In Niles, an antique shines again

The Niles Historical Society began its greenhouse fund raising two years ago.
NILES -- What was once a rusted hulk of steel, rotted wood and shattered glass at the Ward-Thomas Museum has been restored to a shining antique greenhouse.
"It was very dangerous," museum curator Audrey John said, referring to the falling glass before the greenhouse was updated.
"Now, I want people to come and visit us," John said. The greenhouse sits to the side and rear of the historic house at 503 Brown St., off state Route 46.
The house, of Italian architecture, was built in 1862 by James Ward, a Niles industrialist. It was bought by John and Margaret Thomas in 1887 and restored.
John explained that the greenhouse and the adjoining garden house were constructed in 1925, but they had fallen into disrepair. A gardener worked in the garden house during the 1920s and 1930s.
Razed, in part
The Niles Historical Society was entrusted in 1983 with creating a museum and re-establishing the surrounding four acres of gardens. It decided to raze half of the old greenhouse. What remains of the razed portion is a brick-covered floor.
But what to do with the dilapidated remaining shell? John explained that the decision was made to restore it and the garden house rather than knock it down.
The society put together a brochure soliciting funds in April 2003. To John's surprise, $47,000 has been collected in two years.
"That's what gave us the encouragement to go ahead," she said. "We had a really great response."
In addition, the society has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission though the work of state Rep. Sandra Stabile Harwood of Niles, D-65th.
The donated money was used as matching funds to obtain the grant. "I was really pleased with what we got," John said.
The work
The society has spent $38,000 to remodel the 364-square-foot greenhouse, and a lot or work remains. It needs a furnace, planting tables, brick work and rotten wood to be replaced.
L.L. Klink & amp; Son Co. of Columbus Station, just west of Strongsville, installed stainless steel strips and replaced the glass.
Mercer Welding Co. of Greenford crafted the metal supports.
John's husband, carpenter George John, crafted supports made of cypress. Klink & amp; Son then replaced 441 pieces of glass. The entire structure was painted three times to weatherize it.
George John's work on the greenhouse is all voluntary. "He's well fed," Mrs. John joked of his compensation.
Even with doors open, the greenhouse is significantly warmer than the outside air as the sun floods through the shining glass panels.
On tour
The greenhouse has been added to the museum tours. It will also be part of the tours taken by pupils who want to view the historical spot. The museum is open to the public from 2 to 5 p.m. the first Sunday of each month. For a tour, call (330) 544-2143.

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