Over the years, the lots and home at 401 West Front Street have been owned by some of Perrysburg's most prominent citizens. The two lots themselves were laid out in 1825 and early owners of either one or both included Thomas R. McKnight, first postmaster and one of the very first residents here; Benjamin F. Hollister, who with his brother John had a general store at Orleans and later here; Gilbert Beach, early retailer; Aurora Spafford, son of Amos Spafford who named our city; and Jessup W. Scott, co-owner and editor of the first newspaper here and later editor of the Toledo Blade and a prominent Toledoan.
In 1892 William and Mary Comstock acquired the property and in 1895, built the home shown here. It is one of the first examples of the Shingle architectural style in the entire area.
William Comstock was born on a farm in Plain Township west of Bowling Green in 1853. He first taught school and farmed, then became a successful traveling salesman, selling caskets throughout a large part of the country.
In 1903 he and Dr. Isaac Bowers bought the Champney Drug Store, but after the building was destroyed by fire they re-opened in the Phoenix Building where Mills Hardware is now located. In 1905, Mr. Comstock bought out his partner and then four years later, sold the drug store back to C. P. Champney who moved it back to the southwest corner of Louisiana and Front ("drug store corner").
The Comstock house features an irregular roofline, gables, turrets and prominent bay windows, typical of the Queen Anne style from which the Shingle style derived. In the southeast corner is a shingled two-story round tower with a conical roof. The southwest corner features an oriel window in a recessed arch over a set of multi-paned windows braced by Ionic pilasters. Between the two corners of the house and on the east side, are ogee- arched dormers.
The architecture of the home is reminiscent of the "summer cottages" of Newport, Rhode Island.
The Comstock House
401 West Front Street
Some houses in Perrysburg are considered significant because of their architecture and some for the history associated with their builder. This one, at 407 West Front Street, is more nearly the latter, for it appeared to have been built between 1833 and 1838 by Benjamin F. Hollister, one of the two brothers who were highly prominent pioneers here.
The frame house is of vernacular style fairly typical of the early 1800s. But this attractive well-preserved structure has some interesting details even though it may not be an architectural landmark. The shallow roof and elliptical fanlight in the gable reflect the earlier Federal period. The foundation is of cut stone.
A four-pane transom is above the off-center front entrance, topped by a decorative entablature under a shed roof. Windows are six over six. It is not certain whether the rear wing that contained a country kitchen is original, but it was rehabilitated and altered ca. 1965. The interior of the house features most interesting original woodwork and attractive wide-plank pine floors laid directly over logs. The frame of the house is of hand-hewn timbers secured by mortise and tenon joints, further indicating its age, and one of Historic Perrysburg's bronze recognition plaques proudly graces the front of the building.
Benjamin Hollister was born in Berkshire County, Massachusetts in 1800. He and his brother John came here to the Foot of the Rapids shortly after the War of 1812 and lived in Orleans of the North on the flats below what is now Fort Meigs. At that time the town of Orleans of the North was the only settlement of white citizens in Wood County. It was there that they opened a retail store in 1817. The store eventually became a four-story building that also housed a warehouse, and it is said that the first services of the Methodist congregation were held there.
After spring floods wiped out the little settlement several times, the residents sought higher ground in Perrysburg and the brothers opened a store here. As time went by John Hollister went on to become a forwarding and commission merchant, fur agent, owner of a steamboat line and one of this area's most prominent landowners and citizens. He built a showplace mansion just east of what is now Hood Park. That home was destroyed by fire in 1940.
Whether Benjamin shared in all of his brother's enterprises is not certain, but he too became a man of substance and was described as being "known in the west as among the successful businessmen of this day." Some sources say he was also a Great Lakes ship captain. Upon his death a Toledo newspaper said that he was an extensive dealer in fur trade with the Indians and in 1832 he was commissioned by the government to accompany a part of the Ottawa and Miami tribes to their new exile west of the Mississippi River. Among the several notable chiefs in the group was The Prophet, brother of the famous Tecumseh.
Benjamin Hollister died in 1856 at age 56.
B.F. Hollister House
407 West Front Street
The combination Greek Revival / Italianate house at 420 West Front Street has been home to many families since its construction some 150 years ago, and several of them have added greatly to its size and attractiveness.
Referred to frequently as the Norton House, real estate transaction records nevertheless indicate that the major part of the house was most likely built by William Houston in the early 1850s -- though there may have been some form of structure or house on the property when it first changed hands in 1842. There are very few local records available to shed light on the life of William Houston.
Unfortunately, there are more details about his "tragic spectacle" suicide by razor in 1866. Printed obituaries in a small town at that time perhaps rightfully assumed that everyone was thoroughly familiar with the deceased. It is known that he was a resident here as early as 1839 and was listed as having a tailor shop the following year -- though later accounts show him involved in milling and as a merchant of dry goods and groceries. He may have owned or operated a business out of a frame building that in later years housed the Perrysburg Journal between the former Rheinfrank Hospital and Hood Park on West Front Street.
And being a strong abolitionist, he may have been responsible for that building known as the Underground Railroad station for escaping slaves from the South. It is known that he was a founding member and director of the Wood County Horticultural Society and a charter member of Fort Meigs Lodge of the I. O. O. F.
The house has a hipped roof with a very shallow slope, and Italianate-style brackets. The re-done main entrance on the right side of the facade has unusual carved brackets that flank a heavy oak door with sidelights. Cornice-like molding appears over the door and windows, and the elevated porch is of large stone blocks.
In the rear stands a former barn joined to the house by a breezeway. The barn was moved there in the early 1940s from across town. The story is that schools were closed and the daily train schedule altered for the move. Over the years a breakfast room picture window, and enlarged kitchen and step-down family room, and a deck porch were also added.
The Houston House
420 West Front Street
This house is associated with the John H. Thornton family, operators of a brick factory that supplied brick for many of the early commercial and residential structures in the area.
Built ca. 1870, it has a dominant front gable with a carved vergeboard under which the ground floor windows are tall and narrow. Two almost side-by-side doors may indicated that the left wing is an addition – although one door could have been a so-called “funeral door” to accommodate a casket. Thornton joined his father, who could have been the builder of this house, in the brick business and in time headed the company.
J.H. Thornton House
426 West Front Street
It's not one of Perrysburg's more imposing Victorian Front Street homes, but its architectural style and age make it eligible to proudly display one of the bronze plaques installed by Historic Perrysburg, Inc. It's the house at 432 West Front Street built by Sardius D. Westcott in 1866.Sardius Westcott was a prominent Perrysburg pioneer and civic leader who came here as a child in 1831 when this town was a developing shipbuilding port largely hemmed in on the south, east and west by the uninhabitable Black Swamp.
It is unclear what his principal occupation was during all of the nearly 60 years he was a resident, but early on he was in the dry good business with Gilbert and Schuyler Beach on Front Street.
The frame house is a small-scale Greek Revival with Italianate details said by historic inventory researchers to be of architectural interest. It has a centered hipped roof with gable ends -- the predominate one facing the street -- and a single chimney. Under the front gable is a semi-circular glazed opening, and also on the added gable on the west side, and the porch is characterized by two thin lathe-turned columns.
Sardius Westcott was a life-long Democrat and one of a lively group who caused Whig supporters of William Henry Harrison some embarrassment when Harrison came back here for his Presidential political campaign rally in 1840. The Whigs planned to erect a huge log cabin at Fort Meigs to serve as Harrison's headquarters. Each township in the area was invited to supply at least one log. The night following delivery of the first log, a hefty 50-footer from Swanton area Whigs, Democrat marauders sunk the log into the mud at the bottom of the Fort's drinking water well. It remained firmly stuck there for a number of years as photos of the period attest.
Westcott was a charter member of the local Masonic Lodge and he served on the Board of Education. He was at one time the Wood County Auditor, a township trustee, a village councilman for some 11 years, village clerk, and one of the organizers of the Perrysburg's Savings and Loan Association.
He died 1888 at age 69, following a heart attack while attending a wedding at the Presbyterian Church.