Grove Hill committee to receive prestigious state award

Barbara Christian
Oct 21, 2021

On Tuesday, members of the Save Grove Hill Committee and the Western Reserve Land Conservancy will receive an Ohio Preservation Public Education and Awareness Award during an outdoor ceremony at the conservancy’s headquarters in Moreland Hills.

The presentation will be made by Burt Logan, president and CEO of the Ohio History Connection.

Early in 2020, the committee was formed as an emergency grassroots effort by 18 neighbors who did not want to see demolition of the landmark Bancroft home or construction of a townhome development that would take its place.

A developer had purchased the property and was planning to do just that. Word of the situation spread through the Village of Chagrin Falls as committee members took turns during public meetings to protest the loss of local history to redevelopment.

Their efforts caught the attention of the land conservancy which lent its considerable support, leverage and reputation to assist the SGHC in raising the $600,000 needed to buy the property from the developer. They did it in 45 days during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conservancy did not stop there. Shortly after acquiring the property, the organization sold the home and a portion of the lot to a family who will move into it as soon as restoration is complete.

The Bancroft home is located at the corner of West Summit Street and the top of North Main Street also known as Grove Hill, its panoramic view serving as a dramatic entrance to the village center.

The undeveloped Bancroft grounds cascade down the hill between West Summit and West Cottage Street and is bordered by a natural stone wall was a WPA project built by local laborers.

The remaining portion of the lot – 0.3 acre – was given to the village by the conservancy. A group consisting of residents, village representatives and the conservancy plan to turn it into the new park next year.

The check list includes re-establishing an overgrown walking trail, removing invasive species plants and replacing them with native flowers and vegetation.

A small meeting area will be laid out near the top of an existing set of stone steps at the east end of the park and built about 100 years ago. Remnants of the Bancroft greenhouse are still visible on the property.

Each year in late October, and for more than half-a-century, the hill makes international news when it becomes the scene of the unsponsored, unsanctioned and unstoppable Pumpkin Roll, a rite of passage for local high school seniors.

Detractors, and there are many, argue the event is sanctifying thievery of pumpkins and has no business being touted as a tradition.

The Save Grove Hill effort became the subject of a documentary film directed by Chagrin Falls Historical Society and Museum President John Bourisseau. Its first public premier came earlier this month at the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival.

The pumpkin roll was the subject of a 2018 film titled “Grove Hill: A True Story” directed by Billy Thomas and Molly Gebler. It premiered at that year’s film fest.

Jaclyn Drum, spokesperson for the Save the Grove Hill Committee, said this week that the group is honored to be singled out in such a manner and credited the conservancy for helping the group pull off the impossible.

“We are thrilled that Save Grove Hill has been chosen by the State Historic Preservation Office. The recognition is a testament to the hard work and generous spirit of the entire Chagrin Falls community, the Chagrin Falls Historical Society and the Western Reserve Land Conservancy without whom none of this would have been possible,” she said.

The Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society, is a statewide history organization with the mission to spark discovery of Ohio’s stories. Saving Grove Hill is one of them.

A nonprofit organization was chartered in 1885, the Ohio Historical Society conducts history services for the Buckeye state and its citizens and is focused on preserving and sharing Ohio’s history.

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