Walking Tour offers look at historic buildings
Each of the buildings in the Village Center of Kent has a history and a Walking Tour was held July 17 to reveal some of the secrets behind some of the oldest structures.
Kent Historical Society Curator Marge Smith led the tour along Maple Street, Main Street and Bridge Street, with assistance from Trustee Melissa Cherniske. It was designed to be coordinated with the current exhibition of historic postcards, “Greetings from Kent,” that is on display in the Swift House.
A large group of 26 people listened and added their own knowledge as periodic stops were made at specific historic buildings. A booklet was provided to each participant and copies are available for a self-guided tour.
Smith explained that Kent’s vibrant Village Center grew up around the arrival of the railroad in 1847. The center of town moved from Flanders, which is further north, to where it is now. This is why most of the buildings along Main Street are from the Victorian era and feature the ornate decorations of that time, she explained.
There were many stories that were shared by Smith and others participating. One of the more humorous tales told was about the home of Eugene Bull Sr., who moved his home off Main Street, where JP Giffords market is currently, to Maple Street but his wife wanted to be back on Main Street. So he moved the house back, with the woman still inside! When his wife died months later, he moved the building back to Maple Street.
“That is the only building that I’ve heard of that was moved back and forth,” she said.
Smith explained that it was quite common for buildings to be moved years ago, perhaps because of the sturdy timber frame construction and the lack of overhead electrical wires to contend with.
A number of people added their own memories and knowledge to the discussion. Resident John Barton shared some of his memories of growing up in town and meeting characters, such as Bart Seger. He also explained that restoration work was done during the 1950s on several of the houses to help preserve them and make them look as they do today. Others were torn down to make way for commercial development and Smith showed images of the houses that were destroyed.
Patsy Stroble, who is a member of the First Congregational Church of Kent and is very involved in the church’s 275th Anniversary Committee this year, shared stories about how the church was first organized in 1741 and how the building expanded after being constructed in 1849.