As president of the Troy Historic Preservation Alliance (THPA), I offer some perspective in response to David Lindeman’s recent column referencing the 112-118 W. Main St. building, aka the Tavern/IOOF Building (“Things are a-changin’ around Troy,” Feb. 25, 2023).
To quote Dave: “It’s all about making money at that site, so somewhere down the road the preservationists will have to find a sugar daddy with deep pockets or the building likely will come down and take the old courthouse with it. Or else they can fight in court for another decade and we can all continue to be embarrassed.”
The greatest embarrassment here is that our city leaders illegally cut corners and flaunted our city’s zoning code in a bid to destroy one of Troy and Miami County’s most historic buildings. This isn’t an opinion – it’s a fact, as determined last fall by a Miami County Common Pleas Court judge.
What’s often forgotten: After the tornado hit downtown Troy three years ago, the owners of eight other damaged downtown commercial buildings – some more heavily damaged than the Tavern Building – repaired theirs promptly. What some city officials like to overlook: the inconvenient truth that the Tavern Building’s owner received hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance money but pocketed it rather than using it to fix up the building. The property owner could have sold the building to the Troy-Miami County Public Library. The library’s offer, combined with that insurance money, would have made the building’s owner more than whole. The opportunity for “making money at that site” was there – and is there – without demolishing the historic building. No “sugar daddy” necessary.
Many tools besides “sugar daddies” – historic tax credits among them – could make restoration of this building viable. What’s also key is having all stakeholders row in the same direction. If the resources that have gone into debating and litigating this situation had gone into cooperation instead, the sidewalk would have reopened long ago, that historic building would be looking a lot better right about now, and the current property owner could have walked away with a profit (despite overpaying for the building in the first place). That’s what happens in communities with leaders open to “win-win” solutions.
To Dave’s point, the old courthouse – built in 1840-41, and among Ohio’s six oldest surviving courthouses – is rich in history. Had many of us been around in 1902, we no doubt would have strenuously objected to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows grafting a three-story building onto its front. We were not around, of course, and the IOOF building has now stood there for more than 120 years. It became a landmark of 20th-century Troy in its own right, housing a post office, the Flash Restaurant, and many other businesses and eateries that bring back great nostalgia for many Trojans. It and the train depot that Dave referenced are Troy’s only surviving examples of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. It is now one of the oldest buildings in an intact block of historic storefronts. Dave speculated about tearing down the IOOF building and rebuilding the façade of the old courthouse, but we can’t ignore that at least one neighboring building is held up by the present building’s walls.
So let’s embrace this old building for what it is today – a reflection of Troy in the 19th and the 20th centuries. Together let’s find solutions to this and the other toughest projects still waiting for answers. THPA is working hard for just that. In the next month or so, we will debut a “Most Endangered” list to highlight historic Troy buildings at risk and bring about dialogue that could head off another fiasco like this. We are pushing for greater representation of downtown stakeholders on the Troy Planning Commission, which decides what downtown property owners can and can’t do with their buildings. As a result of advocacy not just by “preservationists” but by neighboring property owners and other concerned citizens, city council instituted a moratorium on demolitions downtown. As a result, Troy has a stricter zoning code that will hopefully minimize the chances of embarrassing situations like this in the future.
Folks who want to “get rich quick” by demolishing historic buildings probably should be investing in another part of Troy. Meanwhile, THPA will be channeling our embarrassment over this situation into action for the betterment of historic downtown Troy. Anyone who loves our downtown should do the same.
The writer is the president of the Troy Historic Preservation Alliance.