Panels will detail building history



Did you know the News-Tribune office used to be a tire shop?

Neither did we, until Riley Thomas, a recent University of Delaware, called to tell us about a historical plaque project she is doing with the Oberlin Heritage Center.

Downtown businesses and offices will be given framed plaques detailing the history of their building in pictures and text, from the year foundation was laid to present day.

The project started in 2015 with a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to fund the center’s self-guided tablet tours and to pursue further outreach to the downtown area and community.

Within the year, Herrick Jewelry and and Watson Hardware received their panels to hang in their storefronts. Thomas is reviving the project as part of her work as an Ohio History Service Corps member.

Oberlin is a city on the national registrar of historic places, and a lot of the buildings downtown are historic and contribute to the neighborhood’s importance, Thomas said.

Providing the panels free of charge to businesses will educate people about the history of Oberlin outside the heritage center’s doors.

Many business owners are excited about the project. “Often times, they didn’t even realize they are in a building that was built in the 1800s,” Thomas said, which surprised her too. “I knew Oberlin was historic but I didn’t really think that meant going back into the 1800s.”

Thomas said she hopes people will take time to look at the panels as they run errands, shop, and dine.

“I think it’s important for people to know their history. If more people are exposed and realize that certain buildings have been around for close to 150 years, they are more likely to want to preserve them and protect those spaces,” Thomas said, adding that it’s important to preserve older architecture and history in general.

Anyone with historical information or pictures of downtown buildings is asked to email

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.