CONCORD TOWNSHIP., Ohio — Larry and Mary Ann VanDerHorst’s Lake County home, built in 1860, has sheltered its residents from the presidency of Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War to the advent of high speed internet and social media trends.
More than a century after its construction, a small addition to a red structure covering a well pump in the front yard became the signature feature of the historic house.
“He is a landmark. And that’s what people have referred to him as,” said Mary Ann VanDerHorst.
She believes a wooden Snoopy first slept atop his red dog house at the corner of Route 84 and Prouty Road in 1970. Charlie Brown’s beagle from the Charles Schulz Peanuts comic strip had taken up residence in the front yard long before the VanDerHorsts moved there in 1995.
“When we first got here, it was a bonus to get Snoopy,” Mary Ann explained. “He was made out of wood. He was laying down and holding in his little paws a bone that had the house address on it.”
The couple later replaced the wooden figure with a painted metal cutout of Snoopy as the WWI Flying Ace and added his yellow sidekick Woodstock. They secured the characters with carriage bolts after they went missing several times.
“He used to get stolen by the high school kids and the sheriff would bring him back and say, ‘I found your dog,’” Mary Ann laughed.
Whenever the VanDerHorsts needed to refresh Snoopy and Woodstock with a new coat of paint or new hardware, their absence was noticed immediately.
“When they’re not there, that’s when we get the reaction: ‘Where are they? When are they coming back? Are they coming back?’” said Larry.
Mary Ann added, “People will send notes, they’ll send emails, they’ll send letters: ‘You need to put him back. People can’t find their way to our house.’ He’s become a Concord Township landmark.”
This summer, concern from neighbors mounted on a neighborhood social media site when both the characters and their iconic red dog house disappeared one day.
“Somebody had asked, ‘Have you noticed Snoopy is gone and his house is missing?’” Mary Ann said of the post on Nextdoor. “I had a friend contact me and say, ‘You really need to address the situation.’”
The metal figures were a little worse for wear after several Northeast Ohio winters and numerous salt trucks. Their dog house, however, was in disrepair and needed to be rebuilt. Mary Ann answered her neighbors’ inquiries and asked if anyone would be willing to donate or install siding to help extend the life of the dog house.
“Lo and behold, there were offers of money, there were offers of paint, there were people that wanted to come from all over just to help him,” she said.
The mother of a local contractor happened to see the post and recommend her son’s handiwork for the job. Die Hard Exteriors owner Duane Cole, who grew up near the Concord Township Snoopy, jumped at the opportunity to personally repair a childhood landmark.
“I couldn’t stand the thought of somebody else working on it,” Cole laughed. “I used all the original wood that we could use. The only new pieces were the two pieces that went on the roof and one piece across the front.”
Cole’s upgrade took less than a week and rebuilt the wooden dog house with new shingles, red siding and waterproofing material.
Cole and the VanDerHorsts were both struck by how much the neighborhood has grown attached to the pair of cartoon characters at the intersection.
“Somebody said, ‘In a negative world, this is one of the positive things where everyone can kind of agree on,’” Larry said.
Cole added, “I never thought the neighborhood would come together like that over something like that. I’d never seen anything like it.”
Neighbors cut out new Snoopy and Woodstock pieces using the originals as templates. Mary Ann and Larry have primed them and Mary Ann plans to repaint the characters by hand so they can be replaced before Labor Day.
“I think people right now, in this day and age, need something positive and happy,” said MaryAnn. “If you can make someone smile, just one person, you have changed their day, their month, their year and made it that much better.”
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