UTICA — The North Main Street site of the short-lived Underground Railroad and Black History Museum of Licking County has closed. It was not sold at Friday’s sheriff’s sale, and Rita Jackson, the museum’s director, still has hopes that the site can be saved for historic purposes.
“According to the information I got from the Utica Historical Society,” she said, “the house is an authentic Underground Railroad stop. The original property owner was a Mr. Kirkpatrick. His name was mentioned in Wilbur Seibert’s book which points out who the Underground Railroad conductors and agents were in all of the counties in Ohio. Based upon that research and other things that we’ve collected, we believe it is authentic.”
Jackson purchased the property for about $83,000 at a sheriff’s sale in January 2010, and opened the museum in August. The problem, however, was that Jackson never paid more than the $500 she put down on the property at the time of the sale. She told the News she was unable to raise the funds needed to pay the balance within the required 30 days because grants she was hoping to receive failed to be approved.
“It was unfortunate we weren’t able to come up with the money, but all is not lost,” said Jackson. “What I’d like to do is get volunteers together as a task force to see if we can raise some money so the next time it comes up for sale we could maybe be in a position to get the money together to pay it off. It would be nice if some philanthropic people or group would be willing to come together with me to save this historical treasure for Ohio. It’s not just something for the Utica area, but for everybody.”
Jackson was found in contempt of court in October for not paying the balance of the sale price on the property. The court also ruled at that time to void the sale. If, and when, the property sells, Jackson could be held responsible for the difference in sale price if the price comes in under what she agreed to pay.
The museum’s artifacts were moved back to the 211 E. Main St., Newark, museum that was started in 2003.