Its exterior virtually unchanged from when it was built in 1927, this attractive home began as the gatehouse and 8-car garage for the 12-acre estate of Champion Spark Plug founder Frank D. Stranahan. It was designed by Cleveland architect Charles Schneider and contains a combination of Norman Chateauesque, Swiss Chalet, and Queen Anne features.
The building is of solid masonry with foot-thick walls and iron-beam framing. The estate manager lived on the second floor, and the first consisted of eight garage bays, a grease pit, a small office, and a toilet.
The left wing of the L-shaped building features an entrance under an intricately carved wooden portico.
Half- timbering and stucco decorate three of the gables, and the large original cobblestone courtyard in the back is dominated by a huge surviving American Elm tree.
The Stranahan Gate House
Resembling a European castle, this huge manor house at 30209 Morningside Drive is one of the homes overlooking the Maumee River on East River Road that evokes the grand manner of France, England and Germany.
It was built by Frank D. Stranahan at a time when prominent Toledo industrialists seemed almost to compete in outdoing one another in architectural splendor.
Actually, the architecture is eclectic, combining Norman Chateauesque, Swiss Chalet and Queen Anne features into a structure that historic inventory specialists have called "stately", grand, and "manorial"-and it could probably never be duplicated today.
Built between 1925 and 1930 on the estate called "Wamston," the rambling house contains a combination of rectangles, squares, circles, semi-circles and octagons found in various places in the three-story rough-hewn cream-colored stone walls, the steep gables. Round and straight-topped windows with diamond and square panes, varying large corbelled brick chimneys with capstones, and broad expanses of roof and half-timbered walls add to the beauty of it.
Up until fairly recently, the house stood alone at the edge of an expansive manicured front lawn. Also on the grounds once stood stables and greenhouses. The gatehouse, now a private residence at the driveway entrance on East River Road, is of similar architecture and materials.
The house was designed by architect Charles Schneider of Cleveland. The landscape architects were the Olmstead Brothers, successors to internationally known Frederick Law Olmstead. The interior was designed by Helen Irwin of New York City. It is said that skilled craftsmen were brought to do the work and that an entire nearby farm was bought for its supply of topsoil and fully grown elm trees.
Frank Stranahan, a pioneer automotive industrialist, was born in Buffalo and began his career with a bicycle and auto accessory business in Boston. In 1910, he and his brother, Robert, and their mother, Elizabeth, started the Champion Spark Plug Company and almost immediately moved it to a location in Toledo, where they began with about 40 employees on the second floor of a small building. Success came swiftly.
Mr. Stranahan conducted his business and philanthropic activities quietly, living in this house with his wife, a New York light opera singer, who died in 1954. He continued living there until his death in 1965 at age 89.
The Stranahan House
In 1929 this house (actually an earlier version of it) was the lone anchor for a large estate long since subdivided. It is known as the Jay K. Secor house at 109 Rockledge Drive on East River Road, though it was completed by his widow eight years after his death in 1921. Designed by Perrysburg architect George B. Rheinfrank, Sr., it was one of the chain of large baronial houses built along the river between Perrysburg and Rossford by prominent Toledo industrialists during and not long after World War I.The brick structure is perhaps best described as Neoclassical in design, with a dominant full-height curved central entry porch between angled wings with front-facing gables.
The classical porch columns are square, and the symmetrically balanced windows are six-pane. The up and down river view from this site is perhaps the best along the East River Road.
Actually, the present house developed over a period of time, having started (as did others along the river) as a large summer cottage while the Secor family still lived in Toledo's Old West End. Mr. Secor died in 1921 and his wife converted it to a brick structure. The original version was decidedly different in appearance except for the same curved porch and columns. The earlier wings had different shapes and roof lines. The present ones are identical from the front.
Rockledge, the name of the estate, was a working farm and there are still-existing buildings (now private homes) at the far north end of the property that were lived in by employees and that over time housed stables and garages. A barn in which there was once an indoor badminton court with seats for spectators still stands, largely in its original form, but it has been converted to an attractive house.
One grandson of the Secors remembers it being a fun place to bring a date. He also remembers driving around the grounds sitting on his grandmother's lap steering (with a lever) a car made by the Milburn Electric Car Company. At that time Mrs. Secor had remarried and her husband was president of the firm. The property originally extended across East River Road to include what is now residential Secor Woods and the former Roose estate adjoining just upriver.
That area on the river side, or part of it at least, was earlier owned by another prominent Toledoan of his time, F. B. Shoemaker. He lived in a large frame house and was one of the very first to venture from the comforts of the city to this far up this side of the river. In the late 1890s he, along with the then editor of the Perrysburg Journal, wisely proclaimed that with an improved road (East River Road being dirt at the time) development would be rapid. In Shoemaker's words, "Perrysburg has a fine a location as any village in Ohio, and with a stone road, men who want two, five or ten acres of land would locate there."
Jay K. Secor was born in Toledo in 1873, the son of well known family active wholesale grocery and banking businesses. Educated in the Toledo public schools and Phillips Andover Academy, he followed his father in the same businesses, and in addition, headed the Citizens Ice Company and was the senior member of the brokerage firm of Secor & Bell, later known as Secor, Bell & Beckwith.
He was the prime promoter of Secor Hotel and president of the company that built that property in 1908. He died in Florida at age 48. His four children grew up on the estate, one of them, George, living out his life there, and it is interesting that fourth generation descendants are current residents of the house.
The Secor House
109 Rockledge Drive
The largest house with a Perrysburg address ought to qualify for that reason alone to be in this series. But, if that is not enough, it's likelihood of being the largest in the Toledo metropolitan area, if not all of Northwest Ohio, surely is.
It is the Ford mansion at 29755 Somerset Road, an enormous Jacobean Revival house built by George R. Ford in 1922. George Ford was a third generation glass manufacturing executive whose grandfather built the first plate glass works in America and whose father, Edward, founded the Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company.
The building site along the river on East River Road, in what is now The Hamlet development, was by 1908 becoming a bucolic escape area for some of Toledo's most prominent Old West End residents, and Mr. Ford bought 80 acres with a river frontage of 2,000 feet and sold a share to his brother-in-law, W.W. Knight, Sr. in that year. Both built large summer cottages and later shared ownership in much more adjacent acreage, including the former Belmont Farm, which produced fresh vegetables, milk, poultry and prize-winning cattle.
In the good times following World War I, and with the development of easy automotive transportation, summer residents along the river began building permanent homes. In about 1921, Mr. Ford hired Toledo architects Mills, Rhines, Bellman and Nordhoff to design his house.
Built primarily of brick trimmed in sandstone, it originally had as many as 84 rooms, counting such areas as laundry and ironing rooms, walk-in closets, workshops, a photographic darkroom, a room for a two-story pipe organ, and many others. There were 11 bathrooms, 13 fireplaces, and a ballroom in the basement. The interior was designed by New York professionals, as was the landscaping.
Based on 17th century English style, other buildings on the estate were of like mode and included a gatehouse, guesthouses, garages, greenhouses and a gardener's house. Some of them remain today, although converted to other uses.
Born in 1882, George Ford was president of Edward Ford Plate Glass Company at Rossford from 1920 to 1930 when the firm merged with Libbey and changed its name. He then became a vice president and director and for many years was president of Rossford Savings Bank and vice president of National Bank of Toledo. He died in 1938 at the age of 56.
Following the death of Mrs. Ford, the house was acquired by an owner outside the family, but in 1971, two related Ford family descendants bought it back with the goal of preserving it and the surrounding grounds.
Even though alterations made included a two-story addition to the left wing, a major conversion of the interior of the right wing and the division of the entire house into three separately-owned living quarters, the original irreplaceable paneled walls and highly decorated carved plaster ceilings are beautifully intact, and, hopefully, this magnificent home will stand forever as a reminder of gracious country living when Toledo-owned industry was in its heyday.
The George R. Sr. Ford House
29755 Somerset Road
Several homes now occupy the grounds of the local estate once known as Stonecroft, but the original manor house still sits back out of sight on the riverbank at what is 28627 Stonecroft near East Boundary Street and the beginning of East River Road.
The huge Tudor style house, built by industrialist and glass pioneer William S. Walbridge in about 1917, is one of the first permanent mansions that replaced prominent Toledoans' summer cottages on the river.
William Spooner Walbridge descended from an old New England family and was born in Boston in 1854. He began his work career in his family's furniture business there but in 1898 sold his interest and joined the Toledo Glass Company as treasurer.
Over a period of nearly 40 years he led and was involved in businesses that were the forerunners of Owens-Illinois and Libbey-Owens-Ford, working with people such as Michael J. Owens and Edmund Drummond Libbey (whose sister he married) when they were laying the foundations for the glass industry in Toledo. He was president of Kent-Owens Company, manufacturers of special automatic machines used by Owens Bottle Company (of which he was also vice president) and president of Libbey-Owens Sheet Glass Company and Westlake Machine Company. He was also involved in local banking management.
The house he built was designed by Toledo architect Harry W. Wachter, assisted by Thomas Best and Horace Wachter. The landscape architect was Olmstead Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts, who designed the grounds of several of the East River Road estates.
The three-story house, built of wood, stucco and brick, is set among deep ravines and a stream. The entrance is across a small stone bridge. The structure is neatly asymmetrical with a steeply pitched roof, rectangle and octagon half-timbered wall patterns broken occasionally by a diagonal timber and massive stone chimneys typical of the Tudor style. A large patio in the rear overlooks the Maumee River.
Mr. Walbridge lived in this house until his death in 1935 at the age of 81.
The Walbridge House
There are several good reasons to include this beautiful East River Road house in the collection of historic homes. First, it was the first of the large permanent mansions built along the river. Second, it was built by a Perrysburg native, Henry L. Thompson, Sr., and third, its architectural style is a blend, inside and out, of several classic styles, Tudor, Norman, Georgian and Jacobethan.
The multi-room house built in 1915, designed by the Cleveland architectural firm of Walker and Weeks, features multiple front gables, a slate roof, large elaborate chimneys, and several sections with half-timbered walls. Best of all, the home has been changed very little since it stood isolated as the manor house on 25 acres that constituted the self-supporting Thompson Farm. This consisted of a well-tended orchard, grape arbor, berry patches, vegetable and flower gardens, an attractive brick barn (now converted to two residences) housing a dairy herd, many chickens and horses, a huge seven-section greenhouse for exotic plants, and a facility where milk and cream were separated and cottage cheese made. The acreage is all now part of the Hamlet development.
H. L. Thompson was born and raised in Perrysburg. At an early age he went to work as an office boy for Bostwick-Braun Company, the wholesale hardware firm, and by 1907 was its president.
He was also involved in Toledo banking, heading the former Toledo Trust Company and helping it keep afloat through the depression. Over his lifetime he became one of the most powerful and respected businessmen in Toledo. Mr. Thompson died in 1939 at the age of 67.
The Thompson House
29953 Sussex Road
Built in the 1820s by the son of Perrysburg founder Amos Spafford, this simple Greek Revival house is called a “half-house” (two and a half rooms deep with a Shaker-type interior) by the Ohio Historical Society.
The house was moved a few feet from its original foundation during restoration by the owner. Otherwise, it appears unaltered on its lot in the Spafford Land Grant just west of Fort Meigs and above the extinct river town of Orleans of the North.
It was the meeting place in the 1820's for the area Methodist congregation.
It is in the process of being restored and will be the home of the Perrysburg Area Historic Museum.