MADISON TOWNSHIP — The restoration of the historic Unionville Tavern is one step closer to a reality after leaders of a group seeking to save, and restore, the structure announced a $160,000 state grant to begin the restoration process.

The announcement was made before more than 55 people who gathered at the Unionville Community Center during the Unionville Tavern Preservation Society’s annual meeting.

“The state has approved a $160,000 grant to initiate phase one of the restoration,” said UTPS Vice President of Operations Brian Horgan. He jokingly said no one would be able to leave until the $80,000 “matching funds” were raised.

He then changed gears quickly saying”That $80,000 is in our bank right now,” he said with a laugh.

“We have exceeded our matching funds due to two anonymous donors,” Horgan said. 

The group has been fighting for five years to save the structure and purchased it two years ago, Horgan said. He said stabilization of the interior and exterior of the building have been on-going for the past year and the restoration phase will soon start.

The first phase of the restoration is scheduled to include a hard cover for the roof that has been a tarp for the past year; the restoration of the portico and the restoration of the garden room that can hopefully be used to hold next year’s “state of the tavern” meeting,” Horgan said.

Horgan said the society has spent the last five years networking with preservation experts throughout the state and the nation. “Preservation Ohio (a group that ranks important historical sites in danger of being lost) gaves us the spotlight we needed,” he said.

Horgan said the tavern was onthe 11 most endangered sites list for two years but thanks to area efforts it was removed in 2015.

Preservation Ohio’s Marian Vance thanked the society for their efforts in saving the building. “We don’t get to come to a lot of these (successful) meetings,” Vance said.

She said it takes a local and state cooperative venture to save buildings. “If we could clone the people of Unionville we could save a lot more sites,” Vance said.

Pat Gerred, a long time volunteer and life long resident, shared childhood memories of the tavern. “They would give corn fritters at the tavern for trick or treat,” she said of the building that also was a critical spot on the Underground Railroad.

State Senator John Eklund attended the meeting and thanked the group for their efforts.

Horgan also thanked Eklund for working to make the grant a reality after meeting at a Madison Township Trustee meeting. “I am a firm believer that if we forget our past...we have no future,” Eklund said. UTPS President Erin Cicero said the project is going well with stabilization moving along smoothly. “The first phase of the restoration is about to begin. We are talking bricks and mortar and are very excited,” she said.

According to the Cleveland Historical Society’s website the tavern was first built as two log cabins in 1798.

The UTPS is sponsoring a car and craft show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at Bill Stanton Community Park in Madison Township to raise funds to help save the tavern.

A $5 donation is suggested for spectators and a $10 donation for a car show entry is being suggested, according to UTPS fliers.