Defiance’s historic downtown school has now become even more historic.
According to Dr. Sally Myers of the Save Our 1918 Defiance High School (SOS) Committee, efforts to have the former school — constructed in 1918 — to have the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service have succeeded.
The Sept. 13 weekly list of new National Register properties included entries from Colorado, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah, as well as Ohio.
The nomination leading to this designation was prepared by the SOS committee.
In addition to the old high school, the designation also includes additions to the building, the Claude Henkle Middle School building, Defiance Community Auditorium, the former football field on the east side of the campus and Triangle Park at Arabella and Clinton streets, according to Myers.
“This is great news in the saga to help save our historic school and quite an honor for Defiance,” she stated. “The volunteer SOS group has worked for more than a year on this issue, with cooperation from the city school board and city officials. We have prevented the demolition of one of our important city landmarks and now fervently hope the building can find another purpose useful to the community.”
According to information prepared by the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, a property seeking National Register status “must have significance for its association with broad patterns of history, have associations with the lives of persons significant in our past, have architectural merit, or have the potential to yield information important in history or prehistory.”
With National Register status, a property with potential for rehabilitation or development can offer a developer 25% Ohio state and 20% federal tax credits, Myers explained.
“Contrary to popular belief, NR status does not prevent an owner from making changes to the property or even demolishing it,” she noted. “However, the Ohio Historic Preservation Office strongly urges maintaining the property’s historic integrity.
Myers praised several individuals and organizations for their work on this project, including principal researcher Diana Bauer; researchers Trish Speiser, Virginia Sterling and Barbara Warncke; photographer Matt Bauer; Ralph Hahn; Historic Homes of Defiance; the Defiance Public Library; Barbara Sedlock of the Defiance College Library; the Andrew L. Tuttle Museum; Poggemeyer Design Group; and the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.
The document contains information about Defiance history, education in Ohio and Defiance from the early 1800s to the 1960s, broad historical patterns in the nation, detailed descriptions of architectural style, vintage and current photos, architectural and site plans and a justification for the granting of National Register status. It will soon be available at local libraries, Defiance City Schools, and city and county offices, according to Myers.
“It was inspiring,” she stated, “to read about the enthusiasm generated in the community for both the 1918 school and the 1929 auditorium. Even when times were not very good for most people, they rallied to support education and culture in Defiance.”
Through Historic Homes of Defiance, SOS also has received an Ohio Historic Tax Credit Pipeline Initiative grant, administered by the Ohio Development Services Agency, to help defray some of the costs incurred in the preparation of the National Register application.
In addition to the Defiance school campus, Ohio properties granted National Register status included the Champion Coated Paper Company (Hamilton), the Wright Company Factory (Dayton), and the Kenmore Boulevard Historic District (Akron).