Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Unionville Tavern is a treasure that should stand for decades

I am a preservationist at heart. I hate it when valuable things disappear for no good reason.
Many of the finest buildings in Europe are 200, 800 or 1,000 years old. (Don’t ask me for examples because I would have to look it up, and I hate to look things up).
But trust me on this – some of the buildings in Europe go back to the Stone Age, when they were built of stones.
There is a beautiful building on the campus at Lakeland Community College called the Mooreland Mansion. It was saved from the wrecking ball, or as former City Editor Ed Bell used to call it, the “headache ball,” because a group of concerned citizens got together, pledged money as well as time and in-kind gifts, and returned the stately building to its former glory.
It now serves as a community showplace. Just last Thursday it was the scene for the induction of five new members into the Lakeland Hall of Fame.
Contrast that with Camelot. It was another beautiful building on the campus. It was exquisite. But a former administration (certainly not the current one) ordered it torn down.
What a shame! What a pity! It is difficult to find forgiveness in my heart for that shameful act of destruction.
Many such edifices are worth saving, if only for the acts of preservation that make the deeds worthwhile.
Well, don’t look now, but the tearer-dowers, the no-goodniks who have no sense of history and even less sense of decency, have their collective eyes on another treasure.
I refer to the tattered, once-magnificent lady called the Unionville Tavern in Madison Township.
I am sure you know what I am talking about. There have been at least two news stories about the stately tavern within the past few weeks, plus an editorial just days ago pointing out the “Unionville Tavern has big potential.”
Indeed it does. I will not attempt, in this limited space, to go into the remarkable history of the tavern. I will merely offer a few remembrances of the place that are of a personal nature. They are things I think about when I sit back in my easy chair, close my eyes, and reflect upon the pleasant times I have enjoyed there.
One of them was an evening decades ago (I’m not sure how many decades it was) when Bette Rock called and asked me to speak at a dinner for retirees of Ohio Bell.
Bette, you will recall, was the “Voice of the Fair” in Lake County for a long time. She also served the same function at the Cuyahoga County Fair in Berea. She worked for the phone company for years.
The Ohio Bell retirees made me feel right at home, even though Bette was the only person there I knew. I regaled them for the better part of an hour with stories about the county, and they showed their appreciation by giving me a very nice Ohio Bell jacket – blue, with yellow stripes.
Well, I still have the jacket. As you may know, I very seldom throw anything away. And it’s hard to get good jackets these days. But I digress.
It was a chicken dinner, with the ever-present corn fritters. Couldn’t have a meal there without corn fritters.
We once had a general manager here who had a fetish for joining chambers of commerce. Seven of them, as a matter of fact.
Some of them have now combined forces. But the earlier Madison group met at the old Tavern. We would take a leisurely drive out Route 84, enjoy lunch with the very nice Madison folks, have a couple of corn fritters, then talk on the way back to the office about what a nice bunch of people we had met.
Well, they are still nice. Alice Cable (her real name, not Time Warner) is a worthy successor to Cindy Girdler running the Chamber, and the current members have joined in the effort to save the Tavern
But they don’t meet at the Tavern any longer. Nobody does.
Also a few years ago, Sandy O’Brien was auditor of Ashtabula County. When we wanted to have lunch, we met halfway – at the Unionville Tavern.
They were joyous occasions. Just me and Sandy and the corn fritters – plus a few other loyal customers.
Sandy lived on a huge “estate” in eastern Ashtabula County, not far from the Pennsylvania Line. She and her husband, Pat, had a massive lake on the property.
A friend of mine used to fish there a lot. He wrote about it in the paper. He thought the lake was his secret, but I knew about it. But I never let on.
I really miss his outdoors columns. But not as much as I will miss the Unionville Tavern if anything bad happens to it.
So here is a profound and earnest wish for success on the part of the Tavern Preservation Society.
May its members save it forever – or at least a few hundred more years.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I so enjoy your writings and share in your sentiments for notable structures which should never be destroyed. Let's hope the Unionville Tavern survives and is around for a long time. The sad thing about tearing down these structures is that the history is gone. Having moved to Charlotte a few years ago, I reminisce about Gavi's Ristorante in downtown Willoughby and seeing you there on occasion. Willoughby certainly needed a class dining spot where people actually "dressed" for the occasion for a nice dinner - and that was it.

August 7, 2014 at 2:20 PM 
Anonymous Alice said...

Thank you, Jim!

August 11, 2014 at 5:53 AM 

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