GIRARD Barnhisel House opens its doors
Many smaller items on display were found in the house or the yard.
By SHERRI L. SHAULIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
GIRARD -- After years of anticipation, the public finally got a look at the inside of the Girard Historical Society's Barnhisel House.
Visitors were treated Saturday to narrated tours of the first floor of the home, the restoration of which was recently completed.
The Greek Revival style home, on North State Street near the old Ohio Leatherworks factory, was built in the 1840s by Henry Barnhisel Jr. and is considered one of the oldest homes in Trumbull County. Barnhisel and his family were primarily involved in farming and real estate.
Worked on renovations
Ray and Carley O'Neill of Vienna, George Curl of Liberty and Ralph Chuey of Girard, all members of the historical society, did much of the work in the past three years to get the downstairs renovated.
"My mom was on the board, and when she died they offered me her seat. That might have been a mistake, but oh well," said O'Neill, who's also restored his own home which was built in 1843. "There was a room upstairs she always wanted done, and I promised her I would do it. But we had to get the downstairs done before we could think about the upstairs."
For more than three years, the volunteers peeled off old layers of wallpaper, repaired walls, reconstructed rooms to their original design and furnished the four rooms and hallway downstairs with period furniture, window coverings and accent pieces.
"The furniture is from various periods," said Carley O'Neill, who gave many of the tours. "We tried to get everything from before 1900, but in some cases we were desperate for furnishings, so we took what we could get. But every one of them is old."
Furniture and display items, many in a case in a front room of the house, came from the collection of the historical society, or were donated by area history buffs. Some smaller items, including a top hat and a clay marble, were found either in the house itself or the surrounding yard.
Source of funds
Much of the funding for the work came in the past three years from state grants and personal donations. But the drive to open the home started decades ago, explained Jane Harris, historical society president.
"The board in 1976 struggled to get anybody they could to donate money," said Harris, who's been a member since the 1970s. "We had a hard time getting people to realize that this could be done, that we could renovate this and bring people through. It's taken us all this time just to get to this point."
The house was occupied by three generations of Barnhisels, until it was sold around the turn of the century to the Smith family, who owned Ohio Leatherworks. The home remained in the Smith family for nearly 60 years. It was last used as an apartment building, before the Girard Historical Society purchased it in 1974.
Local historians believe it may have been a stop on the Underground Railroad, and it also served as a stage coach stop known as The Elms because of the surrounding trees.
The historical society is still collecting donations to continue renovations to the upstairs and exterior of the home, as well as determining how often the home will be opened for public tours.