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Former community center to open as assisted-living facility

Call it a comeback story.

A long-vacant building in downtown Ironton will officially take on a new life next month – 100 years after it was originally built as a school.

Formerly the St. Lawrence O’Toole school and late community center, the building is now home to Close to Home, III, Ironton’s first assisted-living facility. A grand opening and ribbon-cutting for the facility that has 35 units is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sept. 7 at its Center Street location. An all-day open house for the public is scheduled for Sept, 8.

“We’ve just got some finishing touches to do,” Charles Kunkel, co-owner of the facility, said. “As soon as it gets done it’s going to look good.”

The structure had been vacant for years before the project started about a year ago.

The former community center closed in the early 1980s.

“The building has turned out absolutely beautifully,” Sharon Hartwig, co-owner of the facility, said.

While the entire building has been renovated, several of the features of the facility hint at its history.

A hallway from the original structure has been made into what will serve as a nondenominational chapel for residents. The chapel has a stained glass window from the center that was originally dedicated about 100 years ago.

Doorways have been made into a glass cases in the new chapel. Old church pews also grace the chapel.

The chapel does include a new piece as well, an oak and mahogany cross, built by a craftsman in Maine.

The facility also features a movie room complete with red seats were originally a part of Radio City Music Hall. Movie posters and a popcorn machine will also be included in the room.

As a security measure, the doors to the facility are accessible only with an access code.

“You don’t want just any one coming into your building,” Hartwig said. “(Residents) will have access to the code so it’s not like they’re locked in here.”

Renovation in the basement of the structure revealed surprises – extra rooms. The spaces, which were found while workers tore out the old boiler, will be used as maintenance areas.

Two sitting areas will feature ornate electric fireplaces with entertainment centers along with brown leather couches and chairs.

Hartwig and Kunkel said the experience of building in the area has been positive.

“I can’t say enough for how supportive the county and city officials have been,” she said. “It has been a good experience. I would do it over in Lawrence County again.”

Kunkel agreed.

“It’s been wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” he said. “This is the best place in Ohio to build.”

The company is still looking to fill some position including nurses, nurses’ aides, cooks and housekeepers. Those interested in living at the facility shouldn’t wait long; there are only four more units available.

For more information about living at the facility, call Hartwig at 534-2143. For information about working at the facility, contact Lawrence County Workforce Development at 532-3140.