For many years the building where I work went unnoticed. Maybe it still does. But I think that’s just because some people can’t (or don’t want to) imagine what goes on inside. The Northwest Ohio Literacy Council sits near the corner of Metcalf and Spring streets in Lima. It’s one of those beautiful old homes, built in 1903 by Clair and Lulu Tolan, a wealthy local couple, who valued hand-made art, stained glass, ornately carved woodwork, custom wallpaper and extraordinary attention to detail. Experts in historical design have described the house as “a cultural treasure for Lima and Allen County.” Yet somehow this museum-caliber home is still unknown to many.
So every day for more than four years I’ve gone into work and been immersed in this treasure. In the morning I climb a grand oak staircase to an office in what used to be a bedroom. I meet with students, update our website and help plan fundraisers. Later I go back down to heat up my lunch in the kitchen, passing two or three fireplaces and through one of the four sets of pocket doors in the house. I often walk through the pantry, where we happen to keep office supplies. But you know, sometimes I think the charm of the place has even worn off on me. If I took a second to look around I’d see not just the copier, but a work of art. Wooden pantry cabinets stretch to the 10-foot ceilings and a cute little roll up wooden window connects the pantry to the dining room. From the kitchen table you can imagine house servants passing dinner through to the Tolan family. But usually these details escape me as I’m sitting there on my iPhone, eating my soup.
So what does go on inside? For starters, there’s the ghost.
From what we understand, Lulu Tolan still calls 563 W. Spring Street her home. It’s documented, too. Author James Willis and his team camped out overnight in the house after hearing the stories coming out of the Literacy Council House. Willis is the founder of Ghosts of Ohio, a nationally recognized paranormal research organization that uses scientific and historic methods to investigate and document reported hauntings in the state of Ohio. Lulu and the Literacy Council even secured an entire chapter in Willis’ latest book, Ohio’s Historic Haunts.
See for yourself the first two weekends in October when the Downtown Lima Lantern Tours make a stop at the Literacy Council in search of our shadowy residents. If you’re lucky, there might still be tickets left for the tour. But if they’re sold out, I can make you another offer.
This week the Literacy Council and our in-office partner, Lima City Schools Aspire, celebrate 30 years of serving the Lima area community, 10 years in our “haunted” Spring Street home, and National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week #AEFLWeek. We are extending an open invitation to the entire community to visit our amazing home, to look around, and to meet our director Ken Blanchard, who revived the house with his own hands turning this undiscovered gem into a community resource. Stop by during office hours 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Just tell us you want to have a look around.
Don’t let us go unnoticed any longer.