Amity House rental should happen this summer

by Sue Serdinak

March 25 Richfield Joint Recreation District meeting

Richfield Joint Recreation District Park Director John Piepsny reported that the Friends of Richfield Heritage Preserve have completed restoration work on the Amity House and “many people are waiting to rent it.”

He said rentals will be delayed until Summit County inspections are complete. He added that two people have suggested the building be renamed because its current name is a reminder of a scary movie (The Amityville Horror and more than two dozen other films).

Piepsny said no fee structure has been set up to rent the house or the procedure to clean it after every use.

“It will be a much more complex turnaround,’’ said board member Holly Price. “I would like to review your plan … and see rental fees and total costs.”

Friends move on

Many of the Friends worked on the house for over two years and are offering to do more work in the park.

Lynn Richardson, historian for the group, said they are prepared to make two formal offers to the park board, including being champion for Garfield Hall, with a long-term lease.

Richardson said the building has a unique feature: a wooden floor built over springs.

“This was really something special,’’ she said. “It is probably the only one of its kind. It was a [Kirby] experiment.”

Richardson said the building has incurred several problems in recent years, because it had not been mothballed sufficiently. She said it would continue to deteriorate without hasty intervention.

Richardson said the Friends have enough funds to do substantial work on the building. She added that they have contacted the family of President James A. Garfield and expect to get financial support from them.

Corey Ringle, president of Friends, explained that work on Amity House is winding down, and “we are eager to keep these awesome volunteers moving forward.”

Friends volunteer Gary LaGuardia said he has offered to work on Garfield Hall, adding that roof renovations and other repairs have been done at the request of Piepsny.

“Many structures in the park have incurred damage because there was no mitigation,’’ LaGuardia said. “It would be a shame to allow that to continue when you have volunteers that are willing to work on them.”

RJRD board member Mike Lyons said because no other structures were built with the spring design of the Garfield Hall “It might suggest that it isn’t a viable design, like the patented lake. There are no other examples. We have to look realistically at the viability of the building.”

He added, “It would be helpful to have some information [about the structure’s integrity].”

Ringle, a registered architect, said an analysis has been done of the hall and said she would supply it to Lyons before the next meeting.

She added that the Friends have also completed jobs on the Kirby Mill house and wheel and are committed to completing the project. However, structural work over the creek requires complex, professional equipment that is not available to the volunteers.

The Friends have applied for a grant for that project.

Richardson said the Friends would also like to start a dialogue with officials about a long-term commitment to the entire central part of the park and assume responsibility for large projects in the area of the Kirby House, the mill and Garfield Hall.

“[A long-term lease of the Kirby House] would be a unique agreement between partners to restore the structure and landscaping in order to provide programming within the area,” Richardson said. “This demonstration of trust and a shared future is likely to translate into more donors and increased donations,” Richardson said.

She said the Friends would assume responsibility for large expenses.

Board member Mark Rosen said he is concerned about the possibility of the Friends losing focus on the mill project and spreading their resources too thin.

Board members have had several meetings discussing a revised memorandum of understanding with the Friends and concluded that the MOU should be completed before accepting a letter of intent from the Friends for the Kirby buildings.  

Grant, state funding

Board member Mike Selig reported that the grant committee has submitted a request for funds from the state budget allocation.  

The pedestrian bridge over the Lake Linea dam is still scheduled to be replaced using a $60,000 grant from Nature Works.


Individual volunteers in the park removed fallen trees and invasive plants and finished the demolition of the Fernwood Shelter. They also moved a piano into Amity House.

Program guide available

The Richfield Heritage Preserve has their 2024 program available online. Find it at