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There is a little house at the end of Canal Street. Most of us have walked by it. We have seen it slowly deteriorate through the years and we have wondered…why? Why would someone let their house just waste away? Why doesn`t someone fix it up? Why doesn`t someone step in and do something?

These are tough questions with no clear answers.

Growing up in Peninsula I remember this house as the place where Mrs. Smerk raised her three grandsons. She would bring the boys to church on Sunday and to the quarry during the summer and at the end of the day they would walk down the hill to the little house and the end of Canal Street. Nothing fancy, but it provided shelter for a family.

The house changed hands a number of times, renovations were started and never completed. It housed what appeared to be a tobacco business ( I thought that was interesting), but once that left…nothing. It was just left alone, at the end of Canal Street, seemingly forgotten and yet it was still there, holding its own, overlooking the river and the towpath.

A couple of years ago, the roof was compromised. I heard a tree fell on it. It doesn`t really matter- no one fixed it and now most of that roof is in the basement, and the house is literally about to cave in on itself.

So why should this matter to all of us? Let`s go back to the beginning of when the house was built. It is easy to find this information, it is on the National Historic Register. The house was built in 1873 as part of the Lawrence Waterman canal boat operation on the west side of the Cuyahoga. Mr. Waterman ran the largest canal boat building facility in Peninsula. Mr. Waterman was held in high regard in Peninsula. He owned what is now Heritage Farms. Much of the timber used to build the canal boats came from his farm. He also owned the stone quarrys that fueled Peninsula`s commerce and brought many of the immigrants to this region, my great grandfather included. What a time that must have been- imagine the miners and the canal boat builders from all over the world converging on this tiny village. Mr. Waterman built this house, as part of this operation. The house was used as a workshop for building canal boats and later used as a dormitory style building for canal boat builders to live. Local history says that at one time there was a bridge from the Center Street level into this building. This is gone.

If you walk past the house today, you will see a structure that is all but forgotten. The Village has declared it a nuisance and has posted No Trespassing signs. Vandals have sprayed profanity and graffiti on its walls…more attention than this structure has seen in nearly 20 years. The Village is moving forward in having the house demolished. It would be done already if not for Council asking to see the bids from contractors for the task. But never the less, it has little time left unless someone steps in.

As the Executive Director of the Peninsula Foundation, I think a lot about the history of our Village, the history of the buildings in our Village, and how best to preserve this history for future generations. The little house at the end Canal Street has a history, it is part of Peninsula. What a shame it will be if this goes away. Is there not another solution?

Karen James