Besides the crisp fall weather, something else that’s lifting spirits lately is to see progress finally being made on restoring the former Heath Confectionery building on the west side of the Robinson square.
Crawford County Heritage Foundation is using a $2,700 Mary Heath Foundation grant to replace the floor in the building, and it looks this week as if the group will meet its goal of being able to sell candy from the building during the weekend’s Heath Harvest Festival.
Though there’s still much work to be done to restore the confectionery, the symbolism can’t be missed. The building, which should naturally be the centerpiece of a festival celebrating Robinson’s most famous product, has been the “missing link” for too long. Nothing’s sadder, in historic-preservation terms, than a plaque marking “what used to be here.”
But this year, the building will be buzzing with activity and, we hope, will draw interest from people interested in helping finish the job by donating their time or money.
A project like this has a tough way to go in a place like Robinson — a city with no organized historic-preservation structure or vision, a terrible track record with regard to preservation, and very few people who make the connection between preservation and economic development. It’s up to a persistent few, who are often unappreciated and misunderstood, to get things like this done.
The Heritage Foundation — which owns the former confectionery building as well as the corner building that houses Simple Elegance and the former Kohlhouse building that houses the Candy Shoppe and other enterprises — has not done the best job of presenting its vision and goals, explaining how it works or enlisting supporters and partners. But right now, it’s the only entity with an interest in these buildings that are crucial to Robinson’s downtown development, and as such it deserves our support.
What’s the next step? Something that might lift spirits even more than having the floor done is getting that ugly aluminum facade off the building — and letting us get a glimpse of what the confectionery looked like back in 1914 when L.S. Heath bought it and began working on a toffee recipe that became an American icon.