This house, one of Perrysburg's rare examples of Second Empire architectural style, sits on what is arguably the city's most prestigious site at 125 East Front Street.
It was here, just east of the Commodore Perry statue, that prominent Perrysburg pioneer John Hollister built a similar house in 1823. That house was probably not purposely designed as Second Empire since that style didn't become popular in America until the reign of Napoleon III in the mid-1800s, but it featured some of the same distinctive details.
Second Empire houses were never single story because the boxy roof line permitted a somewhat restricted but usable second story.
The Hollister house was the showplace of this northwest frontier village. When famous people came to town, this was where they were entertained, and they included General William H. Harrison, who addressed the local citizenry from its spacious lawn in 1840 when he ran for president, Daniel Webster, and in later years William McKinley, Warren Harding and Nicholas Longworth among others.
Over the years, the property was owned by other prominent families, including those of Dr. Erasmus D. Peck, Sidney Spitzer (when it was called Horton Hall, Mrs. Spitzer's maiden name), James & Lucille Morris and John and Lucille Halstead (Lucille was James Morris' widow).
In 1940, fire destroyed the then 117-year-old house while the owners were out of town. The Halsteds quickly set about to replace it.
They hired Donald M.. Buckhout, an architect who lived in Perrysburg, to design the new house and he did an excellent job of replicating many of the features of the original structure—the mansard roof with slate shingles, the decorative pedimented dormer windows, and the front portico with Doric columns. The rear of the home offers a beautiful view of the Maumee River down the hill to where John Hollister's grain elevating and shipping operation was located.
The house is laid out in a series of connecting wings, with a large garage (not shown here) connected by a long, attractive, curved Doric colonnaded pergola. This replaced the original porte-cochere, or covered carriage entrance, on the east side.
John Halsted was a Toledo broker and real estate executive who died in a swimming accident in 1965.
The Halsted House
125 East Front Street
James W. Ross, for whom the unique brick building at 128 East Front Street was built as a residence, was a prominent pioneer member of this community. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1820 and came to Perrysburg at the age of 14 with his parents.
It is not clear from historical records exactly what his principal occupation was, but he at one time must have been an educator for in 1846 he established a select (private) school here in the old courthouse building that burned in 1872, and in the mid-1800s he was a school examiner.
When the Civil War broke out he was among the local men who attended the Perrysburg War Meeting in 1861 when Lincoln called for 75,000 militia to put down the rebellion.
In the 1870s Mr. Ross built his home--an early example of the Italian Villa style. It has a shallow, truncated hip roof with low gables crowned with ornate wooden finials.
But its most unique feature is the square wooden tower above the front entrance, each side of which has a triangular pediment supported by wooden brackets over Palladian windows that have since been painted over. The tower is topped by a balustrade. This is characteristic of the Italian Villa style and is one of the few towers to be found in the Perrysburg-Maumee area.
All of the building's windows have incised lintels and the front entrance has double doors with stained and leaded glass, the doors being set in a basket-handle brick arch containing a leaded fanlight. The interior is also unusual. A small stair hall features a curving stairs that ascends the east wall from rear to front--contrary to the usual plan. Woodwork in the parlor features an elliptical arched opening with one-half oaken Roman Ionic columns forming the entry. Similar themes are repeated in other area.
The building is perhaps most closely associated with the funeral business. It was purchased in 1930 by Alfred J. Witzler and became Witzler's Funeral Home operated by him, then his son Norman, and then until fairly recently by Robert L. Shank. During this period a large two-story addition to the rear and a drive-through porch on the east side were made.
Mr. Ross was active in Republican politics and served as county coroner in 1848 and township clerk in 1864. He was also one of the organizers of the Perrysburg Petroleum Company in 1865.