Historic Kent tour emphasizes sense of community

Jesse Orantek

When asked about the City of Kent’s namesake, Marvin Kent, Sandy Halem, the first female president of the Kent Historical Society, said, “I’m glad his name was Kent.”

Halem, now a volunteer at the society, described the history of Marvin and his significance while inside the Clapp-Woodward House on East Main Street. The building is home to the Kent Historical Society.

The early Sunday sun peaked through the windows of the house’s 19th century frame. The air smelled of antiques, and the walls were almost entirely covered with historical pictures of the city.

Halem, now sitting on an antique couch, said Marvin wasn’t really concerned with money or making a profit off the new town in the late 1800s.

He instead involved himself with every aspect of the community.

Halem said Marvin not only donated much of his devotion, influence and money to the city, but made sure that the town’s citizens had everything they needed to build the best community possible.

“He brought jobs,” Halem said.

Marvin’s investment in the railroad and the canal, at one point, gave one in every two men in the city jobs.

Because of his love of his town and good sense of his community, Halem said Marvin became “one of the most historically influential people in Ohio.”

“What we’re trying to do here with this tour is show how Marvin and his family helped to build every major part, to make the town into a community,” Halem said.

This year, Sept. 21 marks Marvin’s 200th birthday.

The Kent Historical Society took it upon itself to create a two-day touring experience on Saturday and Sunday so citizens of Kent and surrounding areas could cherish and remember the history of the city and its namesake.

The tour consisted of a deep history of the City of Kent, with an emphasis on the lasting effects of Marvin’s love for the community.

Ticket holders were able to visit the historic locations in Kent over the course of the two days.

Some of these locations included the Marvin Kent Train Car on Franklin Avenue and Marvin Kent’s Family Homestead on West Main Street.

For Halem, she first recognized the importance of the community of Kent, when she and her husband arrived in 1969.

“We didn’t know much of the community,” Halem said.

But when the May 4 shootings took place, something new happened in the town.

“Many made the decision to either leave or commit to the community,” Halem said.

When they decided to stay, Halem, like Marvin, embraced the community within the city.

This sense of community that Marvin produced more than 100 years ago has influenced the city all the way to the present.

Halem said the creation of the Esplanade in the last decade is a recent example of that recognition of community that Marvin had.

“If you’re a citizen of Kent, you’re a citizen of Kent,” Halem said.

Contact Jesse Orantek at [email protected].