New Chapter Opens at Kinsman’s Peter Allen House

KINSMAN, Ohio — The opening this spring of the Peter Allen Inn & Event Center completes a journey of eight years, but at the same time opens a new chapter for the nearly two-century-old property in Kinsman Township.

The house was built by architect Willis Smith in 1821 for Dr. Peter Allen, Kinsman’s first doctor, who came to the community in 1809, says Dick Thompson.

Thompson and his wife, Rhonda, bought the property eight years ago. The structure is one of several buildings Smith built in the community, including the Kinsman Presbyterian Church, which still stands today, and the home, since razed, of the man for whom the township is named, John Kinsman.

Thompson is a founding partner and owner of Therm-O-Link Inc., an electrical wire and cable manufacturer with plants in Warren, Garrettsville and Texas. When he stepped down from active operations of the company in 1993, he turned to farming. He had started his Kinsman farm as a hobby when his son graduated from high school in the mid-1990s and decided to pursue agriculture as a career. “We decided to grow the farm,” he says.

The Thompsons bought the Allen property from the estate of Alice Blaemire, who also owned the Times Square Restaurant.

“Our fear was that it is so significant that it could have been dismantled and taken out of Kinsman,“ he says. “We wanted to make sure that it remained a part of Kinsman.” As part of the deal, the Thompsons also acquired the restaurant, which they subsequently sold.

In 2010, the couple established the Richard and Rhonda Thompson Foundation, with a focus on restoring historic structures. “This was our first project,” Thompson says.

The Thompsons received several suggestions from the community regarding what to do with the property before they settled on repurposing it as an event center. “The difficulty was trying to determine a purpose that would allow it to function,” he says. “We didn’t want to create a museum necessarily.”

He declines to disclose the cost of the three-year renovation project, saying only that it was a “significant investment” and took 25 subcontractors.

“It’s elegant like a modern facility with all the bells and whistles, but at the same time it has the beautiful history design and history,” says Aundrea Cika Heschmeyer, event coordinator.

“It’s not just a beautiful space, it’s not just a house that happened to be preserved,” she continues. “It has a commitment, a tie to the community in the sense that Mr. Kinsman himself invited Dr. Peter Allen here with him and the builder built about nine properties throughout this area that are all important to architecture and history.”

Restoring the property was greatly furthered by an initiative during the Great Depression. The Works Progress Administration sent draftsmen across the country to document historic structures, including the Allen house. Those records remain in the Library of Congress and were available for Thompson to access when he had questions during restoration.

The project also involved lifting the building to install a new foundation.

Blaemire’s decision to attach the doctor’s office where Allen practiced – originally across the street – to the home removed the prospect of seeking Historic Registry status, Heschmeyer says.

“I always tell people that that’s one of many reasons we have to thank Alice,” she says. “Because if that wasn’t the case, then the foundation would want to preserve within the footprint the historic nature, so everything in the modern part couldn’t be part of the building.”

Among the property’s distinctive features is the molding, unique in each of the nine individual rooms, including the three offered for bed-and-breakfast guests.

Available spaces at the event center are Heritage Hall, which offers dinner seating for 70 guests or a station reception for 150, and smaller spaces such as the Kinsman Tavern and Doctor’s Office. Also on the grounds are the Stone Courtyard and Garden House.

Since opening in May the event center has hosted weddings, bridal and baby showers, and even a prom for a charter school. Heschmeyer also markets it for bereavement dinners, reunions and corporate retreats.

The center hosts events such as farm-to-table dinners to introduce the public to the property. All food served was grown nearby, including products of Thompson’s grain farm and herd of beef cattle.

“Our niche is that we are a celebration of agriculture in the tri-county area,” Heschmeyer says. “There are many places you can go in the region for a good celebration. However, what makes us unique is that we are just far enough away to feel like a destination.”

Thompson is pleased with the response from the community in the short time the event center has been open. “We’ve had a good amount of activity,” he says. “As I say, we’re still trying to understand who we are.”

Susan Webb, a member of the Kinsman Historical Society, says she and her husband were thrilled when they heard about plans to restore the building. “That home has been authentically restored,” she says. “Its use will allow the public to enjoy it in a more broad manner than just as a private home.”

Thompson has further plans, both for the event center itself and beyond. A master plan for the property includes a larger building with room for 300 guests that maintains the architecture of the Allen house. In addition, a Gustavus stone house that he had disassembled during the 1990s would add three overnight rooms once reassembled here.

“There are some historic buildings in town that we certainly would like to do something with,” he adds. “The town hall, that’s a wonderful structure that needs to have purpose. Once that purpose is determined we can do something with it.”

Pictured: Dick Thompson and his wife, Rhonda, bought the Peter Allen House in 2008 and restored it for use as bed-and-breakfast and a banquet center. Restoration included searching the Library of Congress archives and using 25 subcontractors.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.