Repairs underway at Canal Winchester’s historic Chaney grain elevator

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
Steve Donahue, past president of the Canal Winchester Historical Society, stands Jan. 11 in front of the historic O.P. Chaney Grain Elevator,  which is undergoing renovations.

The first canal boat floated through what is now Canal Winchester in 1831. 

The Ohio & Erie Canal brought passengers and freight and a system to transport grain and other goods to market. Soon, the businesses along High and Waterloo streets began to prosper. 

Then in 1869, the railroad arrived, delivering more opportunity for business owners in the area to reach a wider area. 

O.P. Chaney was one of those opportunists who in 1887 constructed a four-story grain elevator that the Canal Winchester Historical Society hopes to repair and preserve.  

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” said Steve Donahue, former president of the historical society who was succeeded by Bruna Brundige on Jan. 7. “If you let something go, then it’s gone forever.” 

What Donahue called the “first phase” of restoration involves replacing exterior wood panels. Work on the east side of the structure was completed in December and work on the west side is underway now. 

In addition, he said, the elevator will be “capped” and closed off. Interior areas that had been infested with raccoons and other animals already have been cleaned. 

Destination: Canal Winchester, the city’s tourism bureau, recently awarded the project $10,000 from its share of the city’s bed-tax collections. The Wood Foundation matched that donation. 

“We want to be involved in projects that added to the aesthetic of our city,” said Karen Stiles, executive director of Destination: Canal Winchester. “We want it to be a destination, a place to visit, and it was nice to know that what we were donating immediately doubled.” 

The historical society also expects to receive $250,000 in state capital funding in July for work on the Chaney grain elevator, although Donahue said the group isn’t sure yet exactly how that money will be allocated. Whatever happens, he said he expects work on the elevator could take years – which is why he calls the current project the first phase. 

The red structure at 40 W. Oak St., with faded white lettering that says “OP Chaney & Son” is easy to spot in the city’s historical complex, which includes the one-room Prentiss School, the Hocking Valley “Queen of the Line” Railroad depot and a monument honoring Civil War Pvt. Alfred Cannon.  

Both the grain elevator, which operated for more than 100 years and served Madison Township farmers until 1978, and the railroad depot are listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. 

The historic complex and the National Barber Museum and Hall of Fame, 135 Franklin St., continue to draw visitors to Canal Winchester, Donahue said. 

“There are people (at the complex) every day taking pictures,” he said. “So it’s a site where people come. Last summer, the Destination: Canal Winchester even relocated the farmers market to the area.” 

“This is a start,” Donahue said of the repairs to the grain elevator. “And I’m sure plans will change as different people get on (historical society) committees. Much will have to be done, but this is a step in the right direction.” 

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