Homes Sweet Homes: Houses in Ohio Memory

The “Plans for the proposed improvement and enlargement of country seat for Hon. John Sherman”, drawn by Starkweather & Plowman, Designers & Surveyors in 1869. Courtesy of the John Sherman Manuscript Collection. Via Ohio Memory.
On long drives, my favorite pastime is to look at houses I pass, picking out what I like, what I don’t, and which features might suit my own home.  Unfortunately, as I write this, the average price of unleaded gas in Ohio is $3.78 per gallon and, until those prices drop a bit, long drives taken just for fun are out of the question.  In times like this, I am grateful, once again, for Ohio Memory and its eclectic collections. With its help, I’m taking a virtual drive to look at some houses and house plans, and I’d love for you to come along!  First, though, a handful of rules for our trip:

An image of a home that was damaged in Dayton, Ohio during the 1913 flood. Courtesy of the Miami Conservancy District. Via Ohio Memory.
  1. Passenger chooses the music, so play what you like, and maybe even turn on a fan to simulate the wind in your hair!
  2. Because this is a virtual drive, we can go anywhere, at any time. We don’t need a map or roads, so traveling from city to city and era to era in a moment or two is entirely possible.
  3. Some of the houses we’ll see are artistic renderings or are in the form of floor plans. That’s okay!  On a virtual home tour, use of one’s imagination is highly encouraged!


An architectural plan drawing of the house of Joseph Rotch, drawn by Joseph Rotch in 1820. Courtesy of the Massillon Public Library. Via Ohio Memory.

Our first stop is Defiance, where we’ll see sketches of historic homes with build dates ranging from 1838 to 1950.  Use your imagination to add paint colors or flowers in front yards.  Because addresses are included with many of the listings, you can drive by in person and check out your favorites.  Do they look anything like what you imagined?

Next up, let’s visit Columbus, where Lustron Corporation manufactured approximately 2,500 homes out of enameled steel between 1947 and 1950.

These pre-fabricated homes were popular for their modern conveniences, open and flexible spaces, and affordability.  You can see several images of these homes, including their interiors and exteriors, here.  If you find yourself in Columbus in real life, rather than as part of our virtual tour, you can visit an actual Lustron home at the Ohio History Center.  And if you’re interested in learning more about the current state of manufactured homes in Ohio, check out the Manufactured Homes Program document from the Ohio Department of Commerce.

For our final stop, we’re going somewhere a little different: a home that was imagined for John Sherman in 1869.  Sherman, brother of General William T. Sherman, held a number of political offices at the federal level, including Representative, Senator, Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State, as well as running for President in 1880.  During his first senatorial term, he commissioned the architectural firm of Starkweather and Plowman to draw up plans for his “country seat.”  Though the location of this home isn’t given, the design strongly resembles that of Sherman’s home in Mansfield, Ohio (note: clicking the link will take you to Mansfield Memory, which is not affiliated with Ohio Memory).  We can’t be sure, unfortunately, as the house was razed after Sherman’s death in 1900, but existing photos show a home with windows that match the designs in shape and number.  Take a look and decide for yourself!

A photograph of the farm of Stephen and Jenny Jacobsen in Benton Township, Ohio. Courtesy of the Harris-Elmore Public Library. Via Ohio Memory.

This is the end of our tour, but there are many other homes to see in Ohio Memory, so take a look…and happy travels!

Thank you to Shannon Kupfer-Trausch, Digital Initiatives Librarian at the State Library of Ohio, for this week’s post!

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