Sol Harris Day Architecture

Stark Parks inherited what is now the Fry Family Park through a generous donation from the original owners. This 322-acre property provided an opportunity to create a park for the community with hiking trails, watershed connections and nature programs. With these outdoor activities, an indoor facility was needed to host and facilitate Stark Parks’ programs. The existing home on the property offered the perfect solution. The house was transformed from a single-family residence to a commercial Welcome Center, with a collection of multifunctional spaces that can be used throughout the entire year, not only serving the nature programs, but offering rental opportunities.

Services

  • Master Planning
  • Facility Assessments
  • Estimating/Scheduling
  • Sustainable Design
  • Architecture
  • Interior Design

As the family home of our first park director, Richard Fry, it was a reflective experience being a part of transforming a home into a center where park visitors could learn all about what this park has to offer: watersheds, habitats, ecosystems, pollinators, native species and the value of dark skies.

Sarah Buell, Projects and Administration Manager, Stark Parks

Park Presence

The goal of the renovation was to maintain the house character while repurposing the main function into a Welcome Center for the park. The exterior improvements began with an updated façade and the addition of a canopy that would draw attention to the front entrance. The site was developed to provide access and parking for visitors and buses.  Landscaping around the house was designed to be both functional and beautiful. Bioswales planted with native plants capture all of the stormwater from the parking area while blending seamlessly with the natural setting.

Building Organization

Transforming a single-family home into the many different spaces needed for exhibit, library, wet lab, and a wide variety of events and programs made space planning for this project paramount. The wet lab needed direct access outside, which made the former garage a perfect location; double doors and windows fill in the space where garage doors once resided. The exhibit space benefitted from adjacency to the main entry, along with the natural daylight and views provided in the former living room, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The stairs were relocated, and a lift was added to improve circulation between floors and to make the building handicap accessible. An event space occupies much of the lower level with direct access to the new back patio and water feature which take the place of the former swimming pool.

SōL Harris/Day was instrumental in bringing the park’s ideas to life. They were able to balance the history of the building with it’s modern role in the future of the park to create something that looked like it was always part of the landscape.

Sarah Buell, Projects and Administration Manager, Stark Parks

Interior Concept

When updating the interior spaces, at the forefront was the need to maintain as much of the original integrity and design of the house while still commercializing the spaces, creating one cohesive building. Preservation of many existing materials played a large role in the unique design, integrating the existing hardwood floors, wall paneling, and beams into the finishes.

Another key feature was the use of materials that pay homage to nature. The carpet looks like the exterior trees are casting shadows on the ground. Custom restroom sinks emulate the solid hardwood throughout the house. Earth-tone paint colors reflect picturesque scenes outside the windows. The existing stone was kept intact and incorporated into the overall appearance.

Sustainable Features

  • Replaced the exterior windows for better building efficiency.
  • Maintained open views to nature to connect the Welcome Center with the park.
  • Bioswales capture all of the stormwater from the parking lot.

Highlights

  • Worked with the local community members to determine design goals for the new Fry Family Park and existing buildings.
  • Conducted an initial study to analyze the existing house and barn buildings for structural and exterior envelope improvement needs.
  • Developed design concepts to show renovations that would repurpose the existing house into a new park Welcome Center for training and interpretive programs.
  • Adhered to strict “Dark Sky” guidelines with the intent of earning the park the prestigious designation of a ‘Certified Dark Sky Park’... only the second in Ohio.
  • Added standard commercial bathrooms on the upper and lower levels for code compliance and easy accessibility.
  • Developed layouts that incorporated ADA requirements to make the existing two-story structure handicapped accessible.

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