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Tour of historic Poland homes returns

Event, first in 20 years, will help maintain Little Red School House

POLAND — For the first time in 20 years, the Poland Historical Society is having its popular Tour of 19th Century Homes.

The event kicks off at 10 this morning and will continue until 7 p.m.

“We actually wanted to start the tour again in 2019, but COVID hit,” said Poland Historical Society President Laurie Fox. “So we are doing it this year.”

The event helps raise funds for the society to continue to maintain the Little Red School House on U.S. Route 224 in Poland Township.

“Our goal was to sell 1,000 tickets,” Fox said. “That would raise $20,000 with all proceeds, after expenses, going to maintenance and educational programs at the school house.”

She said the society had to have extra tickets printed when the 1,000 were sold. As of Friday morning, there were 1,100 tickets sold and another 200 available today up until 5 p.m. or until they are sold out. The tickets will be available at Aebischers Jewelry, Consign and Design and The Flower Loft.

HOUSES ON DISPLAY

Fox said the society will have the Little Red School House open and on the tour with the historic collections on display. The schoolhouse was known as Poland Center School when it was built in 1858. The school was in operation from 1858 to 1915. It served in various capacities such as a meeting hall, sewing circle center, antique storage and as a church. By the late 1970s it had fallen into disrepair and in 1979 the Poland Historical Society was formed to rescue the building from demolition.

Today the schoolhouse is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Among the six homes on the tour is the Hall-Truesdale Home at 214 S. Main St. The home is owned by Michael Thompson, who has researched its long history.

“The home was built in 1819 by Turhand Kirtland, founder of Poland, for his daughter and son-in-law (Richard and Mary Hall),” Thompson said. “Prior to the Civil War, the home passed to the Truesdale family and became the practice and home of Dr. Seth Truesdale.”

Thompson pointed out the early 9-1-1 system of the home. He said during the evening or night, when someone needed medical help, they would pull a lever on the front door that ran a large circular bell to awaken the doctor. That bell is still in operating order on the front door.

Another fascinating door in the home is what the Truesdale family referred to as the “Indian Door.” The door is constructed of large planks that are horizontal on the inside and vertical on the outside. The door is very thick and solid, having been designed to withstand arrows. Thompson said it is unusual since the area never really had a big conflict with local Native Americans.

Thompson, like the other owners on the tour, admits it can be difficult to retain the historic nature of a home while maintaining it and making it a residence. His home has seven fireplaces, one of which was used for cooking. Thompson added the design of the home has a course of exterior brick, a course of interior brick, and a course of fire brick in between, making the walls a foot thick. That made it difficult to upgrade with plumbing, electric and heat. “There is nowhere to run duct work,” Thompson said.

He said the heat involves radiators connected to a boiler system. There is air conditioning in the attic that works, but a full duct system was not feasible.

Thompson said his parents, Don and Carolyn Thompson, bought the home in 1980. They used it for a very successful interior design company and residence until 2015. In 2017, Thompson took over ownership and maintains the historic nature of the home.

In 2019, Thompson said he opened the home for tours to help raise funds for the Celebrate Poland fireworks.

“During that open house, I had a 90-year-old fellow come on the tour and say he was glad the copper downspouts he installed were still holding up,” Thompson said. “Having an open house is a great way to spend the day.”

The home’s parlor will be a highlight since it has the original 150-year-old grass-cloth wallpaper. It is in very good condition and Thompson said no one makes it anymore.

On the parlor walls are two interesting framed profiles. On the north wall is an 1896 presidential campaign photo of William McKinley, who grew up in the home next door on East Main.

A new acquisition to the parlor is an oil painting of George Kirtland, Turhand Kirtland’s son. Thompson found out he was a sniper in the Civil War, who gained his expertise from hunting squirrels in Poland as a child.

With the age of the home, Thompson is often asked if the house is haunted, to which he replies: “If it is haunted, the ghosts know to be nice to me because I am keeping the house in order.”

Thompson added that houses like his are not really property, but are more like family.

Other homes on this year’s tour are the 1850 Logan House, 320 N. Main St.; the 1825 Woodruff House, 323 S. Main St.; the 1876 Robert Walker House, 4 Riverside Drive; the 1845 Kirtland-Hine House, 441 S. Main St.; and the 1851 Fitch-Kirtland House, 7090 Youngstown-Pittsburgh Road.

“The Poland Historical Society appreciates homeowners Joan and Dave Smith, Michael Thompson, Rex Fisher and Tim Franciso, Mary and Martin Tursky, Becky Rudzik and Mark Rogenski, Laura and Edgar Rumble for allowing the public to tour their homes,” Fox said. “And to the three local businesses that have sold 1,000 tickets for us since mid-July. It’s been a very busy but exciting time preparing for this event and we couldn’t do it without their cooperation and support.”

She also thanked the team of 90 people who have volunteered to help with the tour at each home.

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