Ravenna native Don M. Wilson III's announcement of a $10,000 challenge grant to aid the effort to save the downtown Ravenna flagpole is another encouraging sign of interest in preserving this important community landmark.
Wilson, a hometown success story who is a semi-retired international banker, maintains a great affinity for the community where he was reared. He is proud of his roots in Ravenna and has an abiding interest in its history and heritage.
Like many with longstanding ties to the city, he is concerned about the possible loss of the flagpole, which has stood in front of the Portage County Courthouse for 120 years. Concerns about its structural integrity and safety issues have raised questions about its future, although officials of Ravenna Township, which owns the flagpole, have backed away from plans to remove it.
"Too many iconic structures that are part of Ravenna's architectural heritage are disappearing," said Wilson, a 1966 Ravenna High School graduate, who cited the recent demolition of the 1923 high school as an example. "Not saving our historic flagpole would mean another regrettable loss of Ravenna's unique identity."
Wilson's pledge will match donations to Friends of the Flagpole, the grassroots preservation effort spearheaded by Jack Schafer and Peggy DiPaola that is attempting to raise $150,000 to preserve the structure. Their plan is to have the flagpole refurbished and reinstalled, with adequate security measures, which would enable it to remain a downtown landmark. The group is about halfway toward its fund-raising goal.
The 150-foot flagpole is a historic structure that was erected in May 1893 utilizing a distinctive form of construction identical to that used to erect the Eiffel Tower in Paris four years earlier. It was the tallest structure in Portage County at the time of its installation and one of the tallest in Northeastern Ohio as well. Now, more than a century later, it is a rare, surviving example of Victorian era iron-lattice construction.
The flagpole, which can be seen for miles, is synonymous with Ravenna. Its removal would be a loss to the community. The effort to save it deserves support.
Mr. Wilson's offer of financial assistance is commendable. We hope that others like him, who have achieved success in their careers and can look back on Ravenna as the place where they spent their formative years, also step forward to preserve an important element of their hometown's heritage.
Contributions to meet the Wilson challenge may be sent to Friends of the Flagpole, P.O. Box 444, Ravenna OH, 44266. Donations also are being accepted at Portage Community Bank or Hometown Bank offices in Ravenna and Kent.