Showing posts with label 1850s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1850s. Show all posts

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Farmhouse in the City

Greek Revival farmhouse

This house, at 1209 East 71st Street - just north of Superior - has been on my radar for a long time. In fact, it was the subject of one of my very first stories here.

Try to imagine the house as it was at the time it was built, 160 years ago. Remove the porch. The house would have sat on a rise, a couple of steps leading up to the front door. The windows on the front of the house, on the first floor, had a somewhat ornate trim, as did the front door. The windows, two over two, would have been flanked by shutters, perhaps in dark green, in contrast to the white of the house.

Clemen N. Jagger residence

The color scheme might have been something along the lines of the Clemen N. Jagger residence, now at Hale Farm and Village. The first floor windows on the front might have had panels underneath, like this structure, or they might have been triple-hung - what I do know is that the original window trim extended downward to a line even with the bottom of the doorframe.

It was a simple structure, but with good proportions, on a relatively small (ten acre) lot.

Greek Revival house - foundation detail

On the exterior, the house has plenty to tell us. The foundation, now covered with a layer of paint, bears the tool marks of the people who quarried and cut it.

Hand-hewn timbers

While most of the framing for the house was cut in a sawmill, the largest timbers were hewn by hand. One can be seen here, underneath a bit of trim.

Siding detail, W. Lewis residence

A closer look at the front of the house illustrates the flush siding - an uncommon detail. One can also see, in the paint, the outline of the trim that originally flanked the windows - a helpful piece of information for the party that chooses to fix up this house.

This house plays a signficant role in illustrating the way this neighborhood changed and grew over time.

William Lewis was born on 3 April 1809, in Westport St. Mary, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England. His wife, Mary Anne Ponting Lewis, was born 1814, also in England. In 1847, they immigrated to the United States with their four children: Thomas (born 1838); George (born 1840); Jane (born about 1842); and Edward (born about 1845). By 1850, they were farming in East Cleveland, Ohio. (Sources: Find a Grave records for William Lewis and Mary Anne Ponting Lewis, 1850 and 1860 US Census).

1209 East 71st street Google Maps

In September, 1852, they purchased, for $500, a ten acre parcel facing Becker Avenue - now East 71st Street. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 185312190004 ) The parcel extended eastward to what is now East 79th Street. The original property is shown in blue on this map - the location of the house, in green.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10 October 1897, page 4. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

The seller was one Edward Lewis, also from Wiltshire, England. He had risen to prominence within the iron and steel industry by the time this portrait was made, in 1897. His relationship, if any, with William Lewis is unclear.

At the price, it's plausible that the house had just been built - especially if Edward Lewis was a relative and was giving William a good deal. If not, the house was built soon after.

The 1860 US Census lists two more children: William (born about 1848) (henceforth William, Jr.) and Benjamin (born about 1851). It's unclear why William, Jr. wasn't numerated in the 1850 census.

William Lewis died July 30, 1854, at the age of 45. He was buried in Woodland Cemetery. I have not been able to locate any documentation as to the cause of death. (Find a Grave William Lewis.)

View of the Ohio State Fair Grounds, 1856
View of the Ohio State Fair Grounds, 1856. A hand-colored print (1856) by Klauprech & Menzel. Used courtesy of the Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps.

The family would have likely attended the 1856 Ohio State Fair, held just a mile and a quarter to the east.

By 1858, there were neighbors on either side, both occupying similarly sized (and shaped) lots. The family remained at this house, and by 1860, the value of the property was listed as $4,000.

Used courtesy of the National Archives,, and Cleveland Public Library.

Thomas Lewis and George Lewis both registered for the draft in 1863. Their occupation is listed as "gardener". How this is different from "farmer", which appears far more frequently, is unclear.

Mary Lewis died 11 December 1863. She was buried alongside her husband at Woodland Cemetery. (Find a Grave: Mary Anne Ponting Lewis)

George Lewis and Jane Lewis transferred their shares in the property to Thomas Lewis, in 1863. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 186302250002)

Thomas Lewis married Amelia Gibbs. They raised several children in the house: Celia Jane Lewis (born 23 October 1865); Frank J. Lewis (born 1866); William E. Lewis (born July, 1870); Thomas E. Lewis (born 9 July 1873); Charles A. Lewis (born January, 1878); and Sarah E. Lewis (born December, 1879). Arthur Lewis, born November 1875, died the following month, from whooping cough.

By 1874, the area was becoming more developed. The Lewis children would have attended a brick schoolhouse, built at the corner of what is now Carl Avenue and Addison Road, a walk of abuot a fifth of a mile.

The best frame Italianate house on the east side

The larger farm lots were beginning to be split up to build residences. Some were massive, grand structures, like this house, at 6512 Superior, which I've written about in detail. (See: The best frame Italianate house I've seen in Cleveland and Threatened: The best frame Italianate house on Cleveland's east side)

Italianate house on Superior

On the opposite side of the street, the Beckenback residence has a similarly interesting story. Like the house facing it, it retains significant interior detail.

The biggest change to the immediate surroundings came in the form of the Lakeview, Collamer, and Euclid Railway, which ended just a couple hundred feet up Becker Avenue (now East 71st Street).

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 23 June 1876, page 4. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8 May 1880, page 4. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

449 Camp Gilbert
Residence and Grounds of George Gilbert, Esquire, Euclid Station, Ohio. From the 1874 Lake Atlas of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

Passengers might have used the railway to visit Camp Gilbert, at the mouth of Euclid Creek.

The following clipping, in addition to illustrating storm damage (front page news!) provides us with a vital bit of history - this house did, in fact, have shutters.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 16 December 1876, page 1. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10 February 1877, page 4. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

This quantity - an unknown portion of the Lewis flock - strongly suggests that at least part of their income came from selling either eggs or chickens.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 13 April 1880, page 5. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

This purchase suggests that the railway was busy.

A beer garden was built at the railway terminal - next door to the Lewis house. As this 1885 article suggests, it caused some problems.

There's nothing useful that I can say about the following articles.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 13 July 1885, page 1. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 14 July 1885, page 1. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 14 July 1885, page 3. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1 October 1885, page 3. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

In 1885, Celia Lewis married John Moser in a ceremony at the Lewis family home. John Moser moved in to the house, where they had two children: Grace M. Moser (born 1886) and John Lewis Moser (born 1887).

The Lewis / Moser family remained in the house through the end of the 19th century. The ten acre lot was gradually split into smaller and smaller peices, as this became a residential neighborhood. In 1900, Amelia Lewis sold the house to Eliza and William Lehmann. (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 190003230029)

In the next article, we'll see how this house (and the neighborhood) changed during the course of the 20th century.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cincinnati's Kilgour house and Mount Adams - This Time in Winter!

Ohio River Landscape / The Steamboat Washington
Ohio River Landscape / The Steamboat Washington. An oil painting (circa 1820). Used courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Schwartz, Paterson, NJ. Reproduced from Folk Painters of America (1979) by Robert Bishop.

As part of my research, I've been reading Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900: A Biographyical Dictionary, (2000) edited by Mary Sayre Haverstock, Jeannette Mahoney Vance, and Brian L. Meggitt. This 1066 page tome includes perhaps 10,000 artists active in Ohio in or before 1900. I've been reading it, seeking out all of the artists active in or before 1865.

Two weeks ago, I identified the painting shown here as a Cincinnati scene. At center is the Kilgour house, built about 1820. To the right, the city's first water works. At the left, Deer Creek empties into the Ohio River.

The Forest Queen in Winter
The Forest Queen in Winter. A painting (1857) by Martin Andreas Reisner. Used courtesy of Richard and Jane Manoogian. Image used courtesy of The Athenaeum.

This morning, while reading Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900, I came across a citation for this 1857 painting, The Forest Queen in Winter by Martin Andreas Reisner. The authors noted that, in 1857, Reisner "visited Cincinnati (Hamilton), a portrino of whose riverfont features prominently in The Forest Queen in Winter (Manoogian Collection)."

To my surprise, I was able to locate a high quality image of the painting. It appears to be based, in part, on the same landscape! Mount Adams is present in the background. The Kilgour house is present, just to the right of center. The Little Miami Railroad runs along the river.

Detail, Cincinnati Panorama
Detail, Cincinnati Panorama. A daguerreotype (1848) by Charles Fontayne and William S. Porter. Used courtesy of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

When compared with this photograph, made nine years earlier, it's obvious that Martin Andreas Reisner took considerable liberties. The commercial buildings are all gone - either he envisioned the landscape without them, or, perhaps, he was working based on an earlier view of the area. On the other hand, he retains what appears to be a bit of commercial activity based around the (considerably smaller) Deer Creek. Yet if we are to see this as something based on an earlier work, why the inclusion of the railroad?

This view clearly involves a bit of imagination and artistic license. This doesn't diminish its value as a look at Cincinnati in the 1850s. Further, given the rarity of winter views, it seems perfect for a day like today.

What do you see in it?

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Bentley Simons Runyan Family of Mansfield, Ohio: The house and its residents

Bentley Simons Runyan Family of Mansfield, Ohio
The Bentley Simons Runyan Family of Mansfield, Ohio an oil painting (circa 1857) by Frederick Elmore Cohen. 38 x 45 in. Used courtesy of the Allen Memorial Art Museum.

Last week, I shared the location of this, the house depicted in one of my favorite Ohio paintings. Today, I'll illuminate something of the house itself and the people who lived there. In part three, next week, I'll bring everything together and provide some analysis as to what it all means.

Boyd Addlesperger, local history librarian at the Mansfield / Richland County Public Library, was kind enough to email me with a copy of the following article. Esther Smith (Many Notables Walked Between Iron Lions of Former Cappeller Home on West Fourth, Mansfield News Journal, July 20, 1941) provides a wonderful history of the house and the families who lived in it. I've inserted several historic maps to help illustrate the changes to the propery. Note that in the maps, the front of the house is at the top of the image. My commentary is in italics.

For almost a century the doorway at 93 West Fourth street has been guarded by a pair of crouching cast-iron lions. They were placed there when the big brick house was built by Bentley Runyan who came to Mansfield from Knox County in 1847. State and national figures have passed between them.

Three Ohio governors, Joseph V. Foraker, George K. Nash and Asa Bushnell were frequent visitors at the home during the 25 years it was occupied by William S. Cappeller, publisher of Mansfield's first daily newspaper and prominent figure in Ohio Republican life.

Warren G. Harding was entertained there during his campaign for presidency of the United States and John Sherman often called at the Cappeller home.

One of the showplaces of the city at the time it was built, the old Runyan home was for several years the only house that stood in that particular block on the south side of West Fourth Street.

[detail] Plate B - Parts of Wards 1, 2, and 3, Atlas of the City of Mansfield, Ohio. E. Robinson & R.H. Pidgeon, Civil Engineers. Published by E. Robinson, New York, 1882. Used courtesy of Richland County, Ohio USGenWeb.

The lot is seen here in 1882. The brick house, shown in Cohen's painting, is in red, while the barn, to the rear, is in yellow. Note that the lot remains empty of other structures.

Commodious rooms prevailed throughout the house and the downstairs boasted both a parlor and sitting room, bedroom, a dining room that ran the width of the house, kitchen and pantry besides the various extensions that served as woodshed and ice house.

Upstairs there were a series of bedrooms making a total of 14 rooms throughout the entire house.

Numerous changes have been made in the house since then but one feature that remains the same, a beautiful spiral staircase that extends from the reception hall to the third floor. As unique in local architecture today as it was originally the staircase has a narrow walnut banister supported by a newel post and slender spindles whose fragile appearance belies their sturdiness.

As long as the Runyan family occupied the house few changes, if any, were made, according to Mrs. George A. Mead, 65 Blymyer avenue, a granddaughter.

detail, 1887 Sanborn map of Mansfield, Ohio
[detail] 1887 Sanborn fire insurance map of Mansfield, Ohio. See also: the full map.

While the residence and carriage house remained essentially unchanged, the lot was split in two by 1887. The area shown as the garden in Frederick Elmore Cohen's painting had a house sitting on it by the time this map, published in 1887, was printed.

Residence of W.S. Cappeller, No. 93 West Fourth Street
Residence of W.S. Cappeller, No. 93 West Fourth Street. Reproduced from The County of Richland, Ohio (1896). Published by Rerick Bros., Richmond, IN. Used courtesy of the Richland County Historical Society.

The facade was first altered during the occupancy of the Cappeller family by the building of a verandah that gave an added appearance of width to the front of the dwelling.

An oil painting of the home and Runyan family at the time the children were small now hands in the home of a granddaughter, Mrs. James McCullough in Oberlin. A photograph of the painting is in Mrs. Mead's possession.

The house was kept in the Runyan family until the two sisters, Miss Mary Ellen Runyan, who had established the first private kindergarten in Mansfield, and Mrs. Almeda Parsons and the latter's infant daughter, now Mrs. McCullough, were the only occupants. Mrs. Parson's husband had recently died and she and her sister sought a more compact dwelling.

W.S. Cappeller and his family came to Mansfield from Cincinnati in 1885 while Cappeller was commissioner of railroads in Ohio.

detail, 1897 Sanborn map of Mansfield, Ohio
[detail], 1897 Sanborn fire insurance Sanborn map of Mansfield, Ohio. See also: the full map.

Early in the residency of the Cappeller family (by 1897) the barn to the rear of the lot was removed.

Scene of many social gatherings from the senior Cappeller's political and public life, the home for the next 25 years was also a gathering place for the friends of the sons and daughters.

There were three grown children at home then, William G. Cappeller, now dead, a bookkeeper in his father's Daily News; a daughter, Nora, now the wife of W.M. Congwer of Cleveland, and E.B. Cappeller, then a student at Cornell university and now living in Cleveland.

Antique furnishings were used throughout the house, Mrs. Flora G. Cappeller, 111 Sherman avenue, widow of W.G. Cappeller, recalls. Two choice pieces, belonging to her husband's grandmother, Mrs. Mary Cappeller, a dresser and a chest, are now in her possession, and also the silver water chariot that was presented to W.S. Cappeller at the time he retired as treasurer of Hamilton county.

In 1911 W.S. Cappeller died and his widow dismantled the home and went to Cincinnati to live with a daughter, Mrs. Laura Doran, now a resident of California.

Since that time the house has been occupied by a Mansfield physician, Dr. D.W. Peppard and his family.

detail, 1914 Sanborn map of Mansfield, Ohio
[detail], 1914 Sanborn fire insurance map of Mansfield, Ohio. See also: the full map.

Between 1909 and 1914, the lots were split up, and new houses were built on the rear half of the lot. By 1921, a garage had been added to the lot of the house behind the Runyan house. No further changes to the footprints of the structures show up on the 1929 or 1949 Sanborn fire insurance maps.

More extensive improvements have been made by the Peppards than in any year prior to their occupancy. Additional windows have been installed to let in more sunlight. New fireplaces have been built in practically all of the downstairs and upstairs rooms that were originally equipped with mantels.

Part of the space in the large dining room has been appropriated for a modern kitchen while a rear screened-in porch with a floor has been built to the east for an "outdoor" dining nook where every meal in the summer time is a picnic, Mrs. Peppard said.

Dr. Peppard's office now occupies the extension that was formerly the old Runyan woodshed and that now runs along side Cappeller court.

Seldom has there been a time in the history of the house that there have not been young people in it. The Peppards reared a son and three daughters there and it was only this summer that the last of their children, William D. Peppard, married and moved to his own home.

Be sure to tune in next time, for the final part of this story, where I'll make some sense of everything that's been revealed about this family and the place they called home.

Friday, December 14, 2012

In Search of the Bright Green House - The Bentley Simons Runyan Family of Mansfield, Ohio

Bentley Simons Runyan Family of Mansfield, Ohio
The Bentley Simons Runyan Family of Mansfield, Ohio an oil painting (circa 1857) by Frederick Elmore Cohen. 38 x 45 in. Used courtesy of the Allen Memorial Art Museum.

For as long as I can remember - since the mid-1990s at least - this painting has caught my attention when I've visited the Allen Memorial Art Museum, in Oberlin, Ohio. As I became interested in Cleveland area architecture, the painting became noteworthy as an early depiction of a house in color - how can one miss that bright green? Now I see it as a very special document.

The Bentley Simons Runyan Family of Mansfield, Ohio, a painting made circa 1857 by Frederick Elmore Cohen is arguably the best Ohio family portrait. It goes beyond merely depicing a man, a woman, and their five children - the level of detail in the image provides us so many details about how they lived and what they felt was important.

[detail] Bentley Simons Runyan Family of Mansfield, Ohio
Detail, Bentley Simons Runyan Family of Mansfield, Ohio an oil painting (circa 1857) by Frederick Elmore Cohen. 38 x 45 in. Used courtesy of the Allen Memorial Art Museum.

The yard is well manicured, with a variety of trees, some so small that they still have cages around their bases for protection. Trellises of a couple different designs line the side and front of the house, as well as the right edge of the yard. A lattice is attached to the side of the house near the rear.

To the rear of the house, there's a barn and a smaller structure, both gray in color. To the left of these, a one and a half story building, painted white. Looking more distant, we can see what appears to be a hill, or perhaps even a mountain.

Looking at the house itself, we first notice the color - a bright green where we're used to seeing white. Looking closely, we can make out the texture of brick underneath the green paint. From the two chimneys, wisps of smoke are visible. And then there's the grand front door, flanked by a pair of lions. Draperies appear present around all of the windows.

Finally, there's the family! They're clearly of some means, as they appear well-dressed. One can see that Bentley Runyan's left arm used to be pointing, as if to say "this is mine". And what stories might the children tell?

We knew what city the house was said to be located in, but, it seemed, nothing more. I had to, at the very least, try to put this scene on a map.

Rather than reinvent the wheel - which I seem to do more frequently than I should - I sent an email to Andria Derstine, director of the Allen Memorial Art Museum, asking if they had anything further in their curatorial files on the painting. There was an article, Artist and Patron: Frederick Cohen and Bentley Runyan by Marcia Goldberg, which appeared in the Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin, volume 37, number 2 (1979-80), pages 79-87.

Goldberg notes (page 84) "The Runyan house was the showplace of Mansfield when it was built, probably in 1852 or 1853. It stood alone for some time on a large fenced and landscaped plot at the base of a hill (just visible to the left) on the western edge of town."

The 1850 U.S. Census indicates that the Runyan family, living in Madison Township, Richland County, owned real estate worth $2,200. A decade later (1860 U.S. Census), they were living in Mansfield Township. There were five children (ages 13, 11, 8, 5 and 1), and they were of sufficient means to employ a laborer and a domestic. The value of their real estate had jumped to $25,000.

With this information in hand - a large estate (as suggested by the value of the real estate) and a vague location (the west edge of Mansfield) - I knew just where I might find the answer to my question.

Large-scale maps illustrating land ownership and the locations of houses were producted for more than half of the counties in Ohio in the 1850s and 1860s. My working bibliography of such maps indicated that, while such a map had been made for Richland County, it wasn't among those that I knew to have been digitized.

[detail] Plate B - Parts of Wards 1, 2, and 3
[detail], Plate B - Parts of Wards 1, 2, and 3, Atlas of the City of Mansfield, Ohio. E. Robinson & R.H. Pidgeon, Civil Engineers. Published by E. Robinson, New York, 1882. Used courtesy of Richland County, Ohio USGenWeb.

Fortunately, the 1856 Map of Richland County, Ohio had been digitized by Richland County Ohio USGenWeb. Alas, the map of Mansfield was not included. After some fumbing around, I came across the 1882 Atlas of the City of Mansfield, Ohio. Someone had been kind enough to index the names on it, and finally, I hit paydirt! Take a close look at the south side of W. Fourth, about a block west of Mulberry.

[detail] Plate B - Parts of Wards 1, 2, and 3, Atlas of the City of Mansfield, Ohio. E. Robinson & R.H. Pidgeon, Civil Engineers. Published by E. Robinson, New York, 1882. Used courtesy of Richland County, Ohio USGenWeb.

Looking more closely, we see a house belonging to "Lucinda Runyon" - the wife of Bentley Simons Runyan, and who is illustrated on the left side of the painting. The house is painted a red hue - indicating that is brick (a frame house would generally be painted yellow on such a map). Further, the footprint is approximately what we'd expect for the house as shown in the painting. Finally, there's a yellow building - a barn or carriage house - in approximately the right location.

BSR House 1
Photograph used courtesy of Jennifer Gray.

I took a look at the site in Google Maps, hoping that the structure might still be standing, which would confirm my hypothesis that this was the house in the painting. What I saw looked promising. Streetview confirmed that it was, in fact, still there!

This photograph illustrates the house. It's brick, and the proportions appear correct. The windows and door on the front were in the same location as those in Cohen's panint.

But it's not the house in the painting. In my excitement, I went a bit too far on West Fourth Street. The Runyan house was a block to the east.

Residence of W.S. Cappeller, No. 93 West Fourth Street
Residence of W.S. Cappeller, No. 93 West Fourth Street. Reproduced from The County of Richland, Ohio (1896). Published by Rerick Bros., Richmond, IN. Used courtesy of the Richland County Historical Society.

I put a call out on Facebook, asking for a photograph of the house, before I realized it was no longer standing. Alan Wigton, President of the Richland County Historical Society, was among the first to respond. He did end up pointing out my error - but he also provided this photograph of the house, taken in 1896.

A massive front porch was added, and a bit of gingerbread had been affixed to the peak of the gable. The 8 over 8 windows present in 1857 were replaced with 1 over 1 ones and the shutters were removed, too.

Note the lions on the front stoop. They seem a bit large for the space where they're sitting, I think. They appear to be the lions in Cohen's painting!

Enough of the house. Who were the Runyans?

This passage (History of Richland County, Ohio (1880), pages 730-731) provides as complete a background on the Runyan family as I've been able to find.
RUNYAN, BENTLEY S. (deceased). The subject of this sketch, who was one of the active and prominent business men of Mansfield for over twenty years, was born in Knox Co., Ohio, March 6, 1821; he was the eighth child of Hill and Mary L. Runyan, who were old residents of that county; in the month of April, 1847, he removed to Mansfield, where he opened a hardware store, near the southeast corner of Walnut and Fourth streets; in the fall of the same year, he changel his location to a room south of Fourth on Main street, where he remained until after purchasing the building south of the present European Hotel, in which place for many years he did a large and extensive business, it being the chief hardware store in the city. During his residence in this city, he was prominent in all public and charitable enterprises, and his name was generally found at the head of the list of those citizens who petitioned and subscribed in the interest of the city and its inhabitants; he was one of the founders of the Mansfield Gas-Light Company, and served as one of its officers, and was elected on an independent ticket as Mayor of the city, in which capacity he gave universal satisfaction; for many years he was an active member and oflicer of the Richland Co. Agricultural Society, the success of which was due in a great measure to his efforts.

He was married in Mount Vernon, Ohio, to Miss Lucinda Murphy, of that place, Jan. 14, 1844; five children by this marriage are living - John Beatley, now a resident of Tiffin, Ohio, where he holds the position of Teller in the Tiffin National Bank; Charles C., of the firm of Bush & Runyan, plumbers and gasfitters in this city; Robert Mead, iron-roofer and painter now in the employ of the Aultman & Taylor Co., and two daughters Almeda and Mary E.

B.S. Runyan died in this city Jan. 12, 1869; R. Mead Runyan was married in Mansfield Jan. 20, 1875 to Miss Ida Boyle; two sons were born to them - Frank born in 1876, died March 18, 1878; Harry was born Jan. 15, 1877.

Part 2 of this narrative, which will explain more of the history of this house and how it changed over time, will appear next week.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

More Strange Geography - The Great Miami River and Harwinton, Connecticut

The Great Miami River
The Great Miami River, an oil painting (circa 1850) by either Elizabeth Frankenstein or Godfrey N. Frankenstein. Image courtesy of the Clark County Historical Society. Photo by Sandy Bialik.

Sometimes, when an image is good enough, or when it simply speaks to the people of a given place and time, it takes on a life of its own. Such is the case with this painting, by either Elizabeth Frankenstein or her brother, Godfrey Nicholas Frankenstein.

The painting, The Great Miami River (circa 1850) depicts a scene near Cleves, Ohio. Cleves is a town in the very southwest corner of the state, about seven and a half miles from where the Great Miami empties into the Ohio River.

Detail, Map of Hamilton County, Ohio, a print (1856) by A.W. Gilbert. Used courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Based on the information available, Frankenstein's painting appears to have been made in the location shown on this detail of Gilbert's 1856 Map of Hamilton County, Ohio. It's the only place in the vicinity of Cleves where the road comes close enough to the water and one has an unobstructed straight view down the river. The view is looking approximately west, as shown by the green lines drawn on the map.

View on the Great Miami, Near North Bend
View on the Great Miami, Near North Bend, a print (1851) by Onken's Lithography, after a painting by Godfrey N. Frankenstein. Published in Western Scenery; or, Land and River, Hill and Dale, In the Mississippi Valley. (1851) by William Wells. Used courtesy of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

The image was reproduced by Onken's Lithography in this 1851 print, with the additon of a man fishing.

View On The Great Miami (Near Cleves, O.)
View On The Great Miami (Near Cleves, O.), an engraving (April, 1857) by William Wellstood, after a painting by Godfrey N. Frankenstein. Published in The Ladies Repository, April, 1857. Used courtesy of The Philadelphia Print Shop.

It was reproduced again in the April, 1857 issue of the Ladies Repository, which was published in Cincinnati. In this image, the man fishing is in a boat, and a cart has been added on the road.

Mill Creek Near Cincinnati / [less likely ] Great Miami River near Cleves
Mill Creek Near Cincinnati / Great Miami River near Cleves, an oil painting (1847) by Godfrey Nicholas Frankenstein. Used courtesy of Cincinnati Art Galleries. Reproduced from Panorama of Cincinnati Art II, 1850-1950 by Cincinnati Art Galleries.

To help confuse things, another painting (1847) by Godfrey N. Frankenstein has sometimes been listed with the title Great Miami River near Cleves. At others, it was listed as Mill Creek at Cincinnati. A print of the subject was published with the title Mill Creek at Cincinnati giving credence to that name. Note that the body of water in this painting is much shallower than in the other images.

I'm unsure as to whether this depicts the Great Miami River or Mill Creek. Whichever case, it's not the scene depicted in the lead painting.

Fisherman on the Harwinton
Fisherman on the Harwinton, a drawing / watercolor painting (1857 or later). Used courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this image, Fisherman on the Harwinton, in the M. & M. Karolik collection of American water colors & drawings, 1800-1875. A quick search revealed Harwinton to be in Connecticut.

Fisherman on the Harwinton
Fisherman on the Harwinton, a chalk drawing (1857 or later). Used courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

I went to the online catalog of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, looking for more information. I was again surprised by a second work titled Fisherman on the Harwinton. These two works are said to depict a scene "near Litchfield, Connecticut". (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, M. & M. Karolik collection of American water colors & drawings, 1800-1875, vol. 2, p. 137-139.)

I'm sure that the two works titled Fisherman on the Harwinton are based on the print published in The Ladies Repository, in April, 1857. What, then, made someone think that they were of a scene in Connecticut?

I suspect that oral tradition held that one of the works depicted a scene near Harwinton, Connecticut. This somehow (as oral tradition tends to do) became a scene on the Harwinton. When another work with an identical composition came into the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston's collection, it was obvious that it was after the same original - and so received the same title.

Out of curiousity, I checked the two gazetteers from that period that I could readily locate - John Hayward's 1839 New England Gazetteer and John Chauncey Pease and John Milton Niles' 1819 Gazetteer of the States of Connecticut and Rhode-Island. While both listed Harwinton as a place name, neither listed it as the name of any sort of body of water.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hiding on the Near West Side

Over the weekend, I was driving around the near west side of Cleveland. My purpose was twofold. I needed to keep the kids entertained (our visit to the art museum had lasted but 45 minutes) and I wanted to check out a house, said to have been built in 1865, owned by someone that I went to high school with. Said house is undergoing a full-gut rehab, and I was hoping, if the date was indeed 1865, to be able to better document construction techniques.

3012 Barber Avenue (rear)
Then, I came across this house, peeking out from behind another, at 3012 Barber Avenue. Based on the style, it seems to have been built around 1840-1850. A better look reveals a bit of detail, but not much – it’s all hidden underneath vinyl siding.

3012 Barber Avenue (rear)
The foundation appears to be made from rusticated concrete blocks, which replaced the original stone blocks. This means either that it was moved at some point or that something happened (deterioration of the original foundation, for instance) that made it require a new foundation.

This house is of a style not often seen in greater Cleveland – and for that reason, it’s especially interesting. The I.T. Frary photograph collection at the Ohio Historical Society contains a couple similar structures.

House, North of Wellington, Ohio. 1923.
House, North of Wellington, Ohio. 1923. Print 1755, a photograph by I.T. Frary, in the collections of the Ohio Historical Society. [19566 State Route 58, Wellington, OH.]
This one features a front porch. The house on Barber Avenue might have had one – it’s impossible to know without getting inside the structure. (Note that the front windows on this house appear to have been replaced with much wider ones than would have been original, likely in the early 20th century.)

2612 - House
2612 - House. Between Shalersville and Freedom, Ohio. 1926. A photograph by I.T. Frary. Scanned from a photocopy of an original in the I.T. Frary Audiovisual Collection at the Ohio Historical Society.
Another, seen here, lacks a porch, but instead has a small awning, which is likely original. The lattice work on it, however, is not. Such awnings were often lost, as they, like all porches, tend to deteriorate more quickly than the rest of the houses that they are attached to. One would have to remove the vinyl siding on the house on Barber to determine if such an awning existed originally.

To get a better idea as to just how old the house might be, I turned to the 1881 Atlas of Cleveland, Ohio.

Plate 19, 1881 Atlas of Cleveland, Ohio
Detail of Plate 19, 1881 Atlas of Cleveland, Ohio. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.
The house should be approximately where the bright green box is – but there’s nothing there. Further, there aren’t any other obviously square houses nearby that might have been moved here.

View Larger Map
To better illustrate the landscape, here’s a map showing the same approximate area now.

Where was this house moved from? What other stories does it tell? They’re worth investigating – especially if said investigation involves historic photos or removal of the existing vinyl siding.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Would you believe that this grand East Cleveland home is still standing!?

Fred Welton house painted by daughter Mary
Fred Welton house painted by daughter Mary. From Ellen Loughry Price, History of East Cleveland, page 21.

I didn't.

Recently, I've been doing a fair amount of research into East Cleveland in the 19th century. Part of it is because of a book that I'm doing on the Parks family (builders of this house). More, however, it's because I'm realizing how much interesting history there is in East Cleveland - and how little work has been done to uncover it. Tons of great stories seem to be revealed in the structures still standing, most of them just off Euclid Avenue.

Built circa 1850? IMGP8564
Take this pair of houses at 1710 and 1704 Collamer - both moved to this site in the early 20th century. The one on the left (1710 Collamer) has a grand doorway, and appears to have been built in the 1850s. The one on the right (1704 Collamer) is a shorter, post and beam structure, with vertical plank sheathing - something that one usually only sees in much earlier buildings. Both are the subject of continuing research.

Why are they so exciting? Because they're good-sized structures, likely built on a major road (Euclid Avenue), with considerable historic detail. And nothing has been written about them! (As interesting as the old standards may be, it's always more compelling, for me, to be uncovering something new.) These are but a sample of what awaits.

When I first saw Fred Welton house painted by daughter Mary, I was sure that the house was gone - even though Ellen Loughry Price didn't provide any details as to where it might have been located.

Birge / Welton house
When I first saw it, on January 25, from an angle similar to this one, it didn't even catch my attention enough to warrant stopping the car. There was something about it that seemed not quite right, but I couldn't put my finger on what that something was - I assumed it was just the odd habits of the builder or architect - or those who had added onto it over time.

Birge / Welton house
The roofline, seen here from Euclid Avenue, suggests that the house was built in the 1890s or 1900s - or perhaps the 1910s. But, again, there's something that isn't quite right.

Front Door, Birge / Welton house

Then I saw this doorway, at what is now the back of the house, facing a gas station and Euclid Avenue. It screams "1850s" (or perhaps a little earlier). The door itself appears original. The spaces between the pairs of columns have small windows (sidelights), which have been painted over. This is also the case for the set of windows over the doorway, the transom. It's quite unusual to see them present, and in this good of condition - I can't think of another extant example of this quality in Cleveland or an inner-ring suburb.

Doorway, Mesopotamia, Ohio.  1924.
Doorway, Mesopotamia, Ohio. 1924. Photograph by I.T. Frary. Print 2142 in the I.T. Frary Audiovisual collection of the Ohio Historical Society.
The doorway is of a style common in the better houses of the period - it's quite similar to this one, in Mesopotamia, Ohio - though I think the one on our subject house is slightly better proportioned to the structure as a whole.

I took a few more photographs, with the intent of seeing what more I could learn. It was only once I was back at the computer, and I found the name of the property owner on a historic map, that I made the connection with the painting above.

The house was built on the north corner of Euclid Avenue and Shaw Avenue, in East Cleveland, Ohio. The current address is 15314 Welton Drive, East Cleveland, Ohio.

When was this house built, and by whom?

Lasell Birge, a farmer, purchased the land that the house would be built on at auction, for $5,0000, in 1851 (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 185105220001). It was being sold by the estate of John Shaw, for whom Shaw High School is named.

I haven't been able to learn much of anything about Birge. He was born in Connecticut in about 1811 and married Rebecca Birge, a Vermonter (born about 1820), before moving to Ohio, in or before 1839, the year of the birth of their first child, Cornelius. He may have been living in Palmyra, Ohio, in 1840. Their other children included Eliza (born about 1847); Catherine (born about 1850); and Elizabeth (born about 1855) (1840-1870 U.S. Census).

By 1850, the family was living in East Cleveland. They show up there in the 1860 US Census as well, where they're listed as having real estate worth $10,000.

He seems to have been relatively well off, as, just two years later, he was able to purchase another significant parcel, on Euclid Avenue, near what is now East 105th Street, with one John Welch, for $3,500 (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 185304050004).

It seems most likely that Lasell Birge built the house by 1860. It's almost certain that it was present by 1864, when he sold the property to Frederick J. Welton (or Wilton). The property, then down to just 5 acres, was sold for a sum of $4200 (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 186412190004). If we're to accept another property transfer from Birge to Welton, earlier in the year, of a nearby parcel, as representative of the value of the land in that vicinity, the house was worth about $3,750. (The parcel, ten acres, sold for $875 - $87.50 / acre (Cuyahoga County Recorder, AFN: 186408290007)).

Frederick Wilton, a farmer, was born about 1799 in Connecticut. He would have been about 65 when he purchased the house with his wife, Minerva, born about 1818, in Vermont. As of 1870, they had four children living with them in this house: Mary (born about 1845); Frank (born about 1850); James (born about 1850); and Sarah, born about 1856 (1870 U.S. Census).

Little else has been written about Welton. A death notice (Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 29, 1872, page 3) describes him as a "well known citizen" and continues, noting that he "died at his residence at Collamer this morning after a short illness. Mr. Welton has resided at Collamer about 15 years, coming from Burton, Geauga County. He has always been a liberal man, a kind friend and a good neighbor. Mr. Welton was born in Connecticut and emigrated to Geauga County in the year 1832."

Frederick J. Welton property
Detail of a plate from the 1898 Flynn Atlas of the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.
In 1898, the grounds included our subject house, shown here in red, and two other residences, immediately under the word "Welton", facing Shaw Avenue. A driveway provided access to the property, both from Shaw Avenue and From Euclid Avenue, on the right. In addition to a carriage house, there was some sort of other small outbuilding.

Welton property in 1913
Detail, 1913 Sanborn fire insurance atlas for Cleveland, Ohio. Volume 8, plate 53. Used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.
Fifteen years later, the same property shows considerable change. (Our subject house is immediately to the right of the word "Wilton" in "Wilton Drive".) Three houses have been built in front of the Birge / Welton house. Richmond Place cuts along the border of the Richmond property, and Wilton Drive runs right behind the house. Several other structures have been built on (or moved to) the five acre parcel.

It was by this time that the house acquired the Wilton Drive address.

But what of the house as it is today?

There are two obvious differences between the historic painting of the house and the structure as it stands today. The roof was replaced, likely due to differences in taste, between about 1890 and 1915. This was not uncommon.

Birge / Welton house
The other obvious difference is the porch, now missing. The stone foundation of the porch remains. It's not common to see the entire floor of the porch be stone - more often, you'd just have stone supports for the columns, with the remainder of the floor constructed from wood. This choice of materials is likely the only reason for the floor of the porch to have survived.

If we look at the outline in the paint where the porch roof attached to the house, the outline of a curved bracket is visible, suggesting something of the style of the columns supporting it.

Birge / Welton house
There is much more to be learned in the history of this grand 1850s house - a subject that I hope to deal with in greater depth in future posts. Perhaps you know the owner - or perhaps you know where the painting that I led with is located.

I'm still just surprised that a structure with such interesting history was sitting here, right in front of my nose!