*This story originally appeared in The Budget on Sept. 13, 2017.
By Stacey Carmany
Members of the Ragersville Historical Society are getting started on renovations at two historic buildings the group acquired earlier this year.
At the start of the year, the Historical Society purchased the former Youngen Brothers General Store and a nearby wine cellar from Ken Huprich who had inherited the properties from his father, Rob Huprich. Both facilities were originally constructed in 1846 by Charles Eckert.
The two-story wine cellar features three-foot stone walls, double doors and barred windows. The lower-level, built into the hillside, was originally used to store produce and wine for Eckert’s general store. Locally-grown grapes were pressed upstairs and then piped to ground level into large wooden casks. A domed ceiling and ventilation system helped to keep temperatures consistent year-round. During the offseason, the upstairs was used as a social center and became known as the Eckert Dance Hall.
The store was ultimately purchased by Abraham Youngen and his business partner in 1901 before being passed down to Youngen’s sons, who renamed the business Youngen Brothers General Store. The property changed hands once again in 1960 when it was purchased by Rob Huprich and reopened as a pub, pool room and restaurant called The Store.
Volunteers for the historical society are currently working to address any structural, plumbing and electrical issues at the buildings before moving on to interior renovations, according to Ragersville Historical Society President Ray Hisrich. The floors of the former dance hall have also been removed and will be replaced as the project progresses.
“We’re just trying to get them all sound now, both buildings, trying to get them structurally sound, electric, plumbing, start on that,” he said. “We’re just preserving it for now, and maybe somebody can do something with it. We might be able to do something with it, too.”
Hisrich said that the group is hoping that someone might be willing to rent the wine cellar building for winemaking or a similar operation. The upstairs could potentially be used as a venue for special events and get-togethers.
He noted building is actually one of the oldest wine cellars in the state still seated on its original foundation. Along with the building, the historical society was able to acquire and preserve one of its original wine presses.
Plenty of artifacts have also been salvaged from the store including an antique cash register, typewriter and scales. Prior to the historical society’s purchase of the property, it was being used as a cafe and storage facility. “Most of the stuff came from the store,” Hisrich said. “It was one of the first IGA stores in Ohio. They sold everything from tools to shoes, clothing, everything, anything you might think of.”
The group is planning to get started on electrical and plumbing work at the store in the coming months. They are hoping that a business might be interested in utilizing that space as well, once all the renovations have been completed.
Founded in 1979, the Ragersville Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the and displaying historical items representing the history of Ragersville, Auburn Township and Tuscarawas County. The group currently owns a total of six structures, including the two that were recently purchased, and its operating expenses are projects are funded by membership dues, special events and donations. Its museum is located at 8800 Crooked Run Rd. SW. Hours are by appointment or on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. through October.
For more information, visit www.ragersville.org or call 330-897-9204.