for the Ravenna Balloon A-Fair in September. An official dedication is planned for a later date.

 

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 was no corrosion inside the pipes, that bill approached $250,000.

 

Balking at the huge price tag, trustees considered razing the pole and replacing it with a smaller model, but backed away from that plan when the Friends of the Flagpole brought a proposal to save the landmark.

 

The non-profit group, led by attorney Peggy DiPaola and Jack Schafer, president of Trexler Rubber Company, set a goal of $130,000. DiPaola said donations are still coming in, and made their way to Ravenna from as far away as New Zealand. The money was raised through private donations, a tour of three of Ravenna's historic buildings, and the sale of DiPaolo's book.

 

The group thinks the flagpole was influenced by the Eiffel Tower, which, although much taller, boasts a similar lattice construction pattern and was built during the same era.

This will be the first time the flagpole has been taken down, but not the first time it has been moved. With the advent of the automobile, the flagpole was moved 15 feet from its original site in the public right-of-way in 1923. The 150 foot pole was raised 8 inches and then lowered onto rails put in place for the move. It was then pulled along the tracks by a winch to its new site, where it was lowered to the ground and secured in place. The entire operation took 12 minutes.

 

During that move, the flagpole lost its ornamental fence. The design of the new wrought iron fence, historians say, resembles the original fence that once surrounded the structure.

 

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139 or dsmith@recordpub.com