To the Editor:
As the executive director of the Overfield Tavern Museum, Troy’s oldest building and first courthouse, I feel compelled to speak out about the imminent threat of demolition to another early Miami County courthouse that was a key part of Troy’s early history. The demolition of the building at 112-118 W. Main Street would be a significant loss to the historic character of downtown Troy and the community’s rich and diverse heritage.
Very few structures in Troy survive that have a tangible link to the city and county’s early African-American history. This building is one of them. The rear portion of this building was constructed in 1841 and served as the Miami County Courthouse until the current courthouse opened in 1888. The building’s most significant association with the African-American community involves the State of Ohio’s so-called “Black Laws.” These laws, the first in the nation, were designed to discourage free Black people from settling in the state and to regulate those already here. Upon entering the state, a person of color was required to post a $500 bond and provide evidence of their free status through emancipation papers or the written testimony of White witnesses who could guarantee their good character. These records would have been filed in the Miami County Courthouse—the building in question—giving it considerable historical significance. The old 1840s courtroom is still intact in the rear portion of the building.
While the rear portion of the building has a fascinating history, the front portion of the building, constructed in 1902 as the Odd Fellows Hall, is equally important to the continuity of the historic streetscape. Visitors to the Overfield Tavern often comment how charming and inviting downtown Troy is, often without realizing that it is the intact historic commercial district that gives it its charm. The loss of the building at 112-118 W. Main Street would be a detriment to the overall historic integrity of downtown Troy, leaving a huge gap in the streetscape along our town’s most traveled route.
The Troy Planning Commission needs to do what is best for Troy and the preservation of its historic downtown by voting to deny the application to demolish this irreplaceable building.
— M. Chris Manning