Franklin Township Hall
The Franklin Township Hall, also referred to historically as the "Town Hall", is located Kent, Ohio and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building, located along Gougler Avenue in central Kent near the Cuyahoga River, was built in 1837 and has served as the seat of government for Franklin Township since 1840. It is best known for being the location where James A. Garfield was nominated for his first political office in 1859. Other uses of the Hall in Kent's history include as the first home to Kent High School and as a church for two different denominations.
Backstory and Context
The building was built in 1837 as an office for the Franklin Silk Company, which had been started on the belief that Kent (then known as Franklin Mills) would become a manufacturing center for the silk industry. This proved incorrect and the Panic of 1837 combined with northeast Ohio's unfavorable climate for silkworms led to the business failing. Franklin Township then purchased the building and finished it in 1840 to serve as the home of the township government.
On August 23, 1859, the hall was the site of a local Republican Party convention to nominate a state senator. The meeting produced a deadlock, and so to break it, James A. Garfield, who had not held any political office up to that point, was nominated. Garfield would go on to win the election as the state senator for an area which included Portage and Summit counties.While serving his office, he joined the Union Army during the Civil War. In 1864, he was re-elected, although he never left the battlefield to campaign at home. In 1880, he was nominated the Republican candidate for President. This came without his seeking the nomination, only attending the Republican Convention to give a speech to nominate then Secretary of the Treasury, John Sherman, and after 35 previous ballots voted on could not provide a clear winner. On the 36th, Garfield won almost all votes casted. He then became the 20th US President, only to be assassinated in September of 1881, only having served 6 months in office.
Franklin Township Hall would serve as home to several schools in Kent's history, including a small private school beginning in 1857 prior to the establishment of a public school system. In the fall of 1868 through March 1869 the building was the first home of Kent High School due to construction delays on the new Union school building one block west. The second floor was later used as a school, known as "Riverview School" or "River Street School", for fifth and sixth graders during the late 1910s due to overcrowding at the other Kent public schools. From 1953–1978 the building was the location of the offices for the Kent City School District. During that time, the building was heavily damaged by a fire in 1971 which caused US$20,000 in damage. The hall also served as a meeting place for some of Kent's religious bodies including early meetings of the local Roman Catholic parish from 1862–1868 and the Universalist Church from 1866–1868.[