Starry Night 2014: Emerson Tea House Tile Restoration Project!
I’m thrilled to announce that we will have Emerson’s Tea House Tile Restoration Project on display at Starry Night 2014! This beautiful project gave Westerville students an opportunity to be part of saving a piece of local history and I’m so excited that Starry Night families will have a chance to see this beautiful project in April and share in the students’ and teachers’ amazing work!
(From the Westerville ThisWeek June 6, 2012 article by Jennifer Nesbitt on the project.)
Emerson students preserve a portion of tea house
“For years, Helen Chan, Beth Dalin and Karen Jiobu worked to preserve the Westerville Tea House and Shrine, which once served as a museum to Japanese culture in Uptown.
Together, they formed the Friends of the Westerville Tea House and Shrine in 2004, but they dissipated after the city purchased the property last year.
With the Shinto shrine long removed from the property and the property having fallen into disrepair after years of neglect, it became clear that there was little left to save on the property.
“The original hope was that there would be some way to preserve it,” said Westerville senior planner Bassem Bitar, who has worked on the purchase and planning for the tea house property at 109 S. State St.
“Pretty much everything that created significance for the site was gone, with the exception of the tiles.”
When the city approved the demolition of the tea house property at the end of last year, those involved in the redevelopment of the site determined that those mosaic tiles, which once formed images of Japanese culture, should be preserved.
The largest mosaic, which depicted Mount Fuji and was most often associated with the tea house, was preserved in full by the city’s demolition contractor.
The remaining tiles, which are about 1 centimeter apiece, were combed through, and the ones that were intact and free of any hazardous materials were donated to Emerson Magnet School.
There Dalin, a third-grade teacher, and Chan, an Americorps volunteer, were to lead students in a service-learning project to preserve some sense of the shrine’s history.
“We were excited that (the city) would do that,” Dalin said of the tile donation. “The timing was perfect because our school does a service-learning project every year. … This project fell into our laps.”
Dalin’s class worked with third-graders in Kristen Quinn to come up with a project incorporating the tiles.
The students, who focus on Japanese culture throughout the year, were visited by Bitar, who talked about the city’s roll in taking over the property, and by Westerville Public Library local history coordinator Beth Weinhardt, who talked to them about the property’s historical significance in Westerville.
The students designed their own mosaics and then worked with local artists to come up with a mosaic design to create with the tiles.
The result is a 2-foot-square paver students donated to the Westerville Public Library, where it will be put on display to commemorate the tea house’s role in Westerville history.
Weinhardt said the shrine was significant to the city because, for years, it drew students, scout troops and others to Uptown to learn about Japanese culture.
“The intention of the Hendersons (who created the tea house and shrine) was so good. He was an Army guy who was in Japan during the occupation,” Weinhardt said. “He just felt that he wanted to bring some of that culture back to Westerville, and his feeling about the culture and the people. … It was a great effort on his part, the real message about how people can get along and reconcile after a conflict like the war. For so many years, scout troops visited there, school children visited there.”
Dalin said, for her, the project was bittersweet.
“The best case scenario would be to have that shrine still there and the tea house still there,” she said. “I’m happy that the history can be preserved and maybe showcased somewhere in the city, but it pales into comparison to what that property could bring to kids if it were still there.”
The project also was rewarding, Dalin said, because students learned not only curriculum-related math and history lessons, but also the lesson that they can work with the city to make change in their community.
“It just turns into a great learning project for the kids, plus they learn that you can work with the city to make change and that it’s important to save history in the community. All of those lessons are invaluable, and you just can’t learn that out of a book,” she said. “I lost something, but I gained something as well: To make the kids part of saving the history.”