MARLBORO TWP.: Dale Lepley and Arden Schmucker were holding their breath Thursday as an auction to sell an 1828 former stagecoach inn got under way.
The two men had spent five years each restoring the building in the 1970s as members of the New Baltimore Athletic Club. They and other volunteers put 20,000 hours into reconstructing walls, replacing beams, replacing porch pillars, putting on a new roof and rewiring the structure.
But the building hasn’t been occupied for 11 years, and the local men, who regularly drive past it at the intersection of Ravenna Road and Pontius Street, have watched it decline and become overgrown with vines that reach to the roof.
“It hurts to see it going downhill,” Schmucker said.
After Lori Kiko of Kiko Auctions declared the winning bid at $61,600, the men waited to hear the new owner’s intentions.
They were relieved when Anestis “Ernie” Orphanidis told reporters he wanted to restore the building as a personal project.
“I’m very happy,” Schmucker said. “Relieved.”
Current owner George Gregory purchased the building nearly a decade ago for more than $100,000, but nothing came of his plans to renovate it into a general store and personal residence. He decided it was time to hand the reins to someone else.
Gregory, who did not attend the auction, said previously he would be OK with someone tearing the building down to reclaim materials, including unusual cucumber and tamarack wood and hand-hewed lumber held in place by hand-wrought nails.
But Orphanidis, a Hartville resident, said he has restored other homes, and this one is worth saving.
“Lots of people have hobbies,” he said. “This will be my hobby.”
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Although some local history books and a 1928 newspaper article claimed Abraham Lincoln stayed at the inn, local experts have since come forward to say Lincoln’s travels were well-documented and there is no evidence he was in Marlboro Township.
The two-story Greek Revival building has served many purposes over the years, including as a tavern, ballroom and antique store.
Roger Thurman, vice chair of Kent Wells Sherman House Inc., a nonprofit recently formed to save a historic home in Kent, attended the auction out of curiosity.
He said the building was in far better shape inside than what it appeared from outside and that the foundation — restored by the New Baltimore Athletic Club in the 1970s — was still in good form.
“This is an incredible building,” he said. “There is so much original wood left and so much of the Greek Revival style left. It’s quite a piece of history.”