Bob Hunker discusses the creation of the Peninsula Group with the intention of preserving Valley buildings and heritage. Hunker reflects on his work in the preservation of Bronson Church and the historical development and changes to the organization and preservation endeavors in Cleveland. The Cuyahoga Valley Heritage Association as it is now known is discussed, with the goal being the balance between preservation and development. Hunker also discusses challenges posed to his organization, such as deed restrictions and foundation policies.
Hunker, Bob (interviewee)
Grindall, Karen (interviewer)
Rivers Roads and Rails 2008
"Bob Hunker Interview, 2008" (2008). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 517038.
Transcription sponsored by Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Karen Grindall [00:00:02] Mr. Hunker, we're going to turn on the tape recorder and Steve's job is to monitor making sure that we're getting the right volume off of the microphone. I'm going to be asking you the questions, so I can't wait to hear your story. And we'll spend about an hour.
Bob Hunker [00:00:25] Okay.
Karen Grindall [00:00:25] And when we... In the next few weeks, you'll receive a copy in a WAV file format on a CD of our interview. Okay?
Bob Hunker [00:00:36] Put your two names on right here, if you will, please. See, this is what I was talking about.
Steve Testa [00:00:51] Mhm.
Karen Grindall [00:00:51] Oh, okay.
Bob Hunker [00:00:51] But never mind. You're not really... I was all off base on... [crosstalk] It's all sorted out now. Alright.
Karen Grindall [00:01:09] You're just, you know, I hate that when people say just a teacher. I am a teacher. Okay.
Steve Testa [00:01:16] We're ready.
Karen Grindall [00:01:16] Ready?
Steve Testa [00:01:16] Mhm.
Bob Hunker [00:01:17] Now, which way am I to speak?
Karen Grindall [00:01:21] You just... This is a very sensitive microphone.
Bob Hunker [00:01:23] Okay, so you'll pick it all up.
Karen Grindall [00:01:25] It picks up even things outside... [crosstalk]
Bob Hunker [00:01:26] Okay. Fine. Alright. Good. [crosstalk]
Karen Grindall [00:01:32] Do what I tell students. No, I don't tell students to do that. Okay. Ready?
Steve Testa [00:01:38] Mhm.
Karen Grindall [00:01:39] I have Mr. Hunker with me this afternoon. And Mr. Hunker, I have a couple of basic questions I'd like to ask you first before we begin our detailed questions. Mr. Hunker, when were you born?
Bob Hunker [00:01:52] I was born in what is City Hospital, Summa, West Market Street, Akron, Ohio.
Karen Grindall [00:02:00] When were you born?
Bob Hunker [00:02:01] 1927.
Karen Grindall [00:02:03] Can you tell us about where you went to school when you were young? All the way up to when...
Bob Hunker [00:02:08] Okay. Yeah, I went to Lockwood Grade School? One through eight, which is at Lockwood Corners, Portage Lakes. And then I took my high school four years at Coventry High School. And then shall I go on?
Karen Grindall [00:02:26] Yes.
Bob Hunker [00:02:26] And then when I graduated, I went to Case Western Reserve. At that time it was Western Reserve. I was supposed to go to Princeton with my cousins or because I studied architecture to the University of Pennsylvania, which I happened to like very much. But the war was on and I was drafted. But I because of some early illness when I was 13, I was considered for out, which I thought wouldn't you know, it would change if I went up, back again. So anyway, I went up there for the summer and I fell in love with Cleveland. And having grown up in the country, although we traveled a lot and went everywhere, I liked the city. And so I stayed. And I think it's a very good university. They had wonderful 100 courses that introduced you to everything. And so anyway, I'm very happy to have been a part of it, which is now Case Western Reserve, and I guess it's Case.
Karen Grindall [00:03:34] So you have lived in Ohio all of your life?
Bob Hunker [00:03:37] Yes, I do have a residence in New York City, in the Village, for 50 years, I guess. The same one 27 years.
Karen Grindall [00:03:52] Okay. Robert, we... In doing some reading background, I understand that you were involved in the original Peninsula group that was very interested in saving part of or as much of the Valley as possible, the Cuyahoga Valley, can you give us some information on that organization that you, I believe, were one of the original members of?
Bob Hunker [00:04:19] I started it.
Karen Grindall [00:04:20] Okay.
Bob Hunker [00:04:22] Yes. I grew up at Portage Lakes at Long Lake, and then Turkeyfoot Island. My parents lived there for fifty years, their final years, both died there, and so Akron was considered the city for me. And when I finished with university, my degree was a B.S. in Economics, although I went to study Architecture, and then I studied some interior design and I decided that it was a business. And if you're aesthetically and artistically inclined, that you should learn the things that you probably wouldn't learn or that you needed to have somebody shove you into. So I went into Economics and so I have a personal degree in Architecture, but my real degree is Economics. And someone along the way said if you are gonna do anything good business, you have to sell. And I do that. That is something, you know, if you're going to be successful, you have to sell yourself or sell your product or whatever it is. And they told me that one of the best places to get rounded education was a department. And at that time, department stores were everything. They were wonderful. So there was an opportunity. And there weren't a lot of opportunities in 1949 for employment. It was like that. So I went to work at M. O'Neil Co. in their design department, and I was there less than two years and got fired because I took... Anyway it was a wholly personal thing and everybody supported me and I went into business on West Market Street in an old house that I restored and got free rent for two years for investing some funds I had for it. And I stayed there until 1962. And there's an involvement of how I got there so that I got to Peninsula, and I bought this old barn. I wanted a barn. And I thought this out very carefully. But the place at that time in New York, Akron, Cleveland, Canton, I went there down to Millersburg and Columbus with what I was doing and the design. And I had two partners, one licensed in architecture so I didn't have to get a license, which I did all except the last course and it just was troublesome and I was busy and so I didn't do it. That was a big mistake. At any rate, I took this barn and decided that we would turn it into our offices. And that's where we are now at the corner of 303 at Riverview. And we had just started. I really paid no attention to the village at all. I drove through it from Yellow Creek Road in Bath, which is where I was living, and I would drive Riverview. You went up to Warner Road and across at Lee Road and that took you into Shaker Square. And at that time I knew that [I-]271 and of course the [Ohio] Turnpike was a reality and that there would be a connection. And I wanted to be close to the airport. Actually, at that time you went to Lakefront Airport. There was no Cleveland Hopkins Airport. At any rate, I wanted someplace that was convenient to all of these different modes of transportation. So that took me to where I am. I got gasoline to at the corners down here at Akron-Peninsula Road at 303 and asked 'em one day, is there a farm or a barn around for sale. And they said, yes, so I went up and I bought it. So that's how I got to Peninsula. So I'm only there are a couple of months. And my dad, who retired at 53 and liked all this sort of thing, so he took over the building project and he said, there's the lady keeps coming up here asking for you. So he told her I'd be there the next day to see how things were going. And it was Lily Fleder, and she wanted to save the Bronson Church. And so she talked with me about it and realized that it was a sensible thing to do. They wanted to move it to Hale Farm and that would have denuded Peninsula, which was fast being torn down or burnt. The G.A.R. hall was slated for a fire drill and the old hotel was still there, but it was slated to be torn down and it was torn down. So anyway, [to] make a long story short, we got involved and she became allied with Awadi Reynolds and another woman in Hudson, and they were facing the battle of saving the bank building, which is the square it had to that was to be torn down and the whole north side of the square turned into a parking lot. So these women were very successful and very determined. And they brought Helen Duprey Bullock from the National Trust. That was a smaller disaster at that time. And at that time, there wasn't a single member in Summit or Cuyahoga County except me. So anyway, they brought Helen Bullock here and she suggested that we start a heritage association. So we Lily and I got together and we started the Hudson Historical Heritage Association and the Peninsula Heritage Association. And I had a party at my house and we all got together. Helen was there, and things took off. We did our bylaws and all that sort of thing, and that was before you had 501(c)(3)s, so we started. We had the first meeting and I have a card here I'm going to give you if you want it. And we called it the Historical... Heritage Association and the whole of it we realized that the canal was so important and our logo is a mule pulling a canal boat. So the board and the first meeting, Bob Bordner, who was the press columnist that started the Peninsula Python, spoke up and said, you know, and I had said we don't have important architecture, we have a couple of things, but we don't have the architecture that Hudson has. And we essentially are very different because Peninsula at that point, I'd become very interested in it. And it was called the seaport of the Western Reserve. So we'd each decided we would split, go our own ways. And at that point we decided that the thrust should be the Valley and the canal. And so we decided to change the day to the Peninsula Valley Heritage Association. And that's how the first portion of it started. And with that came... There was a group of artists after the First World War or the Second World War, which I was talking about when I got out of college, started a whole colony of artists, the Peninsula Players, which is the Peninsula Players part of it and so forth. So we rounded them all up and they all wanted to save it, they wanted to save the Valley. So along the way, we changed the name to the Valley Association and by that time, John Seiberling was involved with it. So I was the first president. I wrote the bylaws. I was fairly... Well everything except we had some very good people. Tres Pincher who was Secretary of General Tire was our legal counsel and secretary, and Henry Saalfield with Saalfield Publishing was vice president and Lily, the Benders, the Congers. And so anyway, we added the Roushes, which is the G.A.R. Foundation, they were involved and she particularly was interested. She had started the library in Peninsula so and report back. At any rate, we decided that we wanted to save the Valley and Galen Roush was a logical one for money, and he was tight as birch on a bark tree, or bark on a birch tree, and he wouldn't give you anything. He said, Oh, that's a wonderful idea. The Garden Club should do something about it. So we went to the state and we had some clout with the state. But the state really were not interested. And we thought about farm, national forests, that sort of thing. And I have a lot of experience because of my family and traveling when I was young. We went to a number of the national parks, so I was very familiar with them and some of the others were as well. So we said, okay, the only thing we'd do is go for a national park. And it was the third year that... We knew John Seiberling. All of us were friends and he lived on Martin Road. John said, well, I'd like to be a part of this. So in my living room, Tres Pincher said what we need is a lobbyist. Well, we can't afford a lobby. And we patched that around a bit. John spoke up and said, well, I'm not so happy being an attorney at Goodyear, although my family started it. So I'll take a two-year leave of absence and run for Congress if you'll help me get elected and find the money. Well, it was much, much easier. Bill Ayres was the Republican and very popular, but he was drinking, and even my mother, who was president of the Republican Club, was just enamored with him and so she said, yes, she would even help so that gave us a real big jumpstart into the election. And the first fundraiser was up at Black Acre Farm, which the Pinchers owned in that riding Rita, which is still up there, we played it up, and that was the first batch of money that we got. John got elected to Congress. And that part of it is really all history. But before the park got involved, I was involved with the Blossom Music Center where it was and getting George Szell down, and all of the emphasis that we could get for the Valley that could possibly be an asset in getting it on a national attention basis. So when Blossom opened, John said, well, let's have hearings and have it at Blossom Music Center. So there were... I think there were 30 Congressmen and Senators that came, and they were so impressed with the whole thing. And Blossom was wonderful. It was a day like this. We were blessed with absolutely marvelous weather. And so we decided, Siegfried Buerling was involved at that point, and John said, well, we'll have cocktails at Stan Hywet and go over to Hale Farm. And they came to my house and I had a dinner party for them. And I think Peninsula had never seen anything like it since the canal days. And, you know, we had security people 'cause all of them had come from the hotels and buses and so forth. And everybody... The moon came out and it was a great night. And so that was one of the things that really got it rolling in Congress. And as you know, the act was passed and in 1975 and all of that part of it. So those really are the grass roots. If it hadn't been probably for Lily Fleder and myself and the other people banding together because they felt there was something there, we wouldn't be here today. That may be very egotistical of me, but.
Karen Grindall [00:17:32] That's okay.
Bob Hunker [00:17:33] I think that, that's really the way it is. [laughs]
Karen Grindall [00:17:35] That's what we want to hear—the story. Because many of us were not, you know, privileged to be there at that time. So.
Bob Hunker [00:17:42] And then I was on the National Park Advisory Board for ten years until it was dissolved. And you may want to go through this in your own way. And if I'm ahead of you, just stop me.
Karen Grindall [00:17:57] No. no, no, no.
Bob Hunker [00:17:57] One of the other things which I think is particularly interesting as to how the park boundaries were defined. And there are two particular incidents. The first was a major one. You know the map we were talking about, that's the line. Okay. I found Blossom Music Center with the Pinchers' young son, because we rode our horses. I have been a... I had a horse, pony since I was five years old. So we rode up and we found the valley where the base is and we would go and have picnics and things. So I really knew the valley. And when we started this and one evening the Roushes and Weinbergs and Cooks used to take a walk and it was a beautiful cold night and they were up at the top of where the Environmental Education Center is now. And I was with them and we walked out and Gaylen's there, and Tres said, Gaylen, wouldn't you like to see all this preserved before you go? Well he said, yes, but I'm not going anywhere. [laughs] And that, I must say, is whenever we thought we needed a federal thing.
Karen Grindall [00:19:26] Mhm.
Bob Hunker [00:19:27] But you could see the outline of the valley. So we used to be down on West Market Street, right where Merriman Road comes to West Market, where the cemetery is, the building is still extant. It was an old house and I can't recall who it was, but at any rate, whoever it was that owned the building—I think it was the realtor that had built these apartments next to it—said we could use it and it was set up for the association. And what was the dining room of this house, and there were, I don't know, there was to be probably 15 or 16 of us with the park board meeting. It was hot. It was ugly. And we were there for three hours. John, myself, discussing how do we do it? So I kept looking at it and I know how to read topographical maps. And there's that elevation 999. And that was just like this at the ridge.
Karen Grindall [00:20:32] Mhm.
Bob Hunker [00:20:32] So I said, why don't we use 999? Well, what do you mean? Some of the men and women did not understand that. So John and I quickly pointed out where the 990 was, took a marker went around like this. That's 999. And so they ended up by passing a resolution to push the 999 with adjustments made to the actual ownership or any other particular natural boundary. So I think that interesting that that's how 999 got started. The other thing, when [Nick] Mileti started the Coliseum, the park boundary did not extend up to [I-]271. It stopped shy of that. So Mileti bought a brick house on 303 about where the sign is and had the people, the people to whom they sold it, which was Mileti, he had the idea that all of that side of the east side of 271 would be commercial. And so we started up buying the land and started buying up where Ebbetts and all of that. Loretta, I always want to say Loretta Young, Loretta was a John's wonderful assistant that did everything. Newman. So Loretta Newman and I had been good friends, and she stayed with me when she would come and we followed this 999 and so forth. But when I got wind that Mileti had bought this house, the woman owned it was related to my office manager who was a Conger. I quickly got her on the phone. We didn't have faxes or any of that sort of thing, but we both knew and so we'd get a map out and she said, I'm writing the boundary now. Well, will John and them pass it if you change it? They were to come up and use the boundary of the Peninsula.
Karen Grindall [00:22:44] Mhm.
Bob Hunker [00:22:44] And she said yes. So we changed the description to follow 271. Well, of course, Mileti was livid. And I belonged to the Cleveland Yacht Club, [and] he belonged to the Cleveland Yacht Club. And so, you know, I knew him very well. And he screamed and hollered at me on the phone and what I was trying to do to bankrupt him. And so, you know, that was that was that was that. So that put an end as far as Mileti was concerned and coming across the valley. The other little incident, which I think is interesting, is the Hale Farm Cemetery. And my parents are buried there and we have an obelisk like the old ones with Hunker on it. And I have a spot, thank God, without the last date on it, and my sister as well. So that was another one and we sat in one of these legacy meetings. At that time, it was not in Akron. It was at Hale Farm right in the farmhouse downstairs. And they said, well, this is a problem. And one of the Hales was the black sheep of the family, decided they had to look after it with burial but they didn't want him in the confines of the cemetery as they had dedicated it. So here we set and here's the cemetery and over here is the black sheep, Hale. So they said, well, what do they do? You can't have this. This had to remain an entity. The park couldn't own it. And it belonged to Bath Township. So I said, well, why don't you just make the cemetery bigger and put him in the cemetery? There isn't anything that says you can't and even the Hales' original deed said that if it were necessary, the cemetery boundary could be expanded. Well, they said, oh, it'd be a terrible problem. We won't know what to do with this land. We'd be best with it... Just terrible. I said, well, I'll buy four lots. And Seigfried [Buerling] said, I'll buy six lots. [Bill] Birdsell who was bad, he said, I'll buy two lines. Frank Cafferty is a Catholic family, O'Neils was lots of kids, he would buy. So that sold. Everything sold. We all signed the papers that we were responsible. We would buy them with the Peninsula Nightclub. And at that time it was the Peninsula Nightclub and I owned it, and we all had more than enough to drink and celebrated. The downside of it... Because all of us thinking, you know, oh, we're young. We're never going to need these. It's gonna be ages. Well, the terrible thing is within the first year, Seigfried's son was killed accidentally before he graduated up here on Riverview Road. And so he had to use his. And it wasn't even months until Bill Birdsell fell dead in the office at the park. So he had to use it. And so in that period of one year, it was almost like a curse, actually, that two of our best people were affected by essentially what we did, but not really. And we're all very happy to have it. And the other thing was that they said, called up a couple of weeks later and tried to do the deeds for the lots. They said, I can't it. Why not? Well, because you have had to have lived at least two to three years, whatever it was, in Bath Township. Well, I had lived at Yellow Creek Road, which is Bath Township, for five years, so it was fine. So there we are. Those are some of the incidents that come back to me very quickly that I think are important.
Karen Grindall [00:26:53] Can you tell us a little bit about this very first organization as far as... I hear that some of the people didn't even live within Peninsula, in the valley. What was their desire that, to get them involved? What did they want?
Bob Hunker [00:27:17] You're saying they didn't live in the incorporated area of Peninsula?
Karen Grindall [00:27:21] Some of them...
Bob Hunker [00:27:21] Well, that's correct. The first people who did, that worked on it that first year, did live...
Karen Grindall [00:27:29] Okay.
Bob Hunker [00:27:30] In the village or Boston Township.
Karen Grindall [00:27:35] Okay.
Bob Hunker [00:27:35] And Boston Township and Peninsula are almost synonymous, and originally, you know, we were all part of Portage County. And Boston down here was developed and designated and settled but before Peninsula because this whole area was considered a swampland, mosquito-ridden and not desirable. And it wasn't until Bronson could see the commercial value of the river and the canal... I don't mean the canal, the Peninsula, and the wood. And he came and of course also it was an opportunity for him to get land less expensive. The prices out here at Boston were much more. And it was, you know, very, very inexpensive to have something in that Peninsula area. And so he had the first sawmill on what they called Sawmill Creek that comes around behind the G.A.R. Hall. It is the water that feeds the the quarry. So the two of them are just, you know, like this, meshed together. And we still are, we still have our good points and our bad points. So it really everybody sort of thought that, and still, I think that Peninsula and Boston Township are the same. And in a way they are. So when we... And it was Bob Warner's exact words, what do you really want? The main thing is the canal and the river. And we kept saying all along and I would give talks, I did 110 television shows with Paige Palmer and this would keep coming up, and Paige at 90 something still lives over on Revere Road. And she was a great advocate for the park that got us a lot of really good publicity. And my father, who knew Ohio very well from hunting and so forth, and they all would keep exclaiming if it had not been for the governor's decree to blast the canal in 1913 flood, we would have a canal system like there is in France. And a lot of us had been on the canal in France and understood that aspect of it. And the dream was right then was to open up the canal, which has now come to fruition with the canal, Ohio and Erie Canal Coalition and so forth. So with that, it was... Everybody that involved wanted to save the valley and it caught on and up and down. And the first thing that the day that I first talked about it on television, that incidentally I have the tapes from all of my shows intact and they're still usable. They're audios. You didn't have visuals, we only had the audio... Was that we did to have this central park, just as Central Park in New York is the center of that megalopolis. This is a megalopolis, and the way we're expanding, Cleveland, Akron, it'll all just be one great big encompassing city or thereabouts, just like Manhattan now is five boroughs but it's one city. And here's the park and the park is here and it's gonna be here, I guess, forever. So that's how it got on. It went right straight up and people became interested. And Blossom made a big difference because it brought people here that would never have come to Cuyahoga Valley. If Blossom Music Center had been put out east of Cleveland at Waite Hill in that area where they wanted it to be, they would have been going that way. They would have never been exposed to it. Does that answer your question?
Karen Grindall [00:31:40] Yes, it does.
Bob Hunker [00:31:40] [Laughs] Too lengthy, perhaps.
Karen Grindall [00:31:41] No. Excellent. What is your favorite part of the park right now?
Bob Hunker [00:31:50] I never thought about that. And probably because, you know, why would I think about it? To me, I see it all, you know, just like a big emerald. I was so impressed wihen someone pointed out to me the Emerald Necklace. And I belonged to the Trails and Riding Club long before the park got involved up at Chagrin. And we would have a two overnighter that we rode the Emerald Necklace from west, east to Squire's Castle. And I just think of it, you know, like a necklace around some dowager or royalty with an even bigger diamond hanging down the bottom of it. That's the way I see this. I do get an enormous amount of satisfaction of driving Peninsula to the south side, up and down Riverview and Akron-Peninsula and Locust. It presents the part I see the most, so maybe that's why it's a favorite of mine. I'm certainly not, you know, Peninsula's great, but it's not the park.
Karen Grindall [00:33:18] Let's talk a little bit about Peninsula. In background readings I found that people really were very intent on wanting to keep that as a community within the park. And I believe you've been involved in making sure that it stays here too, a wonderful place for people to come to. Can you talk a little bit about the town of Peninsula? I think you own a lot of it, don't you?
Bob Hunker [00:33:46] Yeah. Well, there's some others who are a good bit too.
Karen Grindall [00:33:50] Okay.
Bob Hunker [00:33:50] And it all came about... So I got awfully angry with the one Roush son. There's two of 'em that live in New York. The one is a doctor, and he wrote me a very snotty letter, saying, you know, you're a real estate developer. I'm not a real estate developer at all. I... We got involved with all of this... I could see. But it's the way it was and where the railroad station and all that was the dump. There was no railorad station. We moved it down. It was a real dump, I mean, everything was just terrible. And I like things to be attractive, not formal particularly, but my great-great-grandfather was responsible with John Stanton for starting New Stanton, Pennyslvania, which is a stop on the highway, on the turnpike. And I went there, of course, when I was a couple of years old. But then I wouldn't... I would stay with my grandmother and I'd walk up and down and down the hill and the mill. And there were a lot of things that suddenly Peninsula reminded me of New Stanton, which now is a dreadful place, and I could see, you know, a personal involvement and how a marvelous place was destroyed as New Stanton has been destroyed. And my family owned a good bit of it. They owned where the the turnpike entrance is. And so I just thought that Peninsula needed a plan. And I did sketches, which I have, that showed using the area of the east or West Bell Street that goes down to where the railroad station [is]. That's where the old station is. It's on the original foundation. So I did a sketch of that with the development of it and sort of making that the town square, and Peninsula, if I give a lecture, I say it's the first strip development in Ohio or particularly in northern Ohio because there was no place for a square. And the only logical thing, you know, people... You didn't have bulldozers and you moved earth around. So there is the Peninsula and here the people would come. And I have some marvelous letters, one in particular written by a woman when I came in '62, '63, the date on the letter is '63 and she was 92. So that's over 100 years now. And she told about them going down after church, and they would take their picnic baskets and their buggies, and a lot of people didn't have a proper what you called a vehicle other than wagons. Anyway, they put their stuff while they would go down. The kids swam. They fished. They caught fish and fried them over open fires. They had baseball games and so forth. And that was in the Peninsula. And that really essentially was the town square as opposed to like Richfield and Hudson with their proper town square. And it is my dream at this point to see that restored. The septic system, sewage plant, which is down there, it's on land that the foundation owns now and is used by the Winking Lizard. If we ever get water and sewer that'll be gone, and we'll have an open stretch and be able to access the old riverbed. So, without any help from government or anything like that with that plan, and Velma Conger, Charlie Conger's wife, had been at Old Trail School for many years as their office manager, just as superintendent. And when her last child graduated from Old Trail, she worked there because then she got free tuition for the kids. They're living in Peninsula and she came to work for me. So she had a lot of interconnections with all that sort of thing. And I knew the people. She knew who they were. The drafts, they have a little booklet and so forth. So anyway, it was my vision to see it. The first properties were bought just because they came up and nobody wanted to buy them, and it developed in that manner. The G.A.R. Hall I bought for ten dollars. They were burning it down and Lily [Fleder] came and said, Bob, they're gonna burn that place down. And I bought it from the VFW. And then it was a case of pooling the money. And it was my money. It was what I made in my design business which has done this. I've never gotten anything outside of the foundation. It's had gifts now, very nicely this past year. We had a nice funding drive, but otherwise it's my children, you know, I'm single. My sister is single. She lives in San Francisco and neither of us have, although we have huge family of cousins and we're all very close to them, we have no need to leave anything to them. So. If either of us had children and had to educate them, we would have not had the money to put into these projects. And my father was very interested. He sought to them. My father in 1920 went west and I wrote a thing about how I got involved and was initiating into the national parks and became familiar with 'em. I borught a copy if you wanted to have it. But Dad visited, in 1920 and '22, Yellowstone, stayed there for two years, so he wanted to take us. So I was 10 when we went. We camped. It was... You could do anything you wanted. So by the time I was 15, I had been in every state in the Union, Canada, and Mexico. And everywhere we went, if Dad had been there, he knew about it and they got books and my mother was certainly no teacher or anything, but she was on the school board down at Coventry Township. And, you know, she would get books. We would read. You'd read about Buffalo Bill. We went up the East Coast and followed Paul Revere's ride and did all those sort of things. I was just instilled in history. And so I thought that's what should happen to Peninsula. And right now we're going through a real struggle, nd it's been in the newspaper. The idea, and this is one thing that John Debo really likes and has encouraged us, is to have a living village, not like even part of Hudson, but particularly to the west at Richfield. Yeah, the houses there, they're Greek revival, they're restored. But there's nobody there, you know, the offices of somebody in real estate or there's a flower shop or an attorney and they come and go. And some people say it's not compatible. But you go to Williamsburg and I haven't been to Williamsburg for quite a long while. I was there with Orin Bullock, Helen Bullock's first husband, was the first architect, and my parents took us there. It just had opened and people were living in the houses. And today people live in those houses. The administrator has a marvelous house there. So why not? We can live there. We have to control the tourists. You can't give away to the tourists for financial reasons, although we need the money and you have to weigh those two, but we have a faction, a very small faction, I feel, in Peninsula that really don't care and they'd just as soon see the golf course turned into a housing development, try to put as many things that as you can. And those few that have some property... There's none of it that's any great amount. The one family, the Conger Farm now owned by the Bender family, which are direct heirs, they don't want to develop like that. They want to keep it the way... They would like to keep it as a working farm as it was when the first Conger came there in 1820. So we're we're at a critical point. I'm on council and we don't have enough people that have the right direction on council. So I don't know whether that tells you my involvement, but I intend to be involved. And then the other thing, and that to all things you know, there is something which is self-serving. So I read Harrison and I read Seiberling Harrison from, you know, from Stan Hywet. He's a good friend of ours, she was a friend of my mother's. And for a number of years when I moved the Peninsula from Yellow Creek Road and into the barn, I had a little lunch for the Seiberling... For her and her children whom I knew the day before Christmas. So we were sitting there and she said, Bob, what are you going to do with this? And your collection? It's not collections that I would [go] out and buy, as people do with things. That had come through my family or gifts. There's a story behind everything. And so the barn... In September, we hope to have a grand opening. It'll be the designer's barn. It's... My house will be opened to the public and we have a library, a very good library of three thousand books, all on the decorative arts and maintain a history and of the Valley, particularly everything that pertains to Peninsula and the Valley. So we... I thought I don't know what to do. She says we should make it into Stan Hywet. I was the first curator at Stan Hywet and one of the founders, with my dad and mother. And I actually went over, night after night, with Dad and Irene and Fred Seiberling—that's John's father—and moved the furniture. And because I'd been in a lot of museums and places, I remembered things, and one of them was that, how you would protect fabrics that people for moving. And so the portieres, I got the idea of taking veil, you know that women wear, and my mother was a nut about hats and she would go and they made a hat. And she wasn't a rich woman or anything, but she seemed always to have enough to get herself a new hat. And so I would see that milliner pull out these bolts of netting, and they were wide, so I asked Mother what it is. So anyway, with Mother's help, we bought the netting, and it was taken, and Irene and my mother and an couple of others, they would stitch it down the back like the portieres going in there, and they still use that, not that netting, but netting so that people go by that it's protected. Sterling Aldifer gave us fabric to cover it and so forth. That's sort of getting off of the... of the track. [laughs]
Karen Grindall [00:45:58] Absolutely fine. What a wonderful story.
Bob Hunker [00:46:02] But anyway, because of Irene and the experience of opening Stan Hywet, I said, well, I think... Oh, no, she said, that's a great idea. So I began thinking about it. I talked to my sister and I called an attorney, and we had somebody in Cleveland that took care of our small estates, small is what you need to look after. And my dad was always one that said every year we would have a family meeting, just the four of us. My mother never liked to think of death, but he would insist so that we all knew where everybody was, what we were doing and where the box of papers were, that sort of thing. And I continued to do that when I was in business. And my mother was the first treasurer and wrote the checks and was involved in the whole thing. So anyway, we talked to them about the tax burdens and what would happen, what would happen with the properties, and certainly my sister knew that I thought that everything in Peninsula should stay as it is, as far as it's sensible and possible. You do have to make adjustments and changes. But it could be, as I described, a living community. So anyway, we started the Robert L. Hunker Historic Preservation Foundation as of the January 1st of this year, I changed it—and I have a board of trustees that are very helpful—to the Peninsula Valley Historic and Education Foundation. And the purposes are for Peninsula, the archives for the decorative arts, and anything with Peninsula and the surrounding area, which now encompasses Peninsula. And I know some of the Mellons, some better than others. But Mellon that started the National Gallery, someone I know just recently wrote a biography about him. And so I read it and he was adamant about having the National Gallery without the Mellon name on it. And that made good sense to me. So we talked it over and the trustees thought that it would be a good idea to change it. So we have and everything that I have when I did, and my sister, with a few exceptions, will go into the foundation. I say, well everything including my dirty laundry. So, all of the properties which the foundation or I own or my sister own will be in the foundation, and that doesn't mean that they are tax exempt. We have only one that's tax exempt. That's the Bronson Church, and it's been tax exempt since Mr. Bronson had it. So all of the others we pay real estate taxes, we pay 60,000 a year in taxes to the village of Peninsula, 30,000 goes to Woodridge School. And Peninsula has... For the few kids that are in Peninsula, you could send them all to Western Reserve Academy for what they take out of our taxes. So there's some equalities, inequalities like that that cause our financial problems as far as the village is concerned. So everything that has deed restrictions, and it goes with the land so it can't be changed, and the only real zoning is a deed restriction because zoning can be changed. It's been proven over and over and over. But one of the things that particularly focused me on this is in Canton. On Market Street, there's a section that—I got the copies of the deeds and so forth—in 1927, it was set up and it's been tried to break five times and it's never been able to break. It goes with the land. This is what you could do. That's what you can't do. And so each one of the properties has its own diagram. And we just recently, and oh, where the Bronson Church is, that is a dedicated street and at one time it went around it and it was called Church Street and there was like a carriage drive, which we just two years ago restored so that we have extra parking. So the house next to it, a man in his 50s, Paul Castro, had worked for me and was hard to get along with, but for some reason we got along, and he had five lots, a house, and a barn. And when he died, his last thing he wrote on the day he died on a pad which they've given to me at the hospital was see Hunker and his foundation gets my house. So the family were very good. We paid more than the appraised value. So I negotiated to buy the whole parcel and then came along Jonathan Holiday and his wife, who his family lived next door to Paul, and they said we would like to own the house, so we were able to divide it with five lots. So two lots go along Route 303, and the church and the rest of it they have. So they have given [inaudible] easements to the foundation, and the foundation is able to police those. The foundation has put into the deeds for the church exactly what can happen and can't happen. So we have a plot plan of the five lots, his house where the old toilet was that that could be you could put a wing here, no more than that. And the goal for the church is that we need a place for brides and grooms. You need restrooms. We need an orientation that is other than the park. And when Bronson started the church, every church would have a rectory or an academy. And of course, it was all private schooling until the nineteen, whatever it was, 60-something, whenever our public school we got went through in Ohio. So instead of Bronson putting it adjacent to the church, the house next to him and his relatives with the minister and ran the academy, and that was the academy and kids from outside laying out foreign countries would come and stay over during the week. So there was never a proper building attached to the church that if they wanted some extra amenities, the Bronsons opened their house or the academy opened it and then of course, it became private property. So it's my view to either hopefully find an old Greek Revival or a Stick Victoria, which is typical also of Peninsula. And it could only be a certain size. It can only go where we all agreed to put it and it would be adjacent to the church for the amenities, and I said the interior could be whatever it wishes unless we got a building that has a particularly good interior. So we have gotten two other private owners to put restrictions into their deeds. So if we could do that, then we could thumb our nose at the government and those who wish to not have it the living community that I see.
Karen Grindall [00:54:51] It sounds wonderful. Can you share with us which buildings you have already in Peninsula that you own by deed that can be a part of this living village?
Bob Hunker [00:55:06] Yeah. And if I had a map, I could really point it out to you. But it's pretty simple. Peninsula is like an elongated "H" if you look at it this way, and I'm just thinking that's terrible because everybody it's Hunkerville. [laughs] So here's 303, east and west, and here's Akron Peninsula Road, which changes to Locust and then goes up the hill like that. And here's Riverview. So that's all there really is.
Karen Grindall [00:55:50] Mhm.
Bob Hunker [00:55:50] So there is a traffic light. There's a traffic light. We own this, like this, then we own all around, comes up like this, and when it happened I didn't know. But this is where the original sawmill was and it was called Sawmill Creek, and it was somewhere like here. Then Bronson sold it to Conger and Jackson so that the Victorian house that is known as the Erastus Jackson House really was built by Conger. Conger was married and had several children. His partner, Erastus Jackson, was single. Conger died—I don't think he was even 40—and his widow married Jackson. So the greater length of time that house was known and this piece of land was known as the Erastus Jackson. And in that those old books that have the sketches and everything the people paid for to get into it. It was a prestigious thing. It's listed as the Erastus Jackson and that confuses people because it really is the Conger. And that's the one that went to the Civil War, the one that's at Akron that was really the wealthiest of the lot. At any rate, Bronson sold it to those two and then he started a brickworks right here. And then they had a tannery. And at this point, I'm confused whether the tannery was here or down here. And one of the things, and I suspect I won't live long enough to do this, but I hope someone will do it, is to have an archeological dig. I think it would be a marvelous thing from one of the universities to do because it just has to be a trove of stuff in here because of that. Now, there are pictures of it. There are sketches, of course...
Karen Grindall [00:57:56] Mhm.
Bob Hunker [00:57:56] But usually those things are relatively accurate. So that comes down and then it goes down and it goes into the, to the river. So this is all, this is, this is, this is. Then down here, the river goes through like that. Here is the Peninsula General Store, which is that used to be Bootie's of Peninsula. So now there's Yellow Creek Trading Company. Across the street from that is the Bronson Church. And now we go down to Center Street, one that isn't quite big enough. And then across here is Canal Street, and we own all of the land from there down to the river, the other side of the river. And I used to own the Peninsula Nightclub. And in the middle of that is the Nestico house. Then the next one is where the park's going, that was the Blue Heron, and next to that is the Emporium. She's putting restrictions. So both sides of the river here, I control. The park controls the rest of it. On this side of the street, Fisher's is like right here. DMT Motors is here and we own this. The village hall is here. Behind it is a property that extends way up like that called the Bullis property, who was the daughter of Mrs. Nestico. And [Mike] Kaplan when he was mayor, wanted to buy this because the Bullis woman died. It turned into a parking lot. So the foundation has bought that. We will... My sister provided some funds, not enough, but something at least to get it started, for a revolving fund. And it's a little bit like Savannah has. They have much more money and a much bigger city, but the foundation buys it, restores it, puts the restrictions on, and resells it to a private individual. And that's what will happen to this. Then where Fisher is, his parking lot, he's screwed it up, but that really is called Parker Court, and it goes back, and there's a chunk of land in here that connects over to the church. And this is an old ice house and a cheese factory and that's on to the river. So we own all of that. So by the time you look at the checkerboard of what the foundation owns with three corners here, the fourth corner having restrictions with the deed for the Boston Township schoolhouse, which is the old school. And we were smart enough when we made the agreements with Boston Township, and that was one of my projects over the school, was to put in that they could never change it. And it goes with the, with the land. So then when you come down Locust Street at here the road that goes around and over to Terry Lumber, we own the railroad station, all of the ground around the freight building across the old Peninsula, which is, they now call Boston Run up to Terry Lumber. And it goes almost over to Akron-Peninsula Road, and this goes all the way out to Locust Street. So there's this whole big chunk in here. All of this land over here, all the parking lot for the Winking Lizard, belongs, it still belongs to me. I get it into the foundation as it works from a tax standpoint. Probably the bulk of it is there now until I die because I need the income. So that when you look at this, I feel that it's pretty secure that Peninsula is not going to have a McDonald's and the things that would make it a Gatlinburg. When we were doing this park and the, I think there were 12 of us that were, let's call 'em the Twelve Disciples or something, that were the original park board, we would keep using it. John used it a lot. Gatlinburg. We don't want Gatlinburg.
Karen Grindall [01:02:38] So when you die, which is not something we all like to think of, but we know it happens, do I hear you saying that the foundation then will have ownership of many of the buildings and parcels in Peninsula so it's a wonderful way for you to leave a legacy behind with your dreams attached to it?
Bob Hunker [01:03:06] Yeah, I guess it is. Yeah it is. Yeah, they, yeah, it is a legacy. Again, you know, it would be nice to have children, but I guess we have other things because some aren't blessed with children. [laughs] These are our babies, so to speak.
Karen Grindall [01:03:28] Yes, you know, children... And one of my next questions would be, how do you blend the younger generation into your dreams?
Bob Hunker [01:03:38] Well, they're already there. For example, the Holiday couple...
Karen Grindall [01:03:43] Uh huh.
Bob Hunker [01:03:46] They're just 30.
Karen Grindall [01:03:46] Okay.
Bob Hunker [01:03:48] And they've taken the house and they're restoring it to the way it was by the people who built it. And they're not grand houses. There are all of these houses... In other words, the Holidays, if ever they—I don't think it would happen—but say they had five children, they certainly could be in here. There were probably more than five children in that house at one point. But the Preservation magazine of the last issue that prior to this are the modernists. And there's a very good quotation in there is that I don't know what are we going to save of the modernists, and what the reasons that I'm saving my house the way it is, it shows a part of the decorative arts and interior design and a lot of the designers and manufacturers. I knew them. They gave me pieces or I bought them or they were samples. I have some exact same things at that house that people could look at that are in the Museum of Modern Art and particularly in the modernist wing at the Metropolitan in New York. So anyway, it says that people thought that they recently with a mega mansions that they couldn't possibly fit even four people into twenty-five hundred square feet. You know, people were very happy with this. And one of the things is to have our zoning so it's compatible with its original plot that Bronson laid out. And these are small lots. They were small houses. They were meant for people that worked on the canal that supported themselves other than with farming and the farm barns like the one I'm in, that was one of Bronson's sons and it was dubbed the town barn and their land without, which is very similar to what it is in Europe. So if we could keep it a living village, then the young people will be there. They go down, they ride the bicycles, they go in the park. I have been down there several times because we've been trying to clean up and fix up behind the freight building and along by the creek and so forth. And I see people from the village. They walk down the street, they go in there, the kids with their bicycles, they go up to the quarry. They can go the back way. They don't have to go on 303. My dream is to get the trucks off 303. And when they got over to Streetsboro, see, they get off and they come through. Hudson has 'em diverted partially, but they save the fees, the tolls, on the turnpike if they can go on 303. So I would like to find some young person that would champion our Congress and state particularly to give free toll to anybody that, up at Route 8, that goes up and gets on the turnpike and lets them go a certain distance so that we get them off. And it would pay for them to give them free for that so we wouldn't have to maintain 303 the way we have. So I think that the young people will be there. And hopefully what we're doing, and I have to be very, very careful because people say you're trying to control their lives, control the village, it's self-serving. And that if somebody owns a piece of land—and this is coming up seems to be right at the moment, the ugly head sticks up—I should be able to do anything I want to with my piece of property.
Karen Grindall [01:07:59] Mhm.
Bob Hunker [01:07:59] And I do see some reasoning for that. Sometimes I feel that way. I have this farm done at Waynesburg, which is being sold. I've had it 14 years and I've always wanted an indoor swimming pool, even if it's just one of those Swimex's which would fit in that room up there, fifteen by twenty feet. And I'm not sure that I'm gonna be able to put what I want on the back of my house because of the restrictions [laughs] that I put on.
Karen Grindall [01:08:25] [Laughs] Restrictions that you put on.
Bob Hunker [01:08:25] Yeah, and I do understand that, and it's kind of a hard thing to swallow. But the reason our country and state is in such a mess with overdevelopment and all this strip and so forth, that one developer, we have to grow. We're never satisfied like it was when my grandparents and even when the Mellons. If they did... The first Judge Mellon that made the first big bucks, if he did as well in this year, as he did in the last five years, he was happy. They had a good living. It wasn't a case of expansion. We're not in a recession. We are simply not in an expansion. And the expansion is one percent when it's been as much as 20 percent. So there's not a place for expansion in Peninsula. And so that does create some problems. But I don't think it's a formidable problem. And, you know, Williamsburg is very structured. You only can do what you can do and that's the way it is. And if that doesn't suit you, you have some other places to go.
Karen Grindall [01:09:47] What would you consider your fondest challenge that you had that you got, you wondered in the beginning whether it was going to work, but you got to see it go all the way to its blossoming?
Bob Hunker [01:10:06] I would like to see it go all the way to the blossoming, and are you asking me what do I see as that as the worm or the bug in the blossom?
Karen Grindall [01:10:16] Yeah, sure! [laughs]
Bob Hunker [01:10:18] [laughs] It's not gonna open 'cause some borer worm got into it.
Karen Grindall [01:10:23] Oh, no.
Bob Hunker [01:10:24] Yeah. I think maybe it's our mayor a couple of councilman. [laughs] I think they could... They're really trying to put a monkey wrench into it. And it's less and less. And there was a lot of opposition to the park, and some of it... You know, when people take on a cause, they maybe have the cause at heart, but there are a great many people that are bright, and everyone seeks some identity, some have a much larger ego than others. And so all of a sudden, Mrs. So-and-so is in the paper because she stood up and objected to the park, and Mrs. So-and-so kind of likes that. And then so she keeps at it. And I know two women, one deceased and one still in Peninsula. She really likes Peninsula and she wants it to stay that way. But she also likes to have her name in the paper and be in that. And she can't realize that she could get some accolades by being positive and helpful. And I think, you know, [inaudible], all those kind of things, that there's always a certain element of it that they're there because they want to mouth off and not particularly for the cause.
Karen Grindall [01:11:57] So I assume you would see that as a hurdle that you have to deal with.
Bob Hunker [01:12:02] It's a hurdle. And I suspect one way or another it'll always be a girl. But life is always filled with those hurdles that they don't realize... The individual doesn't realize what havoc one generation can do for the other generations. Most people don't look beyond their lifespan or maybe they start looking at it when they see the pearly gates or they hope they're gonna see the pearly gates. Then all of a sudden they, you know, you become old, you know, mellow and different. But if you've taken up farmland that we're gonna need to feed people with this huge number of people that are coming into the world, you can't put topsoil back where there were buildings.
Karen Grindall [01:12:57] True. How could you foresee that the future of the blending of the people and the natural world in the park?
Bob Hunker [01:13:06] In the...
Karen Grindall [01:13:08] In the national park surrounding...
Bob Hunker [01:13:10] Yeah.
Karen Grindall [01:13:10] And Peninsula too. How do you... How do you see, now that it is several million people a year that use the park, which did not use the park before other than the Metro Park system...
Bob Hunker [01:13:23] Mhm.
Karen Grindall [01:13:23] Inside. How how do you perceive this blending of outside people and the nature that's here? How do you, where do you see that going? How do you see that working?
Bob Hunker [01:13:39] I think it'll be like the other day, [inaudible] parks. And I hadn't thought about this till right now. There are few pluses to getting old. But one of them is a reference. When I think of 11 and going to Yellowstone, and Dad would say, well, this looks like a good place. We'll camp. And having been to Yellowstone Park as recent as two years ago, you don't even get out of your car some places.
Karen Grindall [01:14:18] Correct.
Bob Hunker [01:14:18] Right. That's gonna have to come to Peninsula. And those people that I'm talking about today that are fighting, and one of the things is that we want the zoning change so my children could build a house even if it's only a quarter of an acre and they want to build a big house. That's my child's right and so forth. They're going to die. That's gonna disappear. And the government, as much as I think government is overdone, rules and regulations are going to have to shape it. And the first, I don't know whether they have some here. I don't think they keep very good archives of the park. I know they don't. There was a transportation study done in the beginning, and that was one of the things that, again, I go back to this original park board and then how do you enter and how were the people coming? And by bus. By the railroad. I think the railroad is going to be significantly important. And then it's a question of how you get it. And then it's like in Williamsburg, because I hadn't been to Williamsburg for a long time, I was impressed with how well they hid the cars and things.
Karen Grindall [01:15:48] Yeah.
Bob Hunker [01:15:48] And we're going to have to hide them. And probably one of the places... And that study was done before, well, maybe not, but certainly there was a lot of discussion about it because before the Coliseum was built, you know, where is the jumping off place? And in some ways, I did a paper on the Coliseum and its demise, and I happened to like buildings and that's a terrible conflict of liking to build things and also enjoying the environment. And it's a hard time jostling it. I think that the Coliseum could have stayed and taken the middle out and made it like a big atrium and used downstairs ground level part for parking and things like that. We already had the intrusion. It could've served a purpose. So now somewhere we've got to hide cars at different points. It's just like we go to Williamsburg, you know, you get a map and and there's A, B, C, D, and what have you. And I have a handicap and it hurts my back terribly when I walk. So I want to be as close to something as I can. And there were parts of Williamsburg that were not as accessible as it could be for somebody that was not actually in a wheelchair that somebody took 'em in and dumped 'em off. So I just think it'll... It'll solve itself. But it's gonna be a lot of fights as to where they put these things.
Karen Grindall [01:17:38] But you've been a good fighter to keep this village alive.
Bob Hunker [01:17:40] Yeah, but had somebody else will come along and fight, I hope. You know, when you give up, there's always somebody that comes along...
Karen Grindall [01:17:48] Uh huh.
Bob Hunker [01:17:49] You know?
Karen Grindall [01:17:51] Steve, are there any questions that you would like to ask Mr. Hunker?
Steve Testa [01:17:56] There's hundreds. [laughs]
Karen Grindall [01:17:59] Oh no! I could go on for a long time.
Steve Testa [01:18:01] But I'm not sure where to start. So...
Karen Grindall [01:18:04] Mr. Hunker, is there anything you would like to add to our conversation?
Bob Hunker [01:18:11] Well, I put a couple of notes and let me just see here a minute. Well, I read, I made a note about the Towpath, which I think is extremely important.
Karen Grindall [01:18:36] Talk to us about that.
Bob Hunker [01:18:37] And I think that the Towpath all the way down to Portsmouth, the way it originally was, I feel is really gonna come to fruition. And, you know, it would be wonderful if the rail line, and there was real fairly close to it that, somewhere or another, that the rail transportation could continue. And I always have the idea that when I drive down [I-]271 and [I-]71 to Columbus, and Columbus is an important destination for everyone in Ohio, that thing is plenty wide enough that they could put, as they say, a dual-carriage rail system. And you'd be able to get on and off. And this last week, I was there a week in New York and now they have, they call the card cars, and one of the things, one of the shows that I did with Paige was that it would be good if nobody had a car, that all you had was a credit card and there would be cars everywhere. You just go over, put your card and take it and use it and put it back. And that all of the cars, instead of being left to people, this would be great if you would like liquor that you wouldn't have to drive your car. It would be done by radar. You know, there isn't a lot of flying, actual manipulation that a pilot does, it's done primarily for 'em. Now, that has a huge problems and ramifications. But in New York now, you could call up and get a card delivered to so-and-so and you go and put your credit card in and go with it. And the demise of the... Everybody would say that's not possible. Everybody wants their own car. But the auto industry is in such bad condition, and it amazes me that these things have come full circle in my lifetime. And so maybe it's gonna take care of itself. The younger people that can't afford it and don't know the convenience of having a car that you could just drive right up to everywhere. It's not gonna bother them to not have their own car.
Karen Grindall [01:21:08] Right. Well, I think we'll conclude it here unless there's anything else that you would like to share.
Bob Hunker [01:21:17] Uh. Well, some of the things that in a sense, how has your landscape changed since the project's creation? Well, one of the things, and I think that this is the criticism to the park... And the park got bad press, and it's not the park though the worst mistake the park ever did was to make a deal with the Corps of Engineers for acquisition. They really were dreadful. They were dreadful. And people who knew how to handle them handled them well and they didn't acquiesce to them. It was a means to an end. But, you know, hindsight is always terrific. And I think they've take... Well, they were taking out everything. And I think one of the things that John Debo has done, and we wouldn't have the park we have today if it weren't for for John's vision. And I take it because he grew up in a capitalistic family that things had to make money and make sense and had to work. It just, it can't all be just a theory. I think that well, he started bringing back the farms. But there were a lot of things that were taken down that shouldn't have been taken down. And in our history, one of the things that started that brought this to particularly to my mind, and it's what really got Siegfried Buerling involved, was when we had what we called the Battle of the Belfry, which was the Bronson Church. And Helen was here, Helen Bullock. And we were working on it. And there was a guy by the name of Penny that was the first director over at Hale Farm when they first started that. And he, of course, really wanted that church. So Helen really loved her booze. And it amazing 'cause she could drink a bottle of gin and get up and give the best lecture you ever heard in your life.
Karen Grindall [01:23:32] [laughs]
Bob Hunker [01:23:32] Every day she went to work with her tea, which her tea was either gin or bourbon in the teapot. And she stayed with me. I traveled with her. I really knew her very, very well. But she could absolutely hit things right and go to the core. So we'd go into what is now the bike shop, which was Millie's Bar, and that was the one that was started by the ball, the baseball player, and this was his last girlfriend. And she inherited it. And it was Millie's, we billed it Millie's, right there at the river. So we're sitting there, and Helen says to Penny, and Siegfried was working for him and Seigfried really was a craftsman and understood that, and she says, what will you do with that church? He'd move it over there. It's a Greek Revival building. And it was restore... changed in 1880 to the fashion of Carpenter Gothic, which the first thing I'd do is to tear out all that shit that whoever that woman was that gave the money to put that dreadful Gothic stuff in there, I'd just rip it right out. And she said why. Well, she said, what is history? History is the evolution of our social and economic ways. And, and, you know, they were, the people in Peninsula were exposed to the Victorian and a different way of life because of the Civil War. If it hadn't have been for all of these wars, things would have gone on very differently. People are exposed to it. So they came back, let's remodel the church, so she gave 'em three hundred and fifty dollars, and they remodeled the church. So it would have been a crime to take that away. And that... He got it at... People got that so he got fired and Seigfried was made the director. And it's been a very, very good marriage as far as Ohio and Siegfried and the Hale Farm and preservation in this area. So it... I think some of the things that we took out were typical of what was happening. One of the things was the Saalfield House, and the house that, that the... And that were the people that she ran, the first person to take care of the G.A.R. Hall... Anyway, they were up on the hill as you go down Riverview, and both houses were contemporary houses. They were modernist houses and both were very well done, and they were knocked down, and they were up there, nobody would see them. It would have added a sizable amount of real estate income to the village, and they were in the village. That part of it was in the village. And I think that those... They wouldn't have to be open on a regular basis. But like, you know, every so often as an extra perk for people come to the village, they could open one of these houses. So that I wrote down as being one of the criticisms of the park. Denuding it.
Karen Grindall [01:26:57] Right.
Bob Hunker [01:27:00] Now, if you want, I don't know how you work this... I did two things which I think are in the vein and perhaps significant. One of them... There was a thing in one of the papers that how about a national park and your first... So I wrote this article, "The National Parks and the Hunger Family," and it starts with the bit about my dad. And by the way, he has... I have an album he took very carefully illustrated, starting in New Stanton, Pennsylvania, and ending up in Tidioute, Pennsylvania, that my great grandparents... And he's documented everywhere with notes and that sort of thing. And then this year, at the turn of seven to eight, 60 to 1807 is forty-five years and it tells about my stumbling into Peninsula and that sort of thing and how we struggled with the church. And the foundation is for all people, not to commemorate me. To make this clear, we have changed the name of that to the Peninsula Valley Historic Education Foundation.
Karen Grindall [01:28:31] May we have those copies?
Bob Hunker [01:28:33] These are for you.
Karen Grindall [01:28:34] Thank you very much. I will make sure that they get... [recording ends]
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