Saturday, October 11, 2014

No. 38 – March 21 - Saving the History of Ashtabula

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

The goal on their website is to save the history of Ashtabula. By preserving one building at a time they are determined to maintain Ashtabula’s original character and architecture, bringing the city into the 21st century with modern amenities.

Kris E Hamrick, who was born and raised here, remembers these buildings when the town was vibrant with life and has studied Ashtabula's history intensely. These, he says, hold our past and must endure. Given the new technologies now available, these can be used for generations to come in, bringing the past and future together.

Working out of a store front on Main Street he shared his vision with me as we talked about the history of the town and the downward slide which has put so many families on the edge over the last three generations.

Kris's father, a police officer in Rock Creek, died when he was only two and a half. Kris has only a few memories of him but grew up with an enduring sense of loss because nothing about the death makes sense. A segment for Unexplained Mysteries was produced on the story.

Raised by his grandparents in a huge, historic home at 3610 Station Avenue, Kris learned about the Underground Railroad from his grandmother, Gladys Perkins, who showed him the secret room built into the wall behind a dresser, which had to be manipulated for the room to open into a small 6 x 8 foot space. He imagined what it must have been like to hide in there, waiting for it to be safe to come out.

Grandfather John was a minister who routinely took in those in need.

These and other memories fired his imagination and fueled his determination the history of Ashtabula would not disappear. Now a father of five himself, his vision for our town begins with the restoration of Main Street, anchoring the four remaining blocks with a park on each end and archways.

In the parks he can see walking tours beginning, audio available through your cell phone. And on one of the vacant lots, where cars now park, he sees the famous Flying Saucer, which once made Ashtabula famous.

The vision goes beyond Main Street, however, including steam boats anchored in the Harbor for tourists and small cafes, their tables inviting people to enjoy delicious food as they learn to love the Ashtabula which endures in our minds.

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