By Matt Fredmonsky
Record-Courier staff writer
A Kent landmark is appearing in books worldwide thanks to a recent feature film and graphic novel about a young girl's scary adventures.
The Masonic Center, the Kent family homestead located at the corner of West Main and South Mantua streets, appears as the basis for the illustrated house in "Coraline," a graphic novel adapted from the original novella, which itself was made this year into a stop-motion animation film directed by Henry Selick. Selick directed "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Corpse Bride."
Kent resident P. Craig Russell illustrated the graphic novel, selling on Amazon.com, and based Coraline's house on the Masonic Center. The story of Russell's decision to use the Kent landmark as inspiration begins airing today on WKSU-FM (89.7), as one of the station's reporters, Jeff St. Clair, retells Russell's tale in a four-and-a-half minute segment.
St. Clair said he stumbled upon the story while borrowing the graphic novel from the Kent Free Library with his 11-year-old son.
"We just happened to pick up "Coraline,'" St. Clair said. "In looking at it we instantly recognized this house the family had lived in as the Masonic Lodge. It's just kind of a thrill to see a building that we're so familiar with in this graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman and read all over the world."
St. Clair's interview with Russell is scheduled to air twice today during the radio station's morning and afternoon news programs.
"Coraline" weaves a mysterious story about other worlds connected through a doorway in the old mansion where she lives with her parents and several other tenants.
Russell established a name for himself as an illustrator at Marvel Comics. The East College Avenue resident has since helped pioneer the adapted illustrations of historic operas.
Russell said he initially considered using Stan Hywet Hall in Akron as his model for the exterior of the house.
"I had been looking for a place ... and I knew I needed some reference material because the house was in the story so much it was almost a character," Russell said.
But Stan Hywet Hall was too low and rambling and wouldn't fit well on a page.
"As I was driving back to Kent I drove past the Masonic Temple and I thought, "There it is,'" Russell said.
Workers set the cornerstone of the structure on June 7, 1880. The mansion became the home of Kent namesake Marvin Kent.
Kent reportedly consulted no architects for the plans and design of the Italianate house. His source for the design is unknown.
The mansion was the home of the Kent family until 1923, when Marvin Kent's son, William, died. It then passed into the hands of the Rockton Masonic Lodge. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
St. Clair said his interview with Russell will be available on the WKSU Web site, www.wksu.org, after its initial on-air debut.
"This story is mostly about (Russell's) interest in this house," St. Clair said. "It evoked for him the idea of an old mansion that could house this witch or monster. That is really the core of the story."