The Old Tavern — once the centerpiece of the tiny borough of Unionville — has been designated by Preservation Ohio as one of the state’s most endangered historic sites.
Founded 30 years ago, Preservation Ohio is the oldest statewide non-profit organization working to preserve the state’s historic architecture. The group works to find funding for preservation of historic buildings.
Local legend has it that the 214-year-old Old Tavern is haunted by stagecoach passengers and slaves who sought refuge on their way to freedom. The tavern, owned for the last nine years by local businessman Larry Rickard, has been vacant for six years.
Now Erin Cicero, her husband Anthony, and their friend, Marc Petersen, are on a mission — a race against time and gravity — to save the Old Tavern from the ravages of vacancy and neglect.
The “Save the Tavern” initiative has legs, Cicero said.
“We have been busy keeping the Save The Tavern project in the public,” she said. “We have partnered with Madison Community Improvement Corp., which has given us access to their 501(c)3 status and additional community resources. We can now offer charitable gift letters for donations and memberships when donations are made to the new MCIC — Save The Tavern account that will be managed by MCIC and reserved for The Unionville Tavern Preservation Society to use in our efforts to save the tavern.”
The group chronicles their struggles, successes and upcoming events on the new website (www.savethetavern.org) where they also sell Save the Tavern T-shirts and stickers. The website also serves as an online “scrapbook,” Cicero said, where people can upload memories and personal photographs for the Tavern Memories Project.
Cicero said she recently met with Rickard’s representatives about the fate and the future of the Old Tavern.
“We have made plans to further discuss options for preserving and protecting the tavern,” she said. “We plan to meet again after clean-up from the Medieval Faire is complete. We believe this is a great first step and are optimistic about opening the lines of communication once again. We want to be clear — we aren’t saving the tavern from being torn down, we are saving it from falling down, no matter who owns it. Our goal is strictly to preserve and restore the building and grounds, no matter who benefits from it.”
The group will host a tea party in honor of the tavern from 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Madison Sampler Tea Room as part of the Madison Historical Society’s Historic Home Tour.
For tickets, visit the Madison Historical Society’s website (www.historicalmadison.org).