By Nicole Hennessy
In the Henry Ford Room of the historic Folger Home, the floor slopes downward toward the lake as crews work on the foundation.
Kris Burns checks out the extent of the situation by opening the back door. Sure enough, it won’t open all the way. Once the work is finished, however, the house should level out.
Burns has helped lead the effort to save the 112-year-old house since about 2001, when the city was entertaining plans to tear it down. Up until that point, the home was used as the mayor’s office.
Together with her sister Debi Loebich and friend Connie Fields, Burns began the Save the Folger Home initiative, the three women holding the first meeting on March 14, 2002.
The group would later become the Avon Lake Preservation Society, which is now a part of the consortium group Heritage Avon Lake.
By 2002, Burns’ group had already obtained a moratorium on any demolition efforts, but it continued to need petitions and permits from the city – which was a struggle at times.
“It was rough,” Burns remembers of the process. “It wasn’t easy to save it.”
She reiterates, glancing about the home, “It was very hard.”
As more and more people became interested in the project, the group’s membership grew. Members even began donating money, which allowed for some basic maintenance work to be completed in the home.
Then the city officially transferred the lease to the preservation society for a yearly fee of $1, which is still paid today.
Thomas Folger and his wife, Della, originally built the house in 1902. Like many properties in the area, the residence was intended as a summer home for the Folger family.
After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, Folger became a grape grower, starting a 150-acre farm at Avon Point before moving to Elyria, where he served as mayor.
Soon after the Folger Home was built, Thomas Folger died there in 1909.
The property was turned over to the village of Avon Lake in 1926, to be utilized by city government.
Soon, French doors will open up to a view of the lake and a wraparound porch that must still be installed.
“This is gonna be grade A rental space,” says Tony Tomanek of Heritage Avon Lake.
The battle between the city and those invested in preserving the house is a thing of the past, the city footing the bill for the approximately $20,000 cost of the foundation work.
Helping with projects like new windows, the Ford Motor Co., for which the main room was named, donated $50,000. The state of Ohio awarded a grant for $150,000 in 2014. A majority of the grant is still unspent.
“My sister and I have always been passionate about the house,” says Burns as she cleans a photo of Della Folger with her shirtsleeve.
Hoping to be done with the house’s exterior repairs by Memorial Day, work will then continue on the house’s second floor.
Tomanek envisions community members enjoying rocking chairs on the porch during summer evenings.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” he says of the completed project. “People in the city are going to enjoy it.”
Contact Nicole Hennessy at firstname.lastname@example.org