Friday, June 17, 2011

Voting Booth burned to the ground last night

When I got to work this morning, I could not believe my eyes.

The little portable Voting Booth on the south side of our building was completely destroyed by fire around midnight last night. While we don't know who did it, we do know that there is no way it happened on its own. The building was not electrified, there were no storms in the area last night, and there was absolutely no way people were not involved. Whether it was intentional or a terrible accident that got out of control, we don't know.

What we do know is a piece of Stark County's history is now GONE.

I received a call in 2003 from Habitat for Humanity who was working on a project in the southeast end of town. They said there was an outbuilding on the property that was being used as a shed, but they thought it might have originally been a portable voting booth. They were used throughout Stark County through the mid-20th century, probably the late 1950s. They were placed in the precincts and used as a polling place.

Since we preserve both local and presidential history, it was a perfect opportunity for us. We saved it and brought it to the grounds.

I created an exhibit on voting history to put inside it. Panels talked about the Front Porch Campaign, the 1900 re-election, voting booth history, and general voting highlights over the years. It was open seasonally, free of charge.

Last fall we had the Voting Booth moved to make way for the wind turbine. We had a cement slab poured for it, and we made plans to enhance the exhibit sometime this year.

We are all just so very sad that the Voting Booth was destroyed. Personally, it was the first historic structure I had a part in saving, and I am really going to miss it.

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