Dec 30, 2005

Lathrop House Sits...And Waits

The Lathrop House is a nineteenth-century building in Sylvania, OH with purported connections to the Underground Railroad, and a considerable body of historical evidence links the site to the larger effort of transferring slaves from bondage to freedom. It was recently shorn from its foundation and moved to a new location in Sylvania’s Harroun Park.

There is substantial evidence that the site may indeed be worthy of its rumored status as a Railroad station. A wide variety of documents from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries make mention of the site and its oral history. In addition, one of the early owners, Reverend Lucian Lathrop, was a politically active, avowedly anti-slavery citizen; among other doings, he attended the Free Democratic Party convention in 1849, which adopted a platform stating “slavery to be a moral, social and political evil."

I have a lengthier essay on the history of the Lathrop House here.

The Metropark system now owns the building, but it appears that little activity has taken place since the building was relocated. The Metroparks website says that "through a partnership with the City of Sylvania, Metroparks has agreed to restore the home and provide future public programming."

At the moment it does not appear that much activity has occurred in the 18 months since the building was moved from its original site. Protective fencing around the house has been torn down.

In the meantime, the building suffers the fate of any vacant structure; windows are broken by vandals, wind, rain, and snow take their toll on the exterior, and small animals begin to make the building their new home.

The contributions of the Lathrop family to the abolition movement and to the Underground Railroad have a longstanding oral tradition, and numerous family documents attest to Reverend Lucian Lathrop’s role as a conductor. I trust that Metroparks administrators are keeping this important piece of local history - as well as that of the Undergound Railroad - on their collective frontburner.


Anonymous said...

Typical Toledo.

liberal_dem said...

The director of the Toledo Metroparks has a less than stunning record of action. He reminds me of Michael Brown, aka 'heckofa job, Brownie."

Anonymous said...

It's Sylvania, not Toledo.

historymike said...

Yes, but Metroparks Toledo is the county agency responsible for the site.

Besides, we're all one big happy family, right?


Anonymous said...

Toledoans only care about the history of rich white people, like the Secors, the Scotts, and the Libbeys.

If you were not rich and white in Toledo, your history will be buried forever.

Look at Art Tatum, jazz legend. Toledoans couldn't give a shit about him, but the rest of the world reveres him.

Newsguy said...

Wow. Mike. Your comments sure bring out some scary folks. Or should I say "volk"? No wonder Bush won in Ohio.

Interesting blog, though.

Newsguy said...

BTW, you are the only other person I know who has read A Confederacy of Dunces.

historymike said...

Yes, writing about the neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements have their occupational hazards, Newsguy.

Thanks for your comments on my blog. And yes, Confederacy of Dunces is one of my all-time favorite books.

Mrs. Phoenix said...

anonymous, you are 100% correct...Toledo's hidden wealth lies in the histories of peoples in color, case in point, Art Tatum. He is a world renowned SCIENTEST of the jazz genre, but very much IGNORED in his hometown. Very, very sad :-(

historymike said...

I love that lightning-quick, machine gun style of playing that Art Tatum had, Mrs. Phoenix.

He was a real prodigy and he turned the world of jazz piano upside down.

"Tiger Rag" is my favorite Tatum improvisation.

liberal_dem said...

Confederacy of Dunces

Thanks for the reading tip. I've been looking for a book about the Bush Administration.

Miladysa said...

Is the building not listed for its protection?

historymike said...

Nope. No historic preservation designation yet, miladysa.

Connections between the Lathrop House and the Underground Railroad are strong, but not concrete. There is some documentary evidence, some oral tradition, and some archaeological evidence, but no perfect linkage.

Hooda Thunkit said...

"Connections between the Lathrop House and the Underground Railroad are strong, but not concrete. There is some documentary evidence, some oral tradition, and some archaeological evidence, but no perfect linkage."

As I recall, the then owner (St. Joe's parish) did not seek the designation and no one else could.

Also it appears that, indeed, there is no positively verifiable linkage, so it probably would NOT have qualified for the designation anyway.

Those opposing the real owners of the house’s wishes did not get their way, so they have taken their ball (but not the Lathrop House) and gone away.

And now it languishes, in the loving care, custody, and control of the burrocrats.

What an ignominious fate...

Nikki said...

Sorry to be a little off topic - but I have to weigh in on Art Tatum, someone I also like. He did a variation of "Body & Soul" that just blows be away. I had no idea that he was from Toledo. What a treasure.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I can shed some light on the current status of the Lathrop House and Metroparks.

The house is owned by the city of Sylvania and located at a city-owned park. Because of Metroparks expertise in restoring and managing historical sites (Manor House, Oak Grove School, Ludwig Mill, Miami and Erie Canal, etc.) the park district is taking the lead on restoration and fundraising with its partner, Friends of the Lathrop House.

(The Friends are sponsoring a March 25 fundraiser - see for details).

Metroparks recently secured a substantial grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation to complete the first phase of the restoration, which includes structural and exterior work to preserve the building.

Metroparks of the Toledo Area is an independant, regional government agency and is separate from any city or county government.

In the past few years, under a new director, Metroparks has passed a 0.3 mill levy for land acquisition, which has funded the addition of 1,500 acres -- the largest growth in its 75-year history. The additional property includes doubling the size of Pearson Metropark, which is both a natural and historical gem in the city of Oregon.

Other projects in the works: The Fallen Timbers Battlefield in Maumee, the Blue Creek Conservation Area in Whitehouse and a new access to Bend View Metropark in Waterville. These projects reflect the park district's committment to natural and historical preservation in Lucas County.

Happy New Year.

Scott Carpenter
Communications Manager
Metroparks of the Toledo Area

historymike said...

Thanks for updating us, Scott!