Will Sell Historic Property
by Peter Dybdahl
an attempt to avoid high maintenance costs and better allocate resources
towards their goals, the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association
plans to sell one of its off-campus properties, Langston-Bliss House,
which is a National Historic Monument.
The former student co-op was once home to prominent abolitionist,
statesman and Oberlin grad John Mercer Langston.
The vote to sell the property came last October. It reflects a consensus
of OSCAs roughly 630 cooperative members, including former
residents of the house. While there were a handful of objections,
none were strong enough to block the motion, OSCA Treasurer Jason
Clark said. Last years vote marks the third time that OSCA
has made an effort to sell Langston-Bliss House.
I think selling Bliss House is a good choice because it is
an extremely important piece of African American heritage and history
and its owned by a mostly white, mostly middle-class institution
that isnt as invested in its history as African-Americans
in town are, junior and member of Keep co-op Sasha Yurgionas
said. Additionally, we cant afford to keep the house
up as a historical landmark and fill our mission statement of providing
The houses mounting repair expenses, costing an estimated
$50,000 over the last ten years, are the chief motivation behind
the sale. Because of the houses status as a National Historic
Monument, certain guidelines regulate the way repairs are done,
which have, in turn, made the house a financial drain on the organization.
It was not serving its purpose of low-income cooperative housing
in Oberlin, Clark said.
Langston-Bliss House belongs to OSCAs sister association,
OSCA Properties. Created in 1997, OSCA Properties operates as a
charitable organization, offering scholarships to its residents.
This places the organization in a different tax bracket than OSCA.
The tax relief has given OSCA Properties, which also owns Fuller
House on East College Street, more leeway in purchasing off-campus
The house is vacant this semester and ready to sell. A strict appraisal
has valued it at $150,000, but this figure neglects its historical
significance. The money from the sale could be invested in another
house, though any move will be thoroughly reviewed and decided upon
by OSCA members.
[Langston-Bliss House] can be understood as a house, it can
be understood as a historic landmark, it can be understood as a
space for low-income students... Clark said.
One prospective buyer, a professor at Manhattan Borough Community
College, is interested in renovating the house for historical use.
John Mercer Langston, an African-American leader recognized and
honored for his achievemants during the nineteenth century, received
his Masters from Oberlin in 1852. After marrying Oberlin student
Caroline Wall, Langston was elected town clerk in 1855, making him
the first African-American elected to public office in the United
In 1862, Langston defended Edmonia Lewis, a half-Native American
and half-African-American woman who was a student at Oberin, accused
of poisoning her white roommates. Largely due to Langstons
skillful defense, Lewis was acquitted and went on to became a successful
Through the second half of the nineteenth century, Langston worked
directly for improving the status of African-Americans. He served
as president of two colleges and headed the Freedmens Bureau.
In addition he argued before the Supreme Court and in 1890, was
elected as the Congressman from the Fourth District of Virginia.