The historic Johnson House barn, recently moved from the Oberlin College campus to the Lorain County Metro Parks’ newest site on US 20 just south of the city limits, will have a grand opening in mid-November.
But we got an early look inside the salvaged former home of a freed slave, Henry Thomas, after whom the barn is named.
The building was used Oct. 19 for a Metro Parks meeting, where discussion included a storm sewer at the Beaver Creek Reservation in Amherst, a health and fitness program, building leases, and budget revisions.
We were the first press to go inside, trustees said, and we saw a rustic venue for weddings, concerts, theater performances, family reunions, corporate meetings, and historical presentations.
“Henry’s Barn,” as it’s been nicknamed, is a modern interpretation of the historic farm building that sat behind the Johnson House at 216 Professor St. in Oberlin. The house was built in 1885 by Albert Johnson and his wife and is the college’s second-oldest residence hall designated solely for Jewish students.
The rotting barn was salvaged and turned into a multi-use venue for the city.
The restored barn structure differs from the original to accommodate a bathroom and a kitchen, but artifacts from the latter will be on display alongside a portrait of Thomas.
He was freed by the Johnson family and lived in the barn on Professor Street as the caretaker of the Johnson property, also serving as coachman and gardener. According to the Oberlin Heritage Center, he was allowed to live there after Albert Johnson died in a train wreck in 1899 and Rebecca Johnson died in 1915.
The property on US 20, just west of Rt. 58, was donated by Richard and Kathleen Nord. The 11-acre park, called the North Star Preserve, will be Metro Parks’ 31st green space.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.