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AURORA -- Plans are in the works to dismantle one of the city's historic barns, which is in poor condition, while planning to invest in another.
The city is soliciting bids to have a firm dismantle the barn on the Margaret Harmon property on Page Road, potentially salvaging some of the wood for a new use, according to Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin.
"It is typical of the Ohio barn style in the Western Reserve -- built of heavy timber -- but it is in poor condition," she said.
Wood similar to Harmon timbers were used in her home, she added.
"When my house was built about 30 years ago, the builder used 200-year-old barn timbers and barn siding in the family room and kitchen," she said. "Clearly, it can be used for construction. Those are big timbers in the Harmon barn; that's why we don't just tear it down. The timbers may be valuable."
According to Aurora Historical Society President John Kudley, the structure dates from 1845 and was used primarily as a dairy barn. "The original owner of the property was one of the first settlers to come to Aurora," he said.
The barn was built by Israel Harmon, son of Ebenezer Harmon who established the farm.
"Ebenezer came in 1806 and selected the land to the northwest of Harmon Pond, which is now Sunny Lake. They had come to Aurora from Suffield, Conn," he explained.
Kudley said a carriage barn on the Harmon property, which he said may predate the bigger barn, will be left standing. He said around 10 years ago the city got an estimate to upgrade the carriage barn and has since put a new roof on it.
"It's in much better shape," he said of the carriage barn. "It's in one of the pictures on the wall of Council chambers in Town Hall."
Kudley said he couldn't determine from tax records exactly when the carriage barn was built.
Another barn in town, located on the Spring Hill property on East Pioneer Trail, is being targeted for use by the city.
Womer Benjamin said the city would like to use it in the future and is working to determine its condition. A $50,000 engineering study of the structure is planned.
"The city is exploring the possibility of using the barn for public purposes," she said. "Funding is allocated in the budget to have an engineering firm evaluate it and identify what improvements would need to be undertaken for the barn to be more fully used."
She said plans for the barn are not set, but it could be converted to a meeting place or a facility with an educational element.
"The whole thing is, 'How much will it cost to make the barn usable?'" she said. "That needs to be determined before we decide whether we'll go forward. It's a structure everyone feels might be worth rehabilitating."
She said older buildings are costly to renovate, but often worth the investment. "I'm a lover of history and historical buildings, and I've been really trying to take an extra hard look at what the city has before taking structures down," she said.
Although the barn itself, which dates to around 1900, is not as old as the Harmon barn, the property is a significant one in Aurora's history, according to Kudley.
"The Spring Hill property was the original homestead of Aurora founder Ebenezer Sheldon and his wife Lovee," said Kudley. "The house that's on the property was the fourth one there, and it was built probably in the 1850s."
According to a timeline on the Aurora Historical Society's website -- www.aurorahistorical.org -- Sheldon built a cabin in 1799 near what is now East Pioneer Trail.
Womer Benjamin also said the setting is well-suited to have an accompanying facility. "It's a really nice structure in a nice location with park all around it, lots of land and the lake," she said.
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