Efforts to save Barker House are admirable

Last month’s announcement that authorization had finally been received to transfer the federally owned historic Joseph Barker Jr. house into the hands of a local nonprofit was welcome, indeed.

But perhaps more important was the reminder of the kind of teamwork it took to make such a move possible.

Back in 2013, the Newport Township house was being considered for removal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979, but being on the register does not necessarily protect properties in the future.

A 2017 public meeting to further discuss possible demolition caught the attention of enough people that an effort began to preserve the building.

Importantly, that effort drew in help and attention from all corners, and all levels of government.

The Friends of the Joseph Barker Jr. House worked hard to make more friends.

Though it might have seemed initially as though the Corps of Engineers was the enemy in this process, local folks were smart enough not to approach the matter that way, though the start may have been rocky.

“That night was not a very good night (Aug. 31, 2017) … I don’t think I made many friends with the Corps then,” said Jack Haessly, president of the group. “But we’ve had them here at several area meetings we’ve invited them to attend and they have … We didn’t want to do is not develop a good friendship with them … Now the colonel himself, that’s extra special.”

From local families with generational ties to the house, all the way up to local and state officials and even members of Congress, building a team was essential.

U.S. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; who in turn drew in other members of Congress and higher ranking officials with the Corps of Engineers; U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio; officials with the Ohio Department of Transportation … and of course Colonel Jason Evers, commander of this region of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Huntington District) — these folks and many more became part of the effort to save the structure.

“We still have many things to do,” Haessly said. That is true.

But if the group keeps up its mentality of seeking out allies and bringing in as many hands as possible, rather than working as though they are facing an enemy, those things, too, will be accomplished.


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