GALION — For quite awhile now, Galion has been a hot spot for tourists searching for and hoping to learn about historic landmarks. City Law Director Thomas Palmer, president of Preserving Galion Inc., has taken those requests to heart and has given dozens of tours at the Gill House on Harding Way West.
Built in 1903, the Gill House is the last remaining home of this particular style in the world. It was designed by renowned architect Louis Kamper from Detroit, Michigan. Preserving Galion Inc. has taken it upon themselves to restore the home to its grandeur, renovating one room a year in the house.
Palmer recently posted on his personal Facebook page about giving a tour of the Gill House to two couples from the Louisville, Kentucky area and said that was just the tip of the iceberg as people from all over have been known to visit Galion to tour historic sites.
“We get tours and requests all the time,” Thomas said. “We literally have people outside of Galion inside the Gill House…about 50 people a month. It’s really busy. So each time that happens we ask them how they learned about us.
“The people from Kentucky had learned about us through Destination Mansfield, which is the conventions visitor’s bureau in Mansfield. We, at the Gill House, are members of Destination Mansfield and they market us just like they do Oak Hill Cottage and Mansfield Reformatory and Richland Carrousel Park in Richland County.
“Different people will find out different ways. Others have found the Gill House through Facebook and we have a lot of word-of-mouth,” he said. “We do a lot of marketing, as much as we can on our Facebook page and elsewhere to help make people aware of the Gill House. We have a pretty steady stream of interest from people in Detroit because the person who designed the Gill House is a very famous architect from Detroit. Everyone knows him up there. And the Gill House is the last surviving house of its kind that this architect designed, so they like the pictures and coming down and visiting.”
Palmer said that those who have toured the Gill House are most fascinated by two different things.
“First is the architecture, not only is it a famous architect, but it’s an extraordinarily beautiful place that people are interested in because we’re renovating it one room at a time and restoring it. They like to see that kind of progress. And then the other thing they like is the history because the Gill House has been visited by Thomas Edison and Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, and we tell the stories of the famous people who have come to the Gill House and how they are connected to the home. People love hearing that kind of stuff.”
He added that Preserving Galion Inc. has the only surviving set — that they know of — of the Louis Kamper blueprints, because his studio burned in the 1950s.
“The original owners gave them to the next owners and they gave them to the next owners and they gave them to us and we have all the original blueprints to the house,” Palmer said.
In the past, Preserving Galion Inc. has also steered history buffs toward Brownella Cottage for tours, but noted this summer Brownella Cottage is not hosting tours.
“We’ll also encourage people to walk up and down the streets of uptowne,” he said. “And the Gill House also hosts paranormal events and when those people came in — before the Sleep Inn closed — they would stay there And they are always eating dinner in Galion and getting pizza delivered, so it’s a real good thing for the Galion economy. We don’t make a huge dent in it ourselves, but we contribute a lot.
“We promote everybody we can,” Thomas said. “We promote as many Galion attractions as we can.”
One of the finished areas of the Gill House in Galion. Preserving Galion, the group working to restore the local landmark, has a goal of refurbishing one room each year.
Many in Galion can remember seeing the big porch that looked out on Harding Way West. The house is at the corner of Gill Avenue and Harding Way. Due to safety concerns, the porch was removed several years ago.
This is how the big porch at the Gill House in Galion looks today. It is hoped that one day the porch will look as it decades ago.
The Gill House has become a popular place for high schoolers to take prom photos.