This photo does not do justice to this handsome French Renaissance Revival house that noted Toledo-area preservationist Ted Ligibel once said may well be the finest in the entire state of Ohio. It sits far back at the end of a tree-lined driveway at 28503 East River Road. The French Linden trees are kept carefully trimmed, almost in the fashion of topiary art.
Built in about 1928 by Frank S. Lewis, the stone-clad building was designed by Toledo architect George L. Walling.
The multi-acre property with its well-kept gardens, like others along Perrysburg's so-called Gold Coast, was named Chanticleer, as bronze roosters on the gate still proclaim.
Mr. Ligibel, in his application of the property to the National Register as part of the East River Road Historic District, described the house and gardens as "20th century additions to the Ohio architectural scene of the first importance."
The large house is said to have been patterned directly after a hunting lodge at Versailles, France. The front entrance is in a slightly projecting extension capped with a segmental pediment. Other than the east wing, which has a dormered Mansard roof, the building has a balanced, symmetrical facade typical of its style. The rear offers a splendid view of the river.
Toledo-bred Frank Stewart Lewis was born in 1879. He was educated at Denison University and Harvard Law School and, upon passing the bar in 1905, joined his father and a brother in a Toledo law firm that eventually became Doyle and Lewis, of which he was a partner. He became a noted corporation attorney and civic and social leader. His wife, the former Ethel Chesbrough, was a member of one Toledo's oldest and most prominent families.
Mr. Lewis died in 1947. Prior to that, in 1938, the property was sold to the C. Lockhart McKelvey family, in whose hands it remained for more than 60 years.
The Lewis House
28503 East River Road
Another of the large manor houses along Perrysburg's East River Road is the one at 28589 built by Rathbun Fuller in 1923. The estate was called The Terraces.
The two-story house, designed by Perrysburg architect George Rheinfrank, is of Italianate style constructed of mottled tan brick with stone trim. Its long, shallow roof is covered in red clay tile. Although there are two main entrances (one on the Maumee River side), the one facing River Road is under a flat-roofed loggia-porch in Italianate style, supported by Doric columns. A prominent Palladian window is directly above the loggia.
Toledo preservationist Ted Ligibel has noted that this large house along with its spacious grounds adds an interesting Mediterranean architectural mix among largely English-influenced styles popular at the time along East River Road.
Rathbun Fuller, born in Toledo in 1857, the son of Civil War General John W. Fuller, became an attorney in 1879. Over the years he practiced with some of the city's best-known firms and became prominent (said to be the "dean" of Toledo lawyers) in his field, eventually becoming Deputy Clerk of the U. S. District Court and a United States Commissioner.
He also was an industrialist involved as legal counsel and director of such major firms as Libbey-Owens-Ford, Mather Spring Company, Bostwick-Braun, the Toledo Trust Company (of which he was a founder), and others.
Following his death in 1937, his wife lived out her life in this house, dying in 1953, after which the estate was sold to one of Mr. Fuller's law associates, Benjamin T. Batsch.
The Fuller House
28589 East River Road
Built in 1926, Woodgate was the name of the estate and home chosen by Thomas Bentley, owner of the A. L. Bentley & Sons Construction Company.
Representing one of many subtypes of Georgian architecture, this three-story house with a slate hipped roof and one ell angling slightly has dormers, windows horizontally and vertically aligned, decorative keystones above each window, and the cornice emphasized by tooth-like dentils. The two-car-wide porte-cochere with balustrade replaced a narrower original one, and the eight-foot-tall windows on the downstairs right were originally double-hung and had shutters.
It is interesting that the only wood used in the framing of this house was for the roof rafters. The floors, walls, and partitions are reinforced concrete and masonry.
Bentley was the son of Anderton Bentley, who came here from England to found the firm in about 1872. The firm built many of the Toledo area's major buildings and other structures throughout the country.
The Bentley House
30465 East River Road
The Edwin H. Simmons house is at 10302 Fremont Pike. It is the only Perrysburg Township building on the National Register of Historic Places other than the East River Road estates which were included in 1976 as a separate entire Historic District.
Edwin Simmons was born in Monroeville, Ohio, in 1855. He came here in 1863 with his parents, the Robert Simmonses, who settled on a swampy section of land along what is now Simmons Road, which was named for them. The original family homestead is a half-mile or so north of the Pike.
Robert Simmons left each of his four children some 60 acres of land..."Too big to play on and too small to make a living on," as on of them quipped. Edwin, the oldest, built this house on the corner of this land in 1887 during the period when drainage tiles and deep ditches were successfully draining the Black Swamp.
The house is a balloon frame two-story gabled-ell vernacular structure with ornaments emulating popular architectural styles of its time. The porch, for instance, is supported by "table-leg" posts, and the scrolled brackets and lintels contain incised decorative motifs that evidence the delicate line associated with Charles Eastlake.
A distinctive feature of the house is the funeral door located at the left side of the porch. Prior to World War II most funerals were held at home with the deceased laid out in the parlor. The side door to the parlor made it possible for a coffin to be removed horizontally from the house.
Edwin Simmons was a successful farmer and businessman and was a township trustee for several years. He died at age 67 in 1922, and his granddaughter, Miss Mary Cranker, lives in the house. Miss Cranker, who also stems from another pioneer family, was born on the corner of Fremont Pike and Thompson Road in what was once one of the many taverns that lined the highway originally called the Maumee and Western Reserve Road.
Miss Cranker, who spent most of her life in Perrysburg and has seen many old homes here and in the vicinity of her present home lost to "progress," fought stubbornly to get the house on the National Register. She enlisted the help of Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery and the Ohio Historical Society and proudly shows a framed citation signed by Miss Montgomery and the president of the Ohio Senate that praises her efforts. It commends her for preserving a farmhouse that has "earned a place in the Register because of its integrity of architecture and for the area's early homesteading activities which it represents."
The Simmons House
10302 Fremont Pike
Built ca. 1925, now razed, this huge, virtually irreplaceable mansion was built during a three-year period by Gordon M. Mather, founder of the former Mather Spring Company. He named the estate Belle Alliance. It typified Queen Anne architecture and was designed by Mills, Rhines, Bellman & Nordhoff. The interior was done by Herter Looms, Inc. of New York and the landscaping by A.D. Taylor of Cleveland. Built of brick, timbering, stucco, and marble, the structure featured two wings with a gallery hallway between, a castellated parapet, a sculptured classic doorway with fluted pilasters, and marble trim throughout, especially around the primary entrance.
The massing of gables and the five stark chimneys are eye-catching, and a huge and elaborate garden and lawn in the front with a pond and statuary made this a truly spectacular property.
In 1985 the original Mather Estate Home was torn down and a new structure built in its place, mimicking the old. The new structure actually comprises three separately-owned homes.
Mather was born in Louisiana and came to Toledo in 1911. His company, Mather Spring, became one of the largest automotive industry suppliers in the nation.
The Mather Estate House
30209 Hickory Hill
George P. MacNichol Jr., a glass industry executive, built this house in 1921 on an estate he called Orchard Bend just outside of town. Designed by Mills, Rhines, Bellman & Nordhoff of Toledo and built by the Carl Ruck Construction Company, it makes use of Queen Anne and Tudor details best appreciated by viewing all sides.
Half-timbering is visible at the lower left in this picture. The river side has a combination of patterned brick, half-timbering and stucco and an interesting use of windows and dormers. Landscaping was done by A. D. Taylor of Cleveland, and the interior was designed by Hester Mills of New York City. MacNichol, whose grandfather was Edward Ford who founded what was to become Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company, came here from Wyandotte, Michigan. He grew up in Toledo but moved here when other prominent Old West End families chose East River Road for their permanent homes.