Oberlin Heritage Center Blog

Posts Tagged ‘restoration’

Living Through History

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

My name is Michelle Myers, and I am a summer intern at the Oberlin Heritage Center through the Leadership Lorain County Internship Program. This is my second summer here. I was born and raised in Elyria, and I am currently working on my bachelor’s degree in psychology at Swarthmore College. This is why I have come to the Heritage Center for my second summer: because I love learning about and talking to people.

History, as I have come to learn it, is not facts. History is stories. History is the light in someone’s eyes when they recall an event that made headlines. History is a grandfather telling his grandchildren about the war at a family event. The past is what connects us all together. It is all of our stories interwoven in a conversation where people recall the good old days, the not so good days, and feel less alone. History is not the history of individuals, but of a common humanity who has been through and seen it all. History is what makes us live forever.

This is why I love giving tours of the three buildings at the Oberlin Heritage Center. I love when a visitor recognizes an item in one of the historical houses and says, “My grandmother has one of those in her house.” Someone else says, “I used to use one of those when I was a kid.” Then a conversation starts. People talk to each other. A human connection is made. Meaning is made out of washboards and rug beaters.

When a woman and I talk about the hardships a mother with her child could have faced trying to find freedom from slavery, and the visitor is nodding her head, her eyes deeply concerned, I feel as if something beyond our words is being fulfilled. She understands what it means to work hard, to face destitution. Both women understand. It is all three of us in this conversation. We live through each other’s thoughts and words. This is what history looks like.

But history is also the amazement and hilarity that ensues when first graders realize what a chamber pot is. They get on their hands and knees on the wooden, creaky floors; look under the rope-wrung bed; see the white, shiny bowl; and cry “People would poop in that?!” Maybe they imagine a life, long before televisions and video games, without bathrooms. They have something to go home and tell their parents about. They gave me something to remember. They fill these buildings with laughter and excitement. They keep these buildings and the Oberlin Heritage Center alive. Thank you to all of you, past and present, who keep this place alive.

Back to the 1950s: Creating an Exciting New/Old Look for Lormet in Downtown Oberlin

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Lormet Community Federal Credit Union will soon restore the former AAA building to it's original design when the Peoples Banking Company constructed it in 1958.

The Lormet Community Federal Credit Union is restoring 49 South Main to its original 1950s appearance.

After Oberlin’s AAA closed its doors at 49 South Main Street two years ago, Lormet Credit Union, the largest credit union in Lorain County, bought the property to establish a branch in Oberlin. The property is located within the Downtown Oberlin National Register Historic District. The CEO and President of Lormet Daniel Cwalina and his architect Mark Lesner originally planned to replace the façade with a brand new front. That plan began to change when the Oberlin Heritage Center’s Executive Director Pat Murphy pulled out a photograph of how the building looked originally from the Heritage Center’s photo collection. She stated:

“I did not find out about the planned renovations for this building until a few days before it was going to be on the agenda for the October 1, 2009 design review commission and the planning commission. A day or so before that meeting I tried to reach the bank owner and his architect but I wasn’t able to get through to them. So when I went to the meetings I brought with me a historic photograph of what the building looked like when it was completed in 1958.”

The building at 49 South Main Street was originally the home of the People’s Banking Company. It opened its doors in 1958. The local newspaper reported the building boasted Oberlin’s first drive-in banking for customers, a large meeting room in the basement for community organizations, snow melting sidewalks and a special front display for exhibits.

The building is one of Oberlin’s few commercial examples of mid-century Modernism, with overhanging eaves and 1950s style brick and stone work. Oberlin’s other examples of Mid-Century modernism include Hall Auditorium and several other college buildings, and many houses designed by Doug Johnson, Max Ratner and other area architects. Mid-century modern architecture is becoming increasingly popular in communities across the country and there is growing interest in preserving it in places like Los Angeles, Seattle, the New Jersey Shore and elsewhere.

Pat Murphy is delighted that Mr. Cwalina and his architect were willing to reconsider their original design and to redesign the project to recall the 1950s look of the original building. She stated:

“The property owner and his architect got very excited about it and rethought their design entirely with the idea of bringing the building back to the ‘50s. I think it’s going to be a very exciting addition to the downtown historic district.”

Oberlin Heritage Center intern Francesca Krihely interviewed Dan Swalina, President and CEO of Lormet Credit Union. He was very excited about the new design and commented that:

“It was amazing because our architect and many of the people involved with this construction project never would have believed that the original architectural characteristics were still present. I was shocked. And when you see the picture from the 1950s there’s a lot of adjustments and add-ons to the building that really covered the architectural characteristics.  When you took those off and saw the original picture it was amazing to us that they were still there. This building started out as a simple renovation and it morphed into something that is exciting. It’s going to be a jewel. In my opinion it’s going to be very similar to a restored diner. And you don’t see this with financial institutions.  You just don’t see this kind of architecture preserved in any type of building in financial institutions.  It’s going to be amazing, I’m very excited about it.”

Work on the building is underway. The building will be open to the public later this spring. The exterior will closely resemble the original design. Murphy got a sneak preview recently and commented that:

The sparkling new interior will recall the flavor of the 1950s and 1960s and will feature the original aquamarine brick tiled safe which was partially uncovered as part of the renovation. I cannot wait to see the finished product.”

Meanwhile, the Oberlin Heritage Center hopes to expand its knowledge and its photograph collection of the history of this and other buildings and institutions in our community. Let us know if you can help.

      Patricia Murphy of the Oberlin Heritage Center and Daniel Cwalina of Lormet near the original bank vault.