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This article appeared in the Record-Courier in June 1984

Frank Buying Riddle Properties


Two Ravenna families who have been prime movers in the downtown area's development for more than a century have merged to form a new enterprise.

Hugh RiddleHugh Riddle, 67, managing partner of Riddle Properties, announced Wednesday a majority of the company's real estate holdings have been sold to the Frank family, owners of Frank Construction Co. located in Hanna Hills on Newton Falls Road.

The Riddles, whose family name is carved on 11 downtown buildings housing many downtown businesses, have retained ownership of "a few select places I prefer not to name," Riddle said.

The Frank family, led by brothers Burt and James Frank Sr., purchased most of the buildings outright. The remaining Riddle family properties also will be managed by the new owners.

Negotiations to form the new company, named Riddle-Frank Properties, began last October. An agreement was reached Tuesday and is effective July 1. Purchasing price and number of properties transferred to the Frank family were not revealed.

The two families have a long history of cooperative ventures in downtown Ravenna after Riddle's grandfather, Henry Warner Riddle, began building the Riddle Blocks in 1879.

The Frank family, whose construction company was established by P.L. Frank in 1885 and spans four generations, was contracted by Henry Riddle to construct many of the downtown blocks. In recent years, the family assisted Riddle with structural upgrading and maintenance of various properties.

"This merger of the Riddle and Frank interests is natural not only for the stability and continuity of the business, but also for the welfare of the tenants and the continuing progress of Ravenna," said Riddle, who also is chairman of Robinson Memorial Hospital's Board of Trustees.

Other principals in the new company are Burt's sons, David, 34, who will manage the firm, and Steve, 29. James's son, James Jr., also will join the company. Besides the Riddle Blocks, the Frank family has constructed city landmarks such as the Portage County Administration Building and the fire station. The company also has been active in many downtown improvements, including renovations of several Riddle Blocks and Etna House.

"We want to continue to keep a good state of repairs in the downtown area and expect to restore other buildings in keeping with community planning," said James Frank Sr., 58. Riddle said, "Here we now have at the helm a fourth generation Ravenna family whose predecessors have been more closely associated with the continuing change and expansion of these properties than anyone else. We look forward to a bright future."

Besides Riddle, Riddle Properties partners include brother, Maxwell, a former Cleveland Press syndicated pet columnist and dog expert who lives on Riddle Road, and Henry and Emily Merrill of Florida. Riddle's retirement ends a 125-year family tradition of active involvement in the downtown area after Henry Riddle settled in Ravenna in 1860. Henry Riddle, who worked as a woodworker at the old N.D. Clark carriage factory, bought the factory soon after he began his employment. In 1891 he called the factory the Riddle Coach and Hearse Co. which enjoyed a wide reputation as a hearse manufacturer. As the company prospered, Henry Riddle demonstrated his confidence in Ravenna by building the downtown business blocks and many homes.

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