Hello, friends! This is the first and only formal fundraiser for Fort Buffalo, in Ashville, Ohio.
If you don’t already know me, I’m Allison… the proud caretaker of the most amazing place in Ohio. The history, character, and potential here are what makes this place so special. I am a metal artist ( OldSoulStudio.com ) and a firefighter/ paramedic/ K9 handler. I’ve been working on Fort Buffalo for 3 years, while working full time. I’m ready to take this place to the next level, but I need your help.
Please read the brief history and plans section below, so you can fully understand the meaning of this project. I have put my heart and soul into this amazing place, and I am finally at the point where I need a little more help to put the project into its next phase, and share it with the world. I’m so grateful for all of you. I could not have made it this far without the help of my friends and community.
I apologize in advance for the lengthy video above, but it is from the heart… and was the best way I knew how to express my love of this project, and the details of my vision here.
Stuard’s Opera House and Stoltz Mercantile were the first businesses to occupy 21 East Main Street in Ashville, Ohio, in the late 1800s. The opera house was on the second floor, and the mercantile occupied the first floor. Many plays and programs were performed at Stuard’s. The Ashville museum has a poster from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, and other historical documents from that time period. In the 1950s, the Fortner family purchased the building, and it became Fortner Auto Supply. They also had a repair shop and a towing business. The family-owned, multi-generational business remained in operation until the 1990s, when the family retired. The property sat vacant for about 30 years. In 2020, I stumbled upon it, and fell in love. I knew it would be a labor of love (and heartache), but something about it felt like home. Something deep inside me was telling me I belonged here. October 14, 2020, I closed on the property and began the process of cleaning up the three buildings and three acres of land. With the support of the incredible Fortner family, and the help of my amazing friends, I now live on the property in a house that was formerly an office space, weld/ create art in the workshop that used to be the repair shop… and Fort Buffalo is now ready for its build-out phase. Through many long nights & weekends, and all-day work parties with family and friends, we were able to remove hundreds of shelves & racks of auto parts, many layers of wall-covering, damaged flooring, and ceiling panels. We’re almost all the way to the bare bones; exposed brick walls, tongue-and-groove ceilings, and concrete floors. The natural beauty and character of the space is back, and I cannot wait to start the build-out.
Since the history of the property (and the Fortner family) are so important to me, I want to display a photographic history in the renovated space. I was gifted Gary Fortner’s fire coat, vintage keepsakes from the business, and have found many artifacts on the premises that I want to display. Being an artist whose primary medium is metal art that I make from auto parts, this place felt like fate. I now have my own junkyard of vintage car parts and scrap steel to pick from to create artwork. My vision for the space is a unique and artistic marketplace with healthy food options, a trading post/ general store with locally made products, a flower/ plant shop with produce stand, vintage shop, and community gathering space. The shop will eventually be a place of learning; shop class re-invented. Art and welding classes will be the first on the calendar, but I will encourage classes from community members as well. I hope to renovate the second floor into a wellness space/ yoga studio, along with fine art studios. The possibilities are endless here. Inside the 3300 sq ft first floor, I want the space to look like a small western town. The stores will be actual storefronts with their own character/ personalities. The turquoise 1966 Chevy wrecker cab will be inside the building with a bookcase bed, for a quiet place to read while you drink your coffee or tea. There will be a line of vintage motorcycles facing the front window, so you can enjoy your lunch while on a vintage bike! There is a taxidermy bison, ready to become the mascot, and tons of antiques from the auto parts store days, that I can’t wait to display thoughtfully, to make the space the most unique place to visit in the midwest. I truly believe when we are done, Fort Buffalo will become a destination… a place to visit for the experience itself. I built a large Native American sculpture from motorcycle and car parts that will be one of many pieces of art to live in the space. As easy as it is to see the finished project in my mind, I realize I cannot possibly convey this to you all in words, and do it justice. Please believe me when I say that this place will be magical. I want to share it with the community, because what good is something special, if it is not shared with others? My whole life, I’ve dreamed of a place where I can make art and display it. This has already become so much more than that. Please help us by considering a donation, or even just sharing this page to get visibility. The Village of Ashville has overwhelmingly been supportive, and has shown up for us, with every event, every vintage pop-up we’ve had to raise renovation money, and with kind words & encouragement. Thank you all so much.
Work to be Done
Below is a list of work, in order of priority. This obviously does not account for issues/ unexpected expenses, but Phase 1 is what we know we need to do before we can open. If we exceed our goal, there are many more phases of the project that we will be able to complete sooner rather than later, and I will list those as well. You have my word that every dollar donated to the fundraiser will be used on the renovation and operations of Fort Buffalo. I will post updates to this page as work is started/ completed, and I will post photo/ video progress here and/or on our website ( FortBuffalo.com )
Phase 0 (current projects I am actively working on that do not require additional funding)
-Ceiling; scrape & paint
-Wall prep; finish removing remaining plaster and clean/ prep for masonry repair & sealant
-Flooring; sand/ clean/ prep & seal concrete floors
Phase 1 (estimate of $65,000)
-HVAC; new unit with spiral duct work to cover the 3300 sq ft ground level
-Electrical; new panel, conduit, outlets, lighting, fans
-Plumbing; remodel both bathrooms (reusing antique fixtures as practical), installation of sinks in the food prep area, spigots in front and rear of space, water heater, water softener & filtering system
-Signage; aluminum bison signage to hang below the existing Fortner Auto sign
-Repair of garage doors and man doors; roller and hardware replacement, etc.
-Masonry; interior/ exterior brick repair & sealant
-Frame and build out individual storefronts and cafe space using repurposed materials when available
-Permits for work for the above categories (Village of Ashville)
-Front Patio; concrete replacement including rebuilding damaged curbs, iron fencing and/ or bollards
-Rear Patio; concrete, fencing, fire pit
-Stage; convert carport to stage with lighting and proper electric upgrades
-Second Floor; remodel level 2 into yoga and wellness space / fine arts studio
-Workshop; HVAC and electric upgrades to workshop to teach classes
-Back Lot; Landscape cleanup and design for sculpture garden to make usable space in the back 2 acres for events / access to the creek for kayaking
-Greenhouse; Construct greenhouse in rear of property to grow produce, herbs, and flowers year-round to use and sell in the marketplace and cafe
If you’ve made it this far… Thank you. If you’d like to know more about me, or see videos/ photos of the Fort Buffalo project, please visit OldSoulStudio.com or FortBuffalo.com (they share a site). There are links to the YouTube channel where you can take a tour of the property from the first week I acquired it, and then see where we are now. I have to watch these myself at times, to remember how far we’ve come. To say this has been challenging is an understatement. Not only is the labor itself a grind, but there are always unexpected issues and obstacles that arise… like poison ivy from vines as large as trees, mechanical problems, unexpected expenses/ repairs, and of course, personal life setbacks. Those of you who know me, know I lost my mother in January of this year. Mom was my best friend, and a huge part of this project. The grief has been paralyzing, and has understandably been the reason for the lack of progress this year. As stubborn as I am, I know when it’s time to ask for help. Here I am, humbly asking. Please watch the videos if you have time, and please share our page. I’m infinitely grateful for each of you.
Ways you can help:
-Share our fundraiser
-Visit our website & social media pages
-Like, share, follow our social media pages
-Volunteer time to help with certain projects
-Post an encouraging note or comment on our page (these mean more than you know!)
FYI, per the rules of GoFundMe, no giveaways are permitted in exchange for any donations made.
Thank you to Blostein/Overly Architects for the beautiful renderings of our future plans, included in this story.