Construction on the retaining walls on the north and west side of Worthington's historic Orange Johnson House will begin as early as May 19 and is expected to take eight to 12 weeks.

Kate LaLonde, director of the Worthington Historical Society, said contractor Hedge Landscape would be paid $158,621 to replace both brick retaining walls at the Orange Johnson House, 956 High St., with shorter barriers made of limestone, which "would be more representative of what would have been used at the time and can withstand being so close to the street."

"This is a big deal; this is a huge deal," Frank Shepherd, vice president of the historical society's board of trustees, said about the wall replacements.

Shepherd said the walls would be lowered and leveled for a uniform and attractive appearance.

"Obviously, the wall has to be replaced, and we're lowering the wall," Shepherd said. "So we're trying to maintain what's there now."

Fundraising efforts, including a $36,000 outlay from Worthington City Council, have netted just shy of $100,000, LaLonde said.

"It's definitely our biggest endeavor for this year and many years," LaLonde said.

In fact, it is the biggest renovation project since the house, built in 1811, was rehabbed starting in 1963, and it took nine years to complete, she said.

The project cost at the time was about $300,000, roughly $2 million in today's dollars, LaLonde said.

Supporters may contribute to the project at worthingtonhistory.org, the website of the Worthington Historical Society, which operates the Orange Johnson House.

The society will make up any shortfalls in fundraising, LaLonde said.

"The historical society is careful so that, should these big expenses come up, we do have reserve funds to address critical things that do need to be repaired," she said.

The front steps of the Orange Johnson House also will be reconfigured, leading directly to High Street, and iron railings will be installed, per Federal-style architecture, LaLonde said.

The building has no walls on the south and east sides of the property because it is at grade level, she said.

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