Saturday, December 13th, 2008
By Margie Wuebker
Key to the past may lead to good fortune
  NEW BREMEN - Although construction of the proposed lockkeeper's house will not start until next summer, New Bremen Historic Association member Delores Stienecker has concocted a novel way to raise needed dollars.
She came up with a raffle drawing in which keys will be sold. The buyer of the key that opens the door to the new lockkeeper's house will win $1,000.
Scott and Linda Kuenning of New Bremen have donated the door lock, 1,000 keys and the cash prize.
Keys will go on sale in January at a cost of $20 each at the local museum, the Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce and other locations to be announced later. Purchasers will have an opportunity to pull an envelope containing a key from the hopper and try it once construction is complete.
"I told Scott to make sure only one key opens the lock," Stienecker says. "No one will know which of the matching envelopes holds the winning key until opening day ceremonies."
Historic association members have nurtured the dream of returning the lockkeeper's house to the west bank of the Miami and Erie Canal in downtown New Bremen since work began on the now completed Lock One project, which restored the landmark to its 1910 appearance.
"The discovery of the old foundation really spurred interest," she says. "Things really snowballed with Wayne York and other officials getting involved."
The project garnered nearly $500,000 in Ohio Department of Transportation enhancement grant dollars with the Historic Association pledging $135,000 as a required local match. Members recently paid the first $30,000 installment with the remainder due June 1.
"We'll have another $20,000 when all the keys sell," Stienecker says. "Every dollar counts toward our goal and we have no intention of coming up short."
Other contributions include a $10,000 donation from an anonymous source channeled through a Cincinnati foundation. Ironically, many of New Bremen's early settlers arrived aboard canal boats bound from Cincinnati.
The association also is selling its latest book "The History of Business in New Bremen, 1833-2008: 175 Years of Progress." Copies are available for $15 at the Artist's Touch, the YMCA and the Chamber office, all in New Bremen, with proceeds going toward the match.
ODOT will release grant funds next summer with construction to commence shortly thereafter. The building should be ready for occupancy by early 2010 barring any unforeseen consequences.
The Chamber of Commerce office will move to the first floor of the new building with the main floor also serving as a welcome center for visitors, a display area for canal artifacts and a lobby.
Occupying the second floor will be the Miami and Erie Canal Corridor Association office and a large meeting room capable of holding additional canal displays. It also includes a variety of audio-visual resources suitable for meetings and presentations and a kitchenette.
Handicap-accessible restrooms, various mechanical equipment and storage space will be located in the exposed basement with stairs and an elevator providing access throughout the facility.
Stienecker says every effort is being made to reproduce the look and feel of the canal era including a metal roof, clapboard siding, small-pane windows and a stonework foundation.
"Unfortunately, we won't have the original walnut siding," she adds. "It was destroyed when firefighters burned the home down as a training exercise in the 1960s and today's cost is too prohibitive."
The Herbert Gross family was the last to live in the house. Stienecker recalls Mrs. Gross bribing people to carry water up the stairs with the promise of her excellent home cooking and baked goods.
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