GRANVILLE, Ohio (AP) -- It's not much to look at -- a rusted, dented tin shack with an old bed frame and a couple of bales of straw inside on a 14-acre property north of this Licking County village.
But decades ago, this was a building of honor, as citizens exercised their right as Americans within those tin walls. They came to this building to vote their leaders into office, from the president of the United States to the township trustee.
Or, more accurately, the building came to them.
The building resting on Bill Ricciardo's property is a mobile polling place, used near the turn of the 20th century to help make voting easier for people who lived in rural areas.
Ricciardo inherited it when he bought the property in 1986.
"We were told it was the election building" by the former owner "and never gave it any more thought," Ricciardo said. "We've always used it for storage."
But when his daughter, Ginger, recently noticed a picture of a building that looked like their election building while thumbing through a small paperback book of historical photos of Licking County, the family's interest was piqued.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much more information to be found. "I Googled until I went blind, but to no avail," Ricciardo said.
During a Christmas visit, a friend suggested that he call Licking County Commissioner Doug Smith, a history buff.
"There's a restored one behind the Harding presidential home in Marion," Smith said. "At one time, they were ubiquitous in Ohio. Every county had a supply of them. They were born of the desire to bring voting to the multitudes."
Ricciardo's building is typical -- 18 feet long and 10 feet wide, with a 10-foot ceiling and vented for a wood-burning stove. It has tin walls and roof; a planked floor; a handful of glass windows that can be shuttered; and two doors, allowing voters to pass through the small building without bumping into each other. Smith said the buildings fell out of use around World War II.
Sharon Hendren of Johnstown recalls that her grandfather bought old election buildings in Columbus in the 1950s and hauled them back to Licking County. She said he used at least three in the construction of area homes.
She said there's a house on Columbia Road in Pataskala -- where both she and her grandfather Earl Swinning lived -- that he built by putting two election buildings end-to-end as a frame and then erecting the house around them. She also remembers him using one as a bathroom addition to another home.
"He'd bring in three or four and park them in the field beside our house," Hendren said. "We'd play in them when we were kids. We'd be black when we'd come out, they were so dirty from the old wood stove."
She also remembers a couple of families in a poorer area near Licking Heights, called Blanche Addition, who had lived in discarded election buildings. "It would be tough living," Hendren said.
Ricciardo isn't sure what will become of his election building.
"My first inclination, after learning a little more, was to restore it," he said. "But then I thought, 'Who's going to see it out here?'
"I think it's meant to be somewhere. If not, it will be a curiosity to rot here. I'm kind of a karma guy. It's going to work itself out one way or another."
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com