Does anything smell better this time of year than the aroma of grapes ripening on twisty vines in the autumn sun? If that appeals to you, I can highly recommend a country drive down Route 307, South River Road, and South Ridge Road along the borders of Geauga and Lake Counties into Ashtabula County.
The drive itself is a feast for the senses. The crisp fall breezes carry the scent of the grapes as you follow the winding roads over gently rolling hills past vineyards and forests. If your car is a quiet one, you’ll enjoy the serenading of the songbirds and peepers amid strains of live music (all kinds!) wafting on the wind on weekend evenings.
There are some truly delicious grape juices and several dozen vineyards on this, our own Lake Erie Vines and Wines Trail. Did you know that “northeast Ohio boasts more wineries per square mile than in any other region,” including over half of Ohio’s winegrape acreage? (“Ohio Wine Producers”) And that the “largest number of wineries are located in Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties?” (“Ohio Wines”). Many of those wineries are open to the public with indoor and outdoor seating that allows visitors to enjoy pastoral settings as well as delicious meals, snacks, and beverages.
My favorite wineries just happen to be in older structures (surprise, surprise! The greenest building is the one that is already built) that have been creatively and beautifully adapted to encourage visitors to sit a spell and enjoy the company of good friends, tasty food, and the tranquility of rural surroundings.
One winery in particular provokes many questions about how one feels about the original intended use of a structure versus adaptation to new uses.
At South River Vineyard, a lovely, traditional white clapboard Methodist Episcopal Church perches quietly atop a hill overlooking acres of vines and woods. This 1892 church, long since abandoned at its original site, was moved from Shalersville to its current home on South River Road then carefully converted so that much of the exterior and interior architectural integrity remains.
On your visit you can still enjoy the colorful stained glass windows and rich patina of the original wooden floors, pews and wainscoting. Where the pulpit was once located, you will find double glass doors that open onto a veranda featuring Greek columns and a view of the vineyard beyond. There’s also a beautiful stone fireplace for chilly fall evenings.
Many of the wines here are even aptly named for the setting – Creation, Exodus, Trinity and Temptation. (“South River Vineyard”).
As much as I enjoy this setting, it does make me wonder what the members of that original congregation, the ones who contributed their time and treasure to build a church for their community, would think of this newest use? Would they be happy that the structure they labored to construct had found a new life (and a valued one, judging by the number of people who visit regularly)? Or would they be saddened? After all, Methodist congregations historically supported temperance movements and abstinence from alcohol.
How do we define “appropriate” and how do our life experiences influence that definition?Are there “appropriate” ways to reuse sacred space once a congregation dwindles and the structure is abandoned? The National Trust for Historic Preservation addresses some of these issues in its “”Ten on Tuesday” series with two segments on “How to Preserve Places of Worship.”
Or is it enough that the building be used sensitively and as a positive contribution to the community?
What benefits can wineries such as South River bring to a community? Well, there’s the obvious – a gathering place for friends and families. Ohio wineries also help limit urban/suburban sprawl and preserve rural green space by putting farmland back into agricultural production. And the economic impact is considerable, especially in rural areas. In 2008, the impact of wine and grapes on the Ohio economy totaled $528.8 million. (MKF Research LLC 2010, 2-3)
South River Vineyard is a very successful adaptive reuse of a structure that would likely have been demolished had the vineyard owner not inquired about it, then been given the structure with the proviso that it be dismantled and moved.
Adaptive reuse is a serious strategy for environmental responsibility. “Every year, approximately 1 billion square feet of buildings are demolished and replaced with new construction in the United States…. The Brookings Institution projects that some 82 billion square feet of existing space will be demolished and replaced between 2005 and 2030 – roughly one-quarter of today’s existing building stock.” (Preservation Green Lab/National Trust for Historic Preservation 2011, ix) Savings as a result of reuse can be significant, ranging “between 4 and 46 percent over new construction when comparing buildings with the same energy performance level…. Moreover, it can take between 10 and 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome, through more efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts that were created during the construction process.” (Preservation Green Lab/National Trust for Historic Preservation 2011, vi)
There are plenty of examples of adaptive reuse to enjoy on the Lake Erie Vines and Wines Trail – a barn, a mill, a firehouse, a fruit stand. Just a little pondering as I wander these beautiful back roads and smell the grapes of autumn.
Bari Oyler Stith, Ph.D., is the Director of Historic Preservation at Ursuline College.
MKF Research LLC, . The Economic Impact of Wine and Winegrapes on the State of Ohio 2008: A Study Commissioned by the Ohio Grape Industries Committee. St. Helena, California: Frank, Rimerman and Co., 2010. http://www.tasteohiowines.com/downloads/pdfs/OhioEconomicImpactofWineandWinegrapes2008_FINAL.pdf (accessed September 9, 2013).
“Ohio Wine Producers Association.” http://www.ohiowines.org/cgi-bin/winery.pl?xe (accessed September 9, 2013).
“Ohio Wines: Love at First Sip.” http://www.tasteohiowines.com/default.aspx (accessed September 9, 2013).
Preservation Green Lab/National Trust for Historic Preservation, . The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse. National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2011. http://www.preservationnation.org/information-center/sustainable-communities/green-lab/lca/The_Greenest_Building_lowres.pdf (accessed September 9, 2013).
“South River Vineyard.” http://www.southrivervineyard.com (accessed September 9, 2013).
“Ten on Tuesday: How to Preserve Places of Worship, part 1.” http://blog.preservationnation.org/tag/place-type/
“Ten on Tuesday: How to Preserve Places of Worship, part 2.” http://blog.preservationnation.org/tag/place-type