HUDSON — A 19th century home on Main Street will be preserved and there are plans for it to be surrounded by a nonprofit’s headquarters, which will include an art gallery.
Peg’s Foundation, a Hudson-based charity, and the Baldwin-Buss House Foundation (BBHF) are collaborating on a project to restore the 1825 Baldwin-Buss House, and remove both the brick office building near the corner of West Streetsboro and First Street and the former Merino beverage store on First Street. Many residents know the site as the Merino property.
Peg’s Foundation spent $1.36 million to purchase the house, commercial buildings and land In September 2020. Meanwhile, BBHF has raised $1.15 million that it will use to restore the Baldwin-Buss House, 36 N. Main St.
Peg’s Foundation President Rick Kellar said his organization and BBHF are working on plans and timelines to start the restoration of the Baldwin-Buss House in early 2022 and finish the project in late spring 2023.
“The house, with additions removed from the original plans, will be [nearly] 3,000 square feet total,” Kellar said.
Keller said he is tentatively planning to demolish the brick office building and the beverage store in early spring of 2022.
After the buildings are removed, Kellar said the foundation will build its new foundation headquarters, which will include both offices and a “jewel box” art gallery that will feature exhibits open to the public.
Kellar said the buildings will be surrounded by open space that will include gardens, public gathering places and a walkway that will connect the National Register Historic Business District and the First and Main business district.
“We do expect to reconfigure the property, creating more open space and improved pedestrian connectivity between Main and First streets,” Kellar said.
Peninsula Architects designing foundation headquarters, art gallery
The foundation headquarters and art gallery are being designed by Peninsula Architects, and Kellar said those components will cover about 9,000 square feet.
“In conjunction [with] the house restoration activities, we expect to begin construction in 2022, with completion in the summer of 2023,” he said.
Kathy Russell, BBHF’s treasurer, said a key aspect will be creating a preservation easement that will ensure the protection of the house and surrounding property in the future. As owner of the property, Peg’s Foundation will provide a preservation easement to BBHF for the Baldwin-Buss Home.
“The easement is important as it serves to establish the preservation standards for the home, and once restored, designates a third party to oversee and insure compliance with the easement,” Kellar said.
BBHF co-president Donovan Husat said he believes the project will “bring to life a long-overlooked property in the heart of downtown,” and be the type of development that residents wish to see.
“Hudson residents have clearly expressed concerns about large-scale development in the downtown area, and this project will preclude that from ever happening in the area of the southwest Green,” Husat said.
Peg’s Foundation and BBHF began working together on this preservation and redevelopment effort in 2019.
About 2½ years ago, three Hudson Heritage Association (HHA) board members became concerned about the condition of the Baldwin-Buss House, which was occupied for 109 years by the Carano and Merino families. It was left vacant and for sale when the house’s last occupant, Rich Merino, moved out of state to live with family. Merino died in 2016.
The HHA board’s retiring co-presidents Inga Walker and Husat, along with Russell, used seed money from HHA to found the Baldwin-Buss House Foundation (BBHF), which soon became a 501(c)(3) organization. They wanted to raise $1.7 million to purchase the entire Merino property, including the two commercial buildings and nearly 1 acre of land. Within a year, they had secured $1.15 million, but were unable to raise the full amount by the property owner’s deadline and the property was about to go back on the market.
Peg’s Foundation, which is currently located at 10 W. Streetsboro St., got involved in the process in December 2019. The foundation, Kellar said, had been considering building a new headquarters and art gallery, and the Merino property caught their eye.
“The obstacle was the [19th century] house,” Kellar said. “Our foundation supports mental health and the arts – both prime interests of Peg Morgan. Historic preservation was not a project we wanted to take on. We did not want to acquire a house that would divert our attention from our mission.”
Kellar said former Hudson Mayor Bill Currin connected foundation representatives with BBHF, which was only interested in preserving the 19th-century home.
“It was a natural partnership,” Kellar said.
With Peg’s Foundation purchasing the Merino property last year, BBHF will use the $1.15 million it raised to restore the house.
“More than 300 residents and foundations answered our call for funds to restore this beautiful and historic house,” Walker said. “They made it possible for Peg’s Foundation to use its own resources to further its mental health and arts missions, and to create a focal point for the benefit of the entire community.”
BBHF officials said they are looking forward to taking the next steps on the project.
“Getting to this point has taken longer than we ever anticipated,” Husat said. “A variety of due diligence issues relative to the property needed to be addressed, and progress was slowed significantly by the pandemic. But we are now in a position to move ahead.”
Walker, BBHF’s co-president, said a lot of time was spent documenting the historic aspects of the house and chronicling changes over time.
John Milner Architects, a Philadelphia area firm specializing in preservation and restoration of historic properties, is assessing the house’s condition and making recommendations for returning it to its original 1825 footprint while restoring its architectural features and integrity.
“We want to return the house to its former glory while also taking into account code requirements and its intended use as a community asset,” Walker added.
Russell said several modern additions to the house — especially an enclosed porch on the east side — obscure the home’s beauty, and will be removed.
While planned uses for the Baldwin-Buss House are still being determined, Peg’s Foundation and BBHF officials want the home to serve as a center for arts, education, regional history and small gatherings.
Russell praised residents for their commitment to preserving a historic home.
“Given what has happened to the historic fabric of so many other communities in the Western Reserve, Hudson is truly fortunate to have such caring residents,” Russell said.
About the Baldwin-Buss House
The Baldwin-Buss House was built in 1825 by Lemuel Porter, a leading master builder and architect of the Western Reserve. During its nearly 200 years, the house has had three owners.
Other members of the BBHF Board are Hudson residents Katie Coulton, John Debo, Pat Eldredge and Mary Lohman.
For more information, visit www.pegsfoundation.org and www.bbhfoundation.org.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at [email protected], or on Twitter at @keren_phil.