Historic Lebanon structure to be demolished for recreation trail

The site of this historic toll road stop in Lebanon is scheduled for demolition. Staff photo by Lawrence Budd
The site of this historic toll road stop in Lebanon is scheduled for demolition. Staff photo by Lawrence Budd

Remnants of a toll house where road taxes were collected in the 19th century are to be removed during demolition of structures in the path of a local trail being rerouted in Lebanon.

Lebanon City Council last week, without comment, approved the resolution to demolish the structures at 1113 Deerfield Road as part of realignment of the Lebanon-Countryside YMCA Trail, funded by a grant sought in December 2015 and approved by the state.

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The realignment plan came on the heels of the trail being identified as part of a proposed regional network connecting the city system with attractions and communities. Already more than 330 miles of trails for bikers and hikers run across the region.

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Founded in 1802, Lebanon predates Ohio. It is a city known for its history, including icons like the Golden Lamb Inn, and centered by a historic district.

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“We are about history,” City Manager Pat Clements said during a March 7 work session discussion of the issue.

In September, the council resolved to give the Lebanon Arts Council time to raise funds for rehabilitation to house the group’s headquarters.

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The demolition was ultimately embraced after the Lebanon Arts Council found another location for its headquarters in downtown Lebanon.

Rehab was abandoned after storms further damaged the structure.

“With the new situation, it wasn’t fiscally responsible for us to pursue this,” Rochelle Collins, president of the local arts group said last month.

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The council now plans to be located in an old post office, now a banquet center operated by the Warren County Historical Society, at 121 S. Broadway in downtown Lebanon.

There was no discussion before the unanimous vote last Tuesday, but the issue has sparked debates over the past year.

Last year, Councilman Steve Kaiser mailed out post cards, featuring a picture of the toll house and advising residents of the proposed demolition of the existing buildings and original foundation.

Last April, the council deadlocked over purchasing the property for the realignment.

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On March 7, the council debated the issue again.

Councilman Mark Messer was ready to get on with the demolition.

“Let’s get rid of it and put a marker there,” he said.

But the council directed city staff to assess the building condition and come back with a recommendation on whether the foundation could be displayed to provide a historical exhibit for trail users.

To expose the 200-year-old foundation, more grading would be required. Updates for plumbing and other utilities had been cut into the foundation, taking away from the historical integrity, Clements said in his report.

“The city manager is hereby authorized and directed to demolish the structures at 1113 Deerfield Road in preparation for the Lebanon-Countryside YMCA Trail alignment project,” said the resolution approved on March 28 by council.

Tuesday’s vote allows the city to go ahead with demolition funded by a $73,000 Clean Ohio Fund Green Space Preservation Grant awarded last year for the project. A sign is to be posted recalling the site’s history.