August 22, 2014

Medina
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Back to the future: O’Neill Group says renovations almost complete on 1917 building

Only the sign is needed to complete the renovation of the O’Neill Group building at the corner of High and Broad streets in downtown Wadsworth. (Photo by Lisa Hlavinka, The Gazette.)

Only the sign is needed to complete the renovation of the O’Neill Group building at the corner of High and Broad streets in downtown Wadsworth. (Photo by Lisa Hlavinka, The Gazette.)

WADSWORTH — The O’Neill Group building at the corner of High and Broad streets is looking more like a former incarnation.

As a boy growing up in Wadsworth, Patrick O’Neill, president of the O’Neill Group, often stopped at Brenneman’s drug store for a soda on the way home from Sacred Heart Elementary. The drug store was in the building he would purchase years later.

“You think about how paths cross. I never dreamed I’d own a business in downtown Wadsworth,” he said Wednesday.

Patrick O’Neill, president of the O’Neill Group insurance agency, leans against a safe that was left in the Wadsworth building before the firm purchased it in 1994. (Photo by Lisa Hlavinka, The Gazette.)

Patrick O’Neill, president of the O’Neill Group insurance agency, leans against a safe that was left in the Wadsworth building before the firm purchased it in 1994. (Photo by Lisa Hlavinka, The Gazette.)

The O’Neill Group, an insurance agency, moved into the building in 1994. O’Neill said renovations began immediately, starting with the bottom floor and working up to the top, where the floor plan is almost entirely original.

The building was constructed in 1917, and it was O’Neill’s desire to keep renovations as close to the early 20th century as possible. Even some of the doors are original, he said.

The renovations are almost finished with the recent completion of the outside façade. Awnings that once covered original transom windows have been torn down and new windows put in. The windows couldn’t be bought “off the rack,” but were specially made by Medina Glass.

“I don’t think those windows have seen the light of day in 70 years,” O’Neill, who resides in Akron, said of the transom windows.

Next door, at Whole Day Cafe, which rents space from O’Neill, the interior has original wood floors and a tin ceiling. Windows that were once filled with bricks have been reopened, allowing light in for the first time in decades.
“Really, all of this was already here, all we did was unearth it,” owner Theresa LaDu said.

Faded black circles on the floor line up in a row, the remnants of stools in front of where the old soda fountain counter was. In some spots water damage is visible; in others, damage from a fire, LaDu said.

“I think the people in Wadsworth are falling in love with this place all over again,” she said.

O’Neill said all the renovations were done without public money. He pointed to other businesses downtown that also have made renovations while preserving historical integrity.

“I think we have an investment in the community and want to continue to have a vital and vibrant downtown because we recognize that downtown Wadsworth is a place where people come together,” he said.

Renovations will be more or less complete when Whole Day Cafe installs an Old World marble countertop and O’Neill Group places a sign on the building’s new façade.

“We want people, whether they’re from Wadsworth or not, to have a little bit of a ‘wow’ factor and see this is a cute, quaint downtown,” O’Neill said.

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@ohio.net.