Portage Street Primary School in North Township listed on the National Register


NORTH TOWNSHIP — Jill Kemp recalls sitting in the cafeteria at Portage Street Elementary as a fifth-grade student when a teacher rushed to let everyone know that then-president John F.Kennedy had been shot.

“We were watching a movie and she fell on the catwalk,” Kemp recalled.

She also remembers the thrill of crossing that interior walkway that connected the classroom hallway to the lower-level cafeteria, which doubled as a gymnasium and auditorium. Perhaps better, she remembers teachers and staff who filled Portage Street Elementary with friendly smiles and hugs.

Kemp, a 1970 Hoover High School graduate who now lives in Medina County, is leading an effort to designate her former elementary school — now the Mary L. Evans Early Years Center — as a historic site on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The building is beautiful,” said Kemp, whose mother and grandfather also took classes at the school site. “He’s still in phenomenal shape.”

She hopes the historic designation, which is recommended by Ohio’s Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board, will help prevent the demolition of the century-old schoolhouse on the corner of Portage and Ream streets NW.

The North Canton City School District plans to demolish the building in the summer of 2023 as part of a $58 million project consolidate five buildings into two schools.

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As part of the project, the existing children’s centre, located on the south-east corner of the site, will be demolished and a primary school for pupils from kindergarten to grade two will be built on the north-east corner. of the 9.6 acre property. Construction of the 58,180 square foot elementary school at 200 Charlotte Ave. NW is underway and the school is expected to open in the fall of 2023.

The area where the current school is located is intended to become a parking lot, a drainage area and a green space.

Construction continues on a new Preschool to Grade 2 building at the corner of Charlotte and Ream Streets NW in North Township.  The new elementary school is expected to open in the fall of 2023.

What is the historical significance of Portage Street Elementary?

Kemp began seeking historic designation for Portage Street Elementary last fall. She believes Portage Street Elementary meets the National Register’s criteria of being a property “associated with events that have made significant contributions to great patterns in our history.”

She believes the school’s history and expansion reflects the history and expansion of the community that began as New Berlin and grew into the city of North Canton.

The school on the corner of Portage and Ream educated nearly every child in the community from 1835 when the first log structure was built to 1929 when the district built its second school building, North Canton High School on Charlotte Street, according to Kemp’s research.

A group is seeking to have the former Portage Street Elementary School – now called the Mary L. Evans Early Childhood Center – at Ream and Portage Streets NW in North Township added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Portage Street Elementary remained the district’s only elementary school until 1956, when Orchard Hill Elementary was built.

The older part of the school is now used largely for storage, while preschool classes at the Mary L. Evans Early Years Center are held primarily in the 1959-built section then known as the Annex. The North Canton Heritage Society is located in the oldest part of the building, which is the surviving foundation of the building constructed in 1888.

Except for additions to the building, Kemp said the school largely retains the same look and layout as it did 100 years ago. The exterior still retains the characteristics of the Jacobethan Architecture style, including elements such as Flemish masonry, projecting bays, large bay windows with multi-paned rectangular window frames, and smooth terracotta features.

Much of the original interior has been retained, including the woodwork, wooden floors, ventilation grilles, stairs and room layout. Original lockers still line the hallways.

“In North Township, not much remains of the old buildings,” Kemp said, as she lamented the loss of the main street buildings of her childhood. “There’s so much history there and here we go.”

She hopes that her research and the historic designation will inspire the Canton du Nord school board to save the elementary school and find a new use for it, such as a community building or a center for the elderly.

Construction continues on a new Preschool to Grade 2 building at the corner of Charlotte and Ream Streets NW in North Township.  The new elementary school is expected to open in the fall of 2023.

“We want to convince the school board not to tear it down,” Kemp said. “He’s in such good condition.”

The 17-member Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Council recommended June 17 That Portage Street Elementary be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Abby Marshall, survey and national registry manager for the State Historic Preservation Office, said the preservation office will conduct a final review of the application before it is sent to the National Park Service in Washington, DC, for federal assessment.

The National Park Service then has up to 45 days examine the application and to determine if it is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, Marshall said.

If the Parks Service determines Portage Street Elementary is eligible, it will be added to the list of properties deemed worthy of preservation on the National Register of Historic Places. Stark County already has 90 properties on the list, including two in the northern township (Hoover Co. Historic District and Hoover Farm).

Would National Register of Historic Places designation stop demolition?

Adding a property to the National Registry still does not prevent an owner from making changes, including demolition, to the listed property, Marshall said.

In a letter to North Canton school officials, Marshall described the National Registry as a planning tool that helps identify properties considered worthy of historical preservation.

“In addition to eligibility for tax credits, listing on the National Register of Historic Places is honorary and is intended to document and recognize the significant history of properties associated with our past,” Marshall wrote. “…In this case, the naming of Portage Street Elementary School focuses on the importance the school had to the development of North Canton and its association with the Hoover Co.”

Construction continues on a new Preschool to Grade 2 building at the corner of Charlotte and Ream Streets NW in North Township.  The new elementary school is expected to open in the fall of 2023.

North Township Superintendent Jeff Wendorf was unaware of the group’s efforts to designate the school as a historic site until he received notice that the Historic Preservation Advisory Board of Ohio would vote on the request. He and school board president Andrea Ziarko submitted a joint letter to the advisory board opposing the appointment.

Wendorf said the designation, if approved, would not change the district’s plans for the site and stop demolition of the building in the summer of 2023. He said the district plans to deliver on promises that he had made a difference to the community when voters approved a 36- year, $58.5 million bond issue to pay for the two new schools and improvements to the football stadium and the construction of a new parking garage. bus.

“We went through an extensive planning process…and it’s been in the plans (for the school building) to be demolished since we started the whole process,” Wendorf said.

He said the district needed the approximately 1 acre space currently occupied by the school for parking, sub-drainage retention and green space.

Contact Kelli at 330-580-8339 or [email protected].

On Twitter: @kweirREP


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