The original portion of this stately white frame house has been sitting on the corner at 502 West Front Street for more than 140 years. It was built between 1861 and 1867 by Perrysburg businessman William Crook Sr. and occupied by succeeding members of his family for many years.
In 1861 Crook purchased the lot for his house from David Wilkinson, a Great Lakes ship captain and pioneer resident. Early accounts indicate that Wilkinson himself once had a house there that was destroyed by fire.
The lot at the time was almost half a block wide and still is a full block deep, running to West Second Street.
The Italianate style gable-front-and-wing house has a wide friezeboard and a two-story bay window that almost suggests a tower. Windows are tall and narrow with 6/6 panes. The front door is flanked by sidelights and topped by a semi-elliptical transom with fanlike tracery. Seven miniature Doric columns in clusters support the front porch.
A faded old photograph of the house recently came to light when a Toledo ancestor of the Crook family sought an answer to where his great-great-grandfather lived. (A copy of the picture is now preserved in Way Public Library.) It shows that fewer than seven porch columns were there originally and that their tops were decorated with scrollwork.
Also, attractive double brackets once supported the eaves of the house, and a white picket fence ran across the front (and probably the east and west sides) of the property. It appears that additions have since been made to the rear and west sides. As recently as the 1950s a barn was still in the back.
William Crook was born in England in 1799 and came to Perrysburg via Pennsylvania in 1832. He was a farmer and one time owner of considerable acreage on the west side of West Boundary extending from the river southward, including a large section of that part of what is now Fort Meigs Cemetery bordering Maumee and Western Reserve Road, the highway that leads to the Fort Meigs Memorial Bridge. His son, William Jr., meanwhile, established a cabinet shop on the old Hydraulic Canal on the river front and operated a furniture shop and undertaking business at 116 Louisiana. The undertaking business was sold to the Witzler family in 1893.
In 1886, William Sr. and his son purchased the Baird House, an old hotel now occupied by Mills Hardware and Sargent Associates, at the northwest corner of Louisiana and Second. They remodeled the old building and opened an agricultural implement business, using both floors to sell plows, mowers, reapers, grain drills, hay rakes, etc., plus furniture, and also offered an undertaking service.
William Sr., in 1855, helped in the movement to change the name of Maumee to South Toledo when that town and Gilead (now Grand Rapids) chose to change their names due to perceived bad public image following the terrible cholera epidemic the year before. At about that time he also sold some of his land for a road to a new toll bridge across the river, replacing a cable ferry at his river lot. He served as a township trustee and was a member of the local I.O.O.F. lodge. Over the years he had five wives, all but one preceding him in death, indicating how fragile life could be years ago. He himself died at age 72 in 1871.
The Crook House
502 West Front Street
Long before this house, perched on the riverside at 503 West Front, was built, Indians are said to have camped on its site just before taking part in the siege of Fort Meigs about half a mile upriver in 1813.
It was known locally as Indian Hill.
It is not known exactly when the house was built (one former owner believes about 1827), or for sure who built it, though it is most frequently associated with John C. Spink, Perrysburg's first mayor in 1833.
And there are all kinds of stories about it, true or false.
The land it sits on was once owned by such early Perrysburg pioneers as John Hollister, Thomas W. Powell and David Wilkinson. The latter, a notable lakes captain and later a farmer and lighthouse keeper in Maumee, came here as early as 1815 and helped take the last soldiers at Fort Meigs to Detroit when the government abandoned the fort. He returned with a load of settlers who staked their claims at Orleans of the North on the flatland below the fort. Wilkinson also brought Presidential candidate William Henry Harrison back here for his big political rally in 1840.
This house is of symmetrical Greek Revival style with a centered doorway featuring an entablature supported by pilasters. The single door is surrounded by multi-panel sidelights and a transom topped by a simple cornice. The kitchen occupies the lower level of the structure as it did originally. There are chimneys in the east and west sides, and the garage has been added, as were a back sun porch and deck. As late as 1930 the property had no less than 18 acres along the waterfront. This qualified it as a "farm," and indeed, there were once many fruit trees on the hillside.
Over the years this house is said to have been the old Customs House, a part of the Underground Railway, and a stagecoach stop -- though that is questionable in view of the Spafford Exchange Hotel being in existence a few blocks east on the same street. It is known to have been the Sunnyside Tea Room in the 1920s.
John C. Spink lived in Perrysburg as early as 1823 when the county seat was moved here from Maumee. He served as prosecuting attorney in 1831 and was also a merchant who operated Spink and Company on Louisiana Avenue at the time of his being elected mayor.
In 1836 Spink was among a group of men who bought 450 acres of land on the north side of the river about two miles downstream, platted it and named it Marengo. The money panic the next year resulted in a sheriff's sale of the land and it never developed as a town. He was also one the Whigs in this area who prepared the way for Harrison's return here in 1840.
John Hirth, who operated Hirth Tannery on the Hydraulic Canal down the hill from the house, bought it in 1850. Spink died three years later at the age of 49.
The Spink House
503 West Front Street
This rambling 12- room frame house overlooking the river at 508 West Front is worth a careful walk by -- if for no other reason than just to count the windows...there are a total of 55!
It is a delightfully Victorian Queen Anne structure, with most of that style's identifying features: steeply pitched roof of irregular shape, gables, bay windows, asymmetrical facade and full-width porch.
It was built in about 1895 by John C. Maddy, who with his family, previously lived on the same property in a house they tore down.
This property was once owned by some of Perrysburg's most notable citizens--Thomas McKnight, Thomas W. Powell and Jonathan Perrin.
The distinctive porch with balustrade is supported by Doric columns that are half fluted and turned, with paneled bases. The main entrance is on the east corner under a pediment with decorative molding. Tiny brackets are beneath all the eaves and a cornice-like molding separates the first and second floors. The facade features a very small single-sash window with dentils and brackets above them. Another major gable sits on a flared hip roof and under that gable are two windows. A family room addition has been made at the rear. Otherwise, the house is the original version.
For the inquisitive, there are 10 windows in the front, 15 on the west, 17 on the east side and 13 on the back -- truly a window washer's nightmare, and this does not even count the door glass and several transoms.
John Maddy was born in Moscow, Ohio, a small Ohio River town southeast of Cincinnati, in 1862. He came to Toledo in 1881 and started a successful career as a grain dealer with Churchill, Bennett & Company. In 1890, the Perrysburg Grain and Seed elevator, located in the first block of East Third Street along the railroad, was leased by the Toledo firm, and Mr. Maddy directed operations, assisted by his brother, Charles L. Maddy. A year later he left for a short time to become a member of the Chicago Board of Trade, but returned to become a prominent member of the Toledo Produce Exchange and manager of the Churchill company's Toledo area elevators. It was at about this time that he settled in Perrysburg and built his house.
It should be noted that in 1892 the Perrysburg elevator burned down and for a few hours during the high wind then blowing, downtown Perrysburg was seriously threatened with destruction. The elevator was immediately rebuilt.
This story itself ends in disaster. In 1897, at age 35, John C. Maddy was instantly killed while directing operations at a new elevator he was building in East Toledo. A heavy weight used in elevating grain fell and crashed through the roof of a shed in which he was standing. He was a member of the Methodist church and several fraternal organizations, and reportedly was a fine and active singer. The house remained in the family for another 45 years until being sold upon the death of his daughter, Mrs. Rosalie Zachman in 1973.
The Maddy House
508 West Front Street
The Perrin House is a classic example of Gothic Revival architecture. It was built by a professional builder, Jonathon Perrin, who came here from Pennsylvania in 1827. The house is an extremely ornamental example with a decorative porch and steeply pitched intersecting gable roofline. The front gable windows have six-pane glass with Gothic moldings and ogee arches, and eight-panes in the secondary gable.
Perrin built a number of houses in Perrysburg, but most people are likely to agree that his best was this classic Gothic Revival at 510 West Front Street.
Jonathon Perrin was born in Pennsylvania in 1805 and came to Perrysburg in 1827 where he became a builder and contractor. The local paper of many years ago said that most of the better class of old frame residences in the village were constructed by him. How many remain and where they are is not known.
In addition to building, Mr. Perrin found time to be an organizer and director of the Perrysburg Steam Mill Association in 1835 and an organizer in 1865 of the Perrysburg Petroleum Company whose aim was "to bore and dig for oil, salt and other vegetable, medicinal and mineral fluids." In his later years he was agent for a stagecoach company whose route went through here.
Mr. Perrin was married to Amelia Wilkinson, daughter of Captain Jacob Wilkinson who brought his family to the Foot of the Rapids here even before the riverfront town of Orleans of the North was laid out. In a true-life thriller, the family escaped from the Indians and British by rowing in a rowboat from here to Cleveland at the outbreak of the War of 1812.
Sometime between 1840 and 1850 Perrin built the subject house on land he had owned for a number of years. It is an extremely ornamental house with a steep dominant gable roof and a back wing hipped roof. Six-pane windows with Gothic mouldings and ogee arches are in the front gable and eight-paned windows in the secondary gables. Curvilinear vergeboards with finials and pendants decorate the gables. The upper finial at the apex of the front gable resembles a pineapple, a symbol of hospitality in early America. The lower portion of the finial resembles an acorn, a popular motif in the Gothic tradition.
In 1929 the Toledo architectural firm of Britsch and Munger re-designed the exterior of the house, adding dormers and a side entrance on the east. They also rebuilt the porch.
Mr. Perrin died in 1876 at the age of 71.
The Perrin House
510 West Front Street
This symmetrical temple-style Greek Revival house at 514 West Front Street, called a good example of its type, may have been built for a member of Perrysburg's premier family, the Spaffords.
The official estimate for the date of construction is around 1848. However, that does not jibe with a generally reliable source who once said that a newspaper found in the walls was dated 1840. Add that to the fact that between 1833 and 1835 the value of the property, according to county records, jumped from $60 to $475, indicating the presence of what at least could be the beginning of what is now the house. Suffice to say, it is one of our oldest.
The structure features a front-gabled low pitch roof with interrupted, or return, cornice lines, and many of its original windows. A fairly wide frieze board and five six over six windows with working shutters also face Front Street. The main entrance is centered, topped by a ten-pane transom and flanked by sidelights. Detail around the windows and door includes heavily-ribbed molding running into corner blocks. On the east side there is a side door and a first-floor bay window -- both possibly added, as are major additions to the rear.
About who the house was built for, records are hazy but the Spafford name has long been associated with it. It is known that the James and Jarvis Spafford families once owned it so this is an opportunity to be reminded of the Spafford's contributions to the community.
Amos Spafford was born in Sharon, Connecticut in 1753. A surveyor and cartographer, he accompanied Moses Cleaveland, agent for the Connecticut Land Company, on his first visit to the Western Reserve in 1796. During that summer Spafford's crew mapped the future city of Cleveland (it was Spafford who omitted the "a" in the spelling of Cleavelend, either accidentally or intentionally).
After returning east to his home near Rochester, New York, Amos made several trips back to the northeast part of the state, accompanied by his oldest son, Samuel. Liking it, he brought his wife, Olive, and their other children, Anna, Chloe, Aurora and Adolphus, to the place.
In 1809 Amos was elected to the state legislature from Geauga County, but the following year he resigned and moved here when he was appointed Collector of the Port of Miami (that being the original name of the Maumee River). In addition to selling land, he also ran a public house, or tavern. The family lived in a log house at Orleans of the North on the flats near the foot of what was shortly to become Fort Meigs. When the War of 1812 broke out in this vicinity, he sat out the war with his family in Huron County. While gone, his homestead was among those burned by the British and Indians about the time of the sieges of the fort in May and August of 1813.
He returned here in 1815 and built his second house, records saying that he used planking from abandoned scows that were used for shipping army supplies from Fort Defiance. When other settlers returned he went to Washington to plea indemnification for their losses in the war. This second house was presumable the site of the earliest meetings of the Methodist church when Amos was a lay leader of the congregation.
In 1816 the U.S. Congress decided there should be a town located at this site and surveyors platted it. About the same time U.S. Land Commissioner Josiah Meigs asked Amos to select a name, suggesting that it would be appropriate to honor the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. Also at about this time he was given a grant to buy 160 acres of land, the first in the United States 12-mile Square Reserve created when Indians ceded it earlier in the Treaty of Greenville. Several months later Amos Spafford died at age 63.
Two of Amos's sons stand out in Perrysburg's history. Samuel was born in 1774, shortly after returning here after the war, his father gave him a piece of land on which one of the abandoned Fort Meigs blockhouses still stood. Samuel's family lived in the blockhouse for a time and his daughter Mary was born in it in 1819. In 1832 his son, Jarvis, built and operated the Exchange Hotel, which is still the skeleton of the building at 140 West Front Street. It became a near famous hostelry for travelers between Buffalo and St. Louis and later Chicago, and a social center for the community. Jarvis served as a village councilman and died during the 1854 cholera epidemic. Samuel served as a county commissioner and died at age 57 in 1831.
Aurora Spafford was born in 1793. In 1817 he married Mary Rolph Jones who had the distinction of being the first white woman married in the entire Maumee Valley between Toledo and Fort Wayne, Indiana. In about 1830 he built the home still standing at 27340 West River Road on part of his father's land grant. That house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Aurora was also a leader in the Methodist congregation and early services were also conducted in his house. He served as Wood County treasurer, township trustee and judge of common pleas court, and he died in 1849 at the age of 56.
The Spafford Family House
514 West Front Street
It's anything but an imposing or architecturally significant house, but it belongs in this series if for no other reason than that it could conceivably be the oldest residence in Perrysburg. It is often referred to as the Powell Cottage at 538 West Front Street and it was probably built in the early 1820s.
It is not even certain that Powell built this very small house which is believed at one time to have been a log cabin. But he owned the land it is on from 1825 until 1827 and it is generally thought that he lived there. Thomas W. Powell came to this area in 1820 when, by his own account, there was not a single house on any of the inlots.
In fact, Front Street had just been cut open and cleared of trees and brush. Before that it was a trail along the river bluff used by Native American Indians and military units passing through the area.
Powell was one of the earliest school teachers in the settlement of Orleans of the North, a mile or so upriver at the foot of Fort Meigs. He was admitted to the bar and for a short time he was Wood County prosecuting attorney and later auditor. He was also at one time Perrysburg Township Justice of the Peace.
The home is Greek Revival style with simple details, and over the years it has had many additions, including a front porch which was removed in 1983. There are two 1/1 double-hung sash windows with shutters in the front flanked by molded pilasters. A wide frieze board runs around the house and ends within an entablature of a broken pediment and a single attic window in the gable. It is said that the original log beams are visible in the attic.
Thomas Powell left Perrysburg in 1830 and re-settled in Delaware, Ohio . It is not known when he died.