Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Residences of Rural Sandusky County, Ohio

Last week, I finished my survey of rural Sandusky County, Ohio. Rather than merely silently posting a link to the Fusion Table on the usual page, I'll also write about what I've discovered. For those who care not to read, here's the map:



A Slapdash History

In 1820, Sandusky County was carved — along with a dozen other northwestern-Ohio counties — from ex-Shawnee territory confiscated by the Treaty of Fort Meigs (1817). At the time, a mere 852 souls called the county home. The area remained sparsely populated until two waves of migration — the first in the 1830s, the second between 1850 and 1860 — sent settlers into its lands. The earliest settlement occurred along certain streams: the Sandusky River (which bisects the county), the Portage River, and other, smaller waterways. Modern-day US Highway 20, an early road connecting Perrysburg and the Western Reserve, also functioned as an artery of settlement. Like most northwestern-Ohio counties, Sandusky encompassed much waterlogged land, and its landscape reached a stable state of development only during the nineteenth century's closing decades. The second migration wave contained a great many Germans — from a variety of principalities, including Baden and Bavaria — as well as a slew of Swiss.

Fremont (no, not Sandusky), once a frontier outpost adjoining Fort Stephenson, has always served as the county seat. Before and after the county's formation, the city was (rather confusingly) known as Lower Sandusky, no doubt because of its location near the Sandusky River's mouth. In 1849, the village's residents chose to rechristen their home in honor of John C. Frémont (1813–1890), then known as an explorer and military man (and not the Republican Party's first candidate). The first Sandusky County courthouse — perhaps Ohio's only log civic building for which plans survive — served between 1826 and 1843. In 1844, a Greek Revival edifice replaced the log structure.

Sandusky County's current courthouse — built in 1844, and expanded, with unusual sensitivity, in 1936.

Survey Results

During my survey, I discovered 273 rural homes worthy of note — a higher number than I'd expected, though not terribly surprising, given Sandusky County's predominantly Germanic settlement geography.* A fair number of buildings are already included in the Ohio Historic Inventory and National Register, mostly because of a 1984 survey conducted by Andrew Gulliford. Still, the OHI and NRHP include only 63 homes, about 23 percent of my total. The overwhelming majority of rural Sandusky County's buildings (perhaps 80 percent) postdate the Civil War. As always, my survey favors brick structures, which — thanks, again, to the county's Germanitas — exist in abundance. Many rural homes adhere to familiar formulas; the terms "upright-and-wing" and "gabled ell" appear, by the dozens, in my table. The Italianate style, too, was popular among nineteenth-century Sanduskyites. This isn't surprising. The county's greatest period of development happened to coincide with the style's peak in national popularity (outside the cities, between 1865 and 1885).

I can (crudely) divide Sandusky County into three architectural regions. The first comprises the easternmost townships — Townsend and York, as well as portions of Riley and Green Creek; the second stretches, in an "L" shape, from the county's center to its northwestern corner, near Woodville; the last covers the southwestern quadrant.

The East

In Townsend and York townships, Yankee, Pennsylvanian, and Germanic architectural traditions collided in interesting ways. This region, populated by the aforementioned 1830s wave, contained many of Sandusky County's wealthiest and oldest farms. (It was also the least swampy.) Remodeled braced-frame buildings, some with frieze windows and vestigial Greek Revival flourishes, are scattered, willy-nilly, across the area's farms. A few limestone houses stand near the Huron County–Erie County border, due south and north of Bellevue. In eastern Sandusky County, the so-called "upright-and-wing" house-type — so popular in the Western Reserve — is a common sight. A number of "upright-and-wing" homes in York Township display Gothic Revival quirks: gabled wall-dormers, lancet-arched windows, scrollwork, and bargeboards.

Smith House, York Township. 6710 Billman Road. Note the "upright-and-wing" form, wall dormers, and lancet-arched windows. Photo from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.

Deyo House (SAN-448-12), York Township. 2895 Flat Rock Road. One of the county's few stone buildings. Photo from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.

Winters House, Townsend Township. 6201 US Highway 6. A Gothic–Grecian fusion par excellence. Photo from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.

Perhaps eastern Sandusky County's most interesting dwellings are those which use an odd form of brickwork called, variously, "double Flemish bond" and "monk bond." Oddly enough, this method of construction seemed to be popular among New Englanders and Germans in the vicinity of Bellevue; examples exist in Erie, Huron, Sandusky, and Seneca counties. The homes are too numerous to be the products of a single builder.

Sparks House, York Township. 5821 State Route 101. The brickwork is exceptional. Photo from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.

The Middle (and Northwest)

Sandusky County's vast midsection — the lands bordering the Sandusky River; much of Ballville, Sandusky, Rice, and Riley townships — received the majority of its German settlers. Others purchased tracts in the county's northwestern quadrant, in Woodville and Washington townships. The area's dwellings vary in age, pretension, and appearance. Brick "gabled ell" farmhouses, often unadorned (sans the ubiquitous segmental arches), are commonplace. The region's Italianate homes tend to feature severely truncated hip roofs (almost, but not quite, mansard) and intricately carved stone window hoods. Half-circle- and quarter-circle-shaped attic vents and windows are also oddly common.

Weber House, Sandusky Township. 3323 Werth Road. A well-preserved, unabashedly Germanic farmhouse. Image from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.
King House, Rice Township. 680 Overmyer Road. Image from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.
Batzine House, Rice Township. 331 Woodrich Road. A plain "gabled ell" with segmental-arched windows and a tall foundation. Photo from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.
Hetrick House, Rice Township. 2959 Four Mile House Road. Similar to 331 Woodrich Road, but with quarter-circle (or half-lunette) attic windows. Photo from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.
Philip Overmyer House (1862), Washington Township. 654 State Route 590. Luckily, this splendid home is NRHP-listed. Photo from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.

In Washington Township, just south of Elmore, stand two nearby identical brick cottages, undistinguished except for a pair of peculiar elliptical windows squeezed above the porch roof.

Burgman House, Washington Township. 3910 Swartzman Road. Photo from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.

Mellman House, Washington Township. 3806 Damschroder Road. Image from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.

A few Queen Anne houses; constructed for wealthy, non-German landowners; stand on the banks of the Sandusky River, south of Fremont.

Ballville Township. 4319 Darr Road. Photo from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.

One of Sandusky County's few extant log buildings stands in Rice Township.

Zitles House (?), Rice Township. 3184 Weickert Road. Removal of the porch has exposed the logs. The central chimney is a Germanic trait. Photo from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.

The Southwest

The lands lying south of the old Maumee and Western Reserve Road (US Highway 20) and west of the Sandusky River; near Gibsonburg, Helena, and Burgoon; harbor Sandusky County's least-pretentious buildings. Here, the architectural landscape is defined by remodeling, demolition, and abandonment. The limestone barrens running between Woodville and Fremont (part of the larger "Oak Openings" microregion) are unsuitable for agriculture, and portions of Madison, Scott, and Jackson townships remained ill-drained until the late nineteenth century, when ditching and tiling efforts opened the area to settlement. Frame farmhouses, many of "gabled ell" form, predominate, though plenty of brick structures exist here, too.

Fairbanks House, Madison Township. 4810 US Highway 6. The quintessential Sandusky County farmhouse. Photo from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.
Scott Township. 5910 Girton Road. Another "gabled ell" dwelling — this one clad in brick veneer, with a bit of gable ornamentation. The house dates from the turn-of-the-century. Photo from the Sandusky County Auditor's website.

I'll end my post with a table listing Sandusky County's townships, the number of buildings in each township included in my survey, the estimated age of surveyed structures found in each township, and the ratings I've assigned. (I've adopted Indiana's system. A "1" denotes a superlative building; a "2," a notable one; a "3," one significant enough only to appear in my survey.)

Township:
Number:
Date Range:
1:
2:
3:
Ballville Twp.
23
c. 1855 – c. 1920
2
2
19
Green Creek Twp.
24
c. 1865 – c. 1925
0
6
18
Jackson Twp.
23
c. 1855 – c. 1925
0
2
21
Madison Twp.
6
c. 1860 – c. 1900
0
0
6
Rice Twp.
20
c. 1850 – c. 1925
0
2
18
Riley Twp.
26
c. 1860 – c. 1915
1
1
24
Sandusky Twp.
24
c. 1855 – c. 1925
1
2
21
Scott Twp.
15
c. 1855 – c. 1900
0
1
14
Townsend Twp.
20
c. 1850 – c. 1925
2
0
18
Washington Twp.
32
c. 1840 – c. 1920
4
7
21
Woodville Twp.
25
c. 1855 – c. 1925
1
2
22
York Twp.
35
c. 1845 – c. 1925
3
5
27

* I've noticed, after much exploring, that (a) Germans preferred brick construction to frame (so long as local geography provided a suitable source of clay), and that (b) Germans tended, ceteris paribus, to build more pretentiously than did other cultural groups.

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