By Leah Sander
AKRON — The address of 101 W. Rochester Street in Akron has witnessed a lot of history.
It was the site of the Akron Opera House and also hosted the Harris Drug Store and later Webb’s Family Pharmacy. Even after the building was torn down in fall 2017, people still utilized the corner to watch the town’s annual Fourth of July parade.
Another chapter in the history of that corner, which some may know as where SR 14 and SR 19 intersect, continued Wednesday, March 23, when the former Akron train depot was moved there.
DeLynn Geiger and Lori Tilden-Geiger spearheaded the move, having obtained the lot and old depot to establish The Grounded Coffee House at The Depot. They plan to open the coffee shop in 2023.
Akron native Tilden-Geiger shared with InkFreeNews Wednesday what it means for her and her husband DeLynn, who serves as the Akron Chamber of Commerce president, to continue the history at that corner.
“It really hit us when we were digging the foundation and finding some of those old bricks of the opera house. All the businesspeople that had their stores and their wares there before, you know we’re continuing that tradition of trying to serve Akron, it was just so meaningful,” she said.
“And for me, it’s coming full circle because when I was in high school, I worked at Harris Drug Store there,” she continued. “I served coffee to my grandpa on the same grounds that we’ll serve coffee to the community, so coming full circle just like going back to your roots and we’re thrilled to continue that history in Akron and to preserve a historic building is the main thing.”
Akron Town Council President Jim Saner echoed Tilden-Geiger’s take on the continuation of history.
“A piece of history is going to replace a piece of history that was torn down,” he said. “It’s going to be a great (draw) for the town of Akron, a nice place for people to come together, gather and just sit down and have conversations.”
“I’m just so proud of our town,” he added, noting that Akron residents are envisioning plans to better the town and acting on them.
Fulton County Council Vice President Ron Dittman, who serves District 2, said he was grateful to Tilden-Geiger and Geiger for bringing another business to town.
“They’ve taken initiative and more power to them,” he said.
Learning in action
Local leaders weren’t the only ones to watch the depot’s move Wednesday from where it sat along Front Street to a few blocks north on SR 19.
More than 100 Tippecanoe Valley School Corp. students came out for it along with school staff.
The kids in Ethyn Brumbaugh’s, Chris Rassi’s and Rosy Jansma’s fourth-grade classes at Akron Elementary School watched the move as part of their study of Indiana history.
Tilden-Geiger recently spoke about the depot’s history to their students. All three said they were glad their students could have a close-up look at history.
“It’s just neat to see that history being moved in front of their eyes,” said Rassi.
For Derek Miller’s Tippecanoe Valley High School construction students, witnessing the depot move was less about history and more about structural engineering.
“We never got to do any foundational work (this school year), so today we get to see the foundational work that we’ve been talking about in the books,” he said. “We’re seeing something that doesn’t really happen a lot, which is moving an entire building, lifting it up, and putting it on that foundation.”
On the move
The work of moving the nearly 140-year-old building fell to Wolfe House & Building Movers of North Manchester.
The depot was placed on a large power dolly and was driven by remote control to the site. As it moved along SR 19, workers lifted phone and electrical lines to allow the depot to pass through.
With the depot at the site, Tilden-Geiger and Geiger will renovate the interior. Plans include adding a soda fountain.
Tilden-Geiger said getting a historic preservation grant may help pay for the work.
“The town of Akron and the Akron Chamber of Commerce partnered together to apply to be on the National Register of Historic Places and that nomination is in process right now,” she said. “We worked with a consultant, Kurt Garner, and if (the designation is granted), there are 91 buildings, commercial buildings and residences that would be involved in this national historic district. So if that does come through, we would be eligible for some historic preservation grants.”
Tilden-Geiger said she was grateful to all those who had assisted thus far with the depot project, including Pike Lumber Co. for maintaining the building, which ceased being used as a depot in 1976.
“Everybody that we’ve asked for help has just stepped up and have gone beyond,” she said. “I love it that they’re doing it for the community. They’re not doing it for us; they’re doing it for the town of Akron, which is so cool.”