Grandstand demolition uncovers 1800s room

LISBON – A simple venture to prepare the grandstand at the county fairgrounds for demolition Saturday turned into a treasure hunt of sorts, according to fair board secretary Tresa Unkefer.

Unkefer said in an e-mail this week the fair board was salvaging items from the grandstand when they came across a boarded up room.

After gaining access into the room the board came across a restroom facility dating back to the early 1800s.

“The wood on the walls is in excellent shape, the stalls intact, the toilets in place. No one in the community that we can find ever knew it was there,” Unkefer said.

Fair board and grandstand committee member Robin Houlette said the board spent time Thursday evening cutting the grandstands apart to tear out that section so it would not be damaged in the demolition.

The steel and white porcelain toilets had working valves and no tanks, they said.

“We found, by accident, a restroom that no one on the fair board ever remembered. We don’t know when they stopped using them,” Houlette said.

The board also found historic Coca Cola bottles from the East Liverpool and Salem bottlers, he said.

The board is looking for any information about the facility and encouraging people to contact the fair board office at 330-424-5531.

Houlette and Unkefer also said the Northeastern Ohio Metal Detector’s Association out of Cortland has offered its services and will be looking for other items beneath the historic grandstand.

“Due to the age of the grandstand everyone thinks there may be things buried underneath from years ago,” Unkefer said.

Houlette said the non-profit organization was there last weekend and already found some money dating back to the early 1900s. The group will comb the property Saturday after the grandstand is removed to make way for a new grandstand to be constructed before next year’s fair.

Fair board members have been unsure of the exact age of the grandstand, but Houlette said the salvaged items are helping them make that determination.

Items found by board members or the metal detector’s association will be kept by the fair and put on display as souvenirs in the ticket booth, Houlette said.

“We are trying to find something unique,” he said.

The public is welcome to attend the demolition which is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday.

“It’s kind of a kickoff to the new grandstand,” he said.

The board agreed a few weeks ago to move ahead with a $900,000 project to replace the aging grandstand after receiving community support through a study conducted by JMH Development Co.

The new grandstand will be similar to the current one in that it will have a roof, but it will seat 2,400 people instead of 1,700.

The grandstand will be made of all aluminum with a steel framed shed-style roof and include an 8- by 30-foot sound tower featuring an all new sound system, Houlette said.

The new grandstand will also be handicap accessible.

“To me, it’s the biggest project dollar-wise the fair board has done in the life of the fair. The preliminary community support has been phenomenal,” he said.

A builder will be selected by the board sometime within the next week, he added.