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BARBERTON, Ohio — Bernie Gnap, 64, and Steve Kelleher, 60, have been working together to help restore the remaining buildings of the Anna Dean Farm since the early 1970s.Their decades-long effort is showcased every year during an annual walking tour. This year marks the 23rd tour, to be held May 19 at 1:30 p.m.
The tour begins at the piggery, at 248 E. Robinson Ave. Parking is free and photos are permitted. If you are unable to walk, a driving tour is permitted.
The Barberton Historical Society, of which Gnap and Kelleher are longtime members, is the leading force behind restoring the buildings. Members volunteer their time, as well as their “skills.”
Skilled group. Kelleher said the society differs from other societies, because it specifically targets people who can paint, build, landscape and do other practical skills.
“We’re interested in ‘doing’ and we do a lot,” Kelleher said.
Gnap said the volunteers work together in teams and typically use their own equipment. Social gatherings and exhibits — while common for many historical societies — are rare for the Barberton Historical Society.
“It’s not so much a social club,” Gnap said. “It’s more like a team of workers or an industry.”
One of their most recent projects — added to this year’s tour — is the 1890 Erie Depot, located at 377 Fourth Street N.W. This building is still under restoration.
Putting it together
Volunteers have spent countless hours collecting and documenting the facts and photos pertaining to the farm and depot. About 10 books have been put into print, including the centennial celebration Construction of O.C. Barber’s Anna Dean Farm, a hardcover written by Gnap and Kelleher.
As volunteers work, nature continues to do its own thing, and that has resulted in some historical features being covered in tree growth and sod, and others that have deteriorated from moisture.
But most of the remaining Anna Dean Farm buildings are in surprisingly good condition — thanks to the concrete and brick materials used by O.C. Barber.Working together. The work being done is very noticeable in an area now surrounded by residential housing and some small businesses. But Gnap and Kelleher said the community has been receptive to the restoration — which very literally — stems from the man who founded their town.
“This is their heritage; this is what is left of their estate,” Gnap said.
For more information on the upcoming tour, contact Kelleher at 330-830-1444, or email Barbertonhistsoc@aol.com. You can also visit the society online at www.annadeanfarm.com, or its Facebook page, at Barberton Historical Society.
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