1,700 visitors for Open House during Winterfest

An Open house was held at The East Tower as part of Tiffin’s Winterfest on December 6 and 7. The event was an overwhelming success with over 1,700 in attendance. The weather outside may have been cold, but the positive enthusiasm from the visitors was warm and inviting.

The East Tower is a historical structure built in 1893 and formerly the building housing the East Junior High School and Columbian High School at the corner of East Market & Jefferson Streets. The East Tower is available for development, including use as the site of the proposed Joint Justice Center.

The building was purchased by Andrew Kalnow, chairman/CEO of National Machinery LLC, in 2012 with a vision of it being restored and becoming a cornerstone of revitalization on downtown Tiffin. The open house tour was to provide both a glimpse of the past and a look to the future. The first floor has had no renovation, but has been cleaned up to show the old school building in the days after East Junior High was shuttered and all but the original 1893 structure demolished. The second floor, however, has undergone some suggestive restoration in order to help visitors visualize what this grand building could be with renovation and a new use. 

At the East Tower open house visitors were welcomed at the main entrance on Market Street by cordial docents from the community. The visitors walked through three of the rooms on the 1st floor, many reminiscing of their adolescent school days as a former East Junior High or Columbian student. In the first class room, a docent gave a brief history of the building with visuals of the school when it was active. Visitors then walked through the former Teacher’s Lounge to the former music room, and then congregated in the last class room on the 1st floor. In the last room, the visitors viewed visuals about East Tower’s history, while waiting for a guided tour of the partially restored 2nd floor. Tours of the 2nd floor were short in duration, as there was a limit to the number of people allowed on the 2nd floor at one time in order to maintain fire safety guidelines. Visitors were welcomed to stay longer and learn more about the history of the building and its’ potential by visiting the tent at the rear of the building.  Authorities were there to speak about the building, supplemented with photo displays. Additionally, well-known journalist Lisa Swickard and Tiffin’s own architect, John Huss had a book signing on Saturday. A local company, Jolly’s Drive In, was available for offering food for sale.

The East Tower is a beautiful example of Romanesque/Gothic architecture, and studies have shown that it is structurally sound after 121 years. It will likely continue to be structurally sound for another 100 years or more… long after most any new building that might replace it. Use of the building as the proposed Joint Justice Center (with an addition on the rear) would not only make great use of this prominent 1893 structure, but also would preserve the current town Green.  

We would like to thank all of those who were able to attend the East Tower open house, and hope visitors were able to visualize what the restoration of this building can be, as well as how it might enhance downtown Tiffin.