Editor's note: As planning continues for the renovation of the Buckeye Candy building, Kenyon College has decided to leave the Mail Pouch Tobacco sign in place on the outside south wall. Kenyon recognizes and appreciates community interest in the sign, an example of a familiar advertising campaign that endured for most of the 20th century. This story has been updated to reflect this decision.
The renovation of the Buckeye Candy building in downtown Mount Vernon by Kenyon College into a venue for community engagement and academic programs will begin in September, thanks to the support of the Ariel Foundation and the Community Foundation of Mount Vernon & Knox County.
The historic, three-story building at 400 S. Main St. was acquired by Kenyon on May 15, after the Kenyon College Board of Trustees approved the purchase and renovation project on April 24. The 18,000-square-foot building was previously owned by Mark Ramser, a Knox County business and community leader.
Kenyon will establish a community engagement office on the first floor and will use the upper floors for academic programs. The landmark building also will be the new home of the Science Play-Space Initiative — the children’s science-based activity center also known as SPI Spot. SPI Spot, now at 225-227 S. Main St., will occupy most of the first floor.
A new name for the building will be discussed, said Mark Kohlman, chief business officer at Kenyon. Renovation work will include restoring to windows the building’s characteristic, first-floor arches, which have been filled with bricks for a number of years. The painted Mail Pouch Tobacco sign will remain on the southwest exterior corner of the building.
Jan Reynolds, Ariel Foundation director, said the project creates a dynamic synergy between educational institutions downtown, where Kenyon joins the Central Ohio Technical College and Mount Vernon Nazarene University with an academic presence. Creation of a lasting home for SPI Spot was a point of emphasis for the Ariel Foundation.
"We welcome Kenyon to downtown Mount Vernon," Reynolds said. "The restored Buckeye Candy building will help anchor a vital part of Main Street. Kenyon's partnership with SPI Spot is very gratifying for us as it secures a place to provide important childhood learning in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) that mixes fun and science."
The Kelser-Dowds Co. opened the brick, concrete and steel building for its wholesale grocery business in 1910. The building was sold to the Buckeye Candy and Tobacco Co. about 60 years later. Ramser bought the building about 10 years ago with an eye on preservation and eventual redevelopment.