A piece of Indiana County history is fading away as officials at the courthouse on Wednesday formally let go of a tiny county-owned building that served almost 130 years as the voting site for West Mahoning Township residents.
The township’s Election House, which sits on the border of Smicksburg Borough on Dayton-Smicksburg Road, has been sold at auction to Marsh Excavating LLC.
Marsh’s offer of $685.50 was the highest of the bids that the commissioners opened on July 8.
Parting with election house will be a sorrow for Commissioner Rodney Ruddock.
“I’ve become very attached to that building which has been a voting precinct in Indiana County (since 1892) … and I hate to see a building like that just disappear from our inventory,” Ruddock said.
Election House symbolizes the start and the importance of the election process in America, Ruddock said.
“It has a built-in stove, it has an outhouse, it doesn’t meet any of the ADA requirements, so it probably doesn’t belong in our inventory,” Ruddock said.
It harkens back to the days when voting may have been an annual social event, when people of a community converged on a single day at a single point for a single purpose. And according to Chief Clerk Robin Maryai’s search of commissioner meeting records for the past century, it also harkens back to the era when the county built polling places almost in eminent domain fashion, wherever convenient and regardless of the will of the landowner.
In his bid to save it, Ruddock said, he contacted and gained interest from the state Museum Commission for his proposal to buy and move it another site in Smicksburg as a tourist attraction, “to showcase Indiana County in a different fashion.”
Was Ruddock fond enough of Election House to bid on it himself?
“Well, I would but I don’t know what I would do with it,” he said. “Buying is not the issue. It’s the relocation of the building, which is on property that does not belong to the county.
“A lot of thought goes into these things. Preserving the integrity of the history of Indiana County is important to all of us and this is a valuable piece to me,” Ruddock said.
Election House stayed a piece of living history through November, the last time voters went there to cast their ballots. Then it got hit by a vehicle.
For the spring primary, West Mahoning Township voters reported to the Country Junction Restaurant, just across the road and barely 500 feet from the historic Election House.
Ruddock voted no on the sale. Commissioners Michael Baker and Sherene Hess approved it.
Along with the Election House, the commissioners also auctioned off a variety of surplus equipment from the courthouse for $1,945.97 and the Indiana County Parks & Trails Department for $473.98 for a total of $3,105.45.