By LORI PINELLI - For the Star Beacon
The 190-year-old Giddings Law Office will soon move from North Chestnut Street to Market Street. The tiny building, a National Historic Landmark, and what it represents, are of major importance.
The two-room structure was the former office of the famous abolitionist, Joshua Reed Giddings, and home of Charles A. Garlick, an escaped slave. Giddings was a lawyer and a congressman. Throughout his life, Giddings was active in the Underground Railroad and well known for his egalitarian beliefs and disdain for slavery. In 1864, he was laid to rest in Oakdale Cemetery in Jefferson.
The Ashtabula County Historical Society (ACHS) owns and operates the former law office as a museum. It still holds the original office furnishings and library. Some crucial restorations were made in 2002, thanks to a gift from the National Park Service.
Norma Waters, board member of the ACHS, said that the group decided to move the museum during their recent meeting. The upcoming construction of a McDonald’s restaurant, just feet away from the current location, would have greatly limited access to the historical building. The new location, once the site of Jefferson Elementary School, will provide ample parking, park benches and a playground.
The moving division of Stringfellow Farms in Rome will relocate the structure. Owner, Fred Stringfellow, will oversee every painstaking detail of the process. He has moved many buildings during his life.
“I jacked up my first barn when I was in the eighth grade. In the 1960’s I did a lot of post offices, banks and doctors offices. We have moved anything you can think of. It’s all about planning ahead of time. We build our own equipment and adapters. Each customized trailer is different,” said Stringfellow.
A custom carrier will be made to transport the Giddings Law Office securely. It will be moved off the property on Chestnut Street to a nearby lot. More work will be done before it reaches its new Market Street location. The building will be left on the trailer there until the new foundation is ready. Stakes already mark the spot where the building will be placed.
“We will work very closely with the workers who are building the foundation. Everything will be done very carefully,” said Stringfellow.
“Relocating the museum is really quite an undertaking,” said Waters. “All the utilities and the village have been notified. We are in the process of moving, but must wait until all preparations are complete. The improved location will enable many more to enjoy it. ”