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Scott House history, preservation

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, when Elizabeth Woodbridge Scott died in 1946, the Scott House on West Main Street in Hillsboro was bought at an auction with the intention of turning the property into a car showroom and sales lot, but the Hillsboro school board ended up purchasing the property.

The Scott House was home of the Hillsboro library from the late 1940s until the library was relocated to its present location in the early 1970s. It was leased to Highland County Community Action from 1972-82.

A decade later, the mansion was facing the wrecking ball, but after the school board mulled demolition of the Scott House, it agreed to lease the old edifice to the Great Oaks Career Development Center, which worked with community leaders to raise funds and renovate the structure for use by Great Oaks.

Still visible in the Scott House are plaques recognizing some of the major donors to that effort: Vernon B. Fairley, Jim and Susan Gibbs, Fifth Third Bank, Liberty Savings, Weastec, David and Kay Ayres and Merchants National Bank. Many others donated to the project and/or spent their time organizing and carrying out the renovation.

According to research by longtime Highland County historian Jean Wallis and Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees member John Kellis, the story surrounding the renovations and the ultimate decision by the board of education to retain the restored building for its administration offices has been a sensitive subject. Following the restoration project, the school board declared a space emergency and said it would keep the building. While many were hurt and disillusioned by that process, it led to an effort to save and restore the mansion.

While the school retained its administrative offices in the Scott House for another 15 years, the building was ultimately vacated by the district. This eventually led to the acquisition of the Scott House by the Highland County Historical Society.

The school district could not legally donate the building directly to the society, but through the county commissioners and then Community Action, the ownership of the building was transferred to the historical society. It was the hope that the historical society could find a way to preserve the building and develop a sustainable business plan for the Scott House. The challenge was to do so without taking away from other historical projects and activities crucial to the historical society.

In 2013, the society rented two first-floor offices to the Highland County Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Valley RC&D Council. The plan was to maintain tenants in the building, producing rent to offset the operational costs and thus preserving the building for the community.

The historical society appointed a committee in 2014 to manage the building and study options for its ultimate use. That committee, together with the society’s Building and Grounds Committee, reviewed previous studies, proposals and ideas for the Scott House.

The committee felt that grounds surrounding the mansion could also be used for community events like picnics, art shows, showers and reunions, and all agreed that it should stay with the building. The proposal included the needed improvements for the Scott House as part of the society’s 2015 Capital Campaign. That campaign was primarily to address needed structural work at the society’s Highland House Museum, which we highlighted earlier in this series of offerings.

We’ll talk more about the Scott House and its history, but let’s pause for now and we’ll continue next time.

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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