A DESCRIPTIVE AND HISTORIC OVERVIEW
By Timothy Simandl Masters in Historic Preservation
1910 Photograph with reflection of Wells-Sherman House in its original location.
Photo Courtesy Roger DiPaulo RecordCourier
The Kent/Sherman house (250 East Erie St., Kent, Ohio) is a two-story timber-frame Greek Revival dwelling. Originally standing where it was built in 1853 at the north-east corner of East Erie and South Water Streets in Kent, the house was removed from this site in 1920 and set upon a concrete block foundation at its present site. Its exterior and interior retain much of the original appearance and construction, making this house a rarity in present-day Kent.
Notations added by Kent Resident Jon Ridinger
SANBORN MAP 1884
The original exterior appearance (before the addition of the current vinyl siding) remains much the same as when the house was first built. The original exterior cladding consists of 7” corner boards running vertically the entire height of the house and of horizontal clapboard siding with 4-1/2″ exposure on all four sides of the house from water table sill up to a frieze board directly below the cornice. The front elevation (24′-4″ width) consists of a main entrance at the current north-west end of the front with two windows on the first floor and three on the second floor, the latter all directly above the windows and front entrance on the first floor. The main entrance consists of a symmetrically placed front door flanked by three-paned vertical sidelights on either side and topped by a transom light. In the attic tympanum of the low-pitched front gable is a rectangular window, placed horizontally, containing a simple decorative design of rectangular glass panes and wooden muntins containing them. The gable cornice has two horizontal “returns” supporting the raking cornice running to the ridge of the roof. The west flank (32′-2″) or side of the house has first and second story windows similar in size and shape to those of the front (present north) facade, and has identical clapboard siding and cornice mill work to the facade. The rear (south) gable elevation of the house is identical in size (24′-4″) and basic shape to the front (north) gable end of the house. However, the south gable end has a different placing of windows on the first and second stories. At the east side and on the first story of the rear (south) elevation of the house is an attached enclosed rear porch, probably an addition from 1924. The attic tympanum of the south (rear) end of the house contains beneath the current vinyl siding a small double-hung sash window. As with the front (north) elevation of the house, there are two cornice “returns” supporting the lower ends of the raking cornice of the gable. The east side (32′-2″) or flank of the house has on the first floor modern, smaller windows for the kitchen and front parlor or living room; those of the second floor are the original and thus of the same size and shape as those found on the other three elevations of the house. Its siding and cornice are identical to those of the west side of the house.
A very similar entry out of a textbook:
The interior plans of the house are as follows. The first floor of the house is supported by adze-hewn 10″ by 10″ oak timber beam and sill construction visible in the cellar. There is a front side entrance (current north west corner of the house) with a straight-run stairway attached to the west interior wall of the entrance hallway. This stairway leads directly from first to second floor. The interior mill work of the front entrance remains largely intact although the original door was replaced in recent years by a stamped metal “cross and bible” door. The newel post of the stairway at its lowest step appears to be original, but the stairway balusters have disappeared and upright slats are now in their place. The risers and treads of the stairway appear to be original. The wall below the outer edge of this stairway retains its original plaster work on wood lath; it is uncertain, due to a limited time to examine it, as to what extent similar plaster-on-lath wall and ceiling treatment has survived throughout the remaining interior of the house. The ceiling height of the entrance hallway is the same as for all the first floor rooms–9′-0″. To the east of the entrance hallway is the front parlor or living room, once a full room from the front wall to the load-bearing interior wall but in recent years divided into two separate rooms with a diagonal west-to-east interior wall. The two front windows (3′-0″ width by 5′-0″) of this parlor retain not only their original mill work surrounds but also their finely-carved base panels below the sills (2’-0”). The baseboards for the most part seem also to be original. To the south of the entrance hall is the dining room in which the windows of the west and south walls retain largely intact their original mill work surrounds with base panels below the sills. These windows are identical in size, shape and detail to those found in the parlor. Presumably, all these windows consisted of two double-hung sashes with six pane lights per sash. To the east of the dining room is a modern full bathroom, and beyond it is the present-day kitchen. It is likely that the original kitchen was also in this spot. A central chimney (1924 ?) runs up from the cellar through the north-west corner of the kitchen. It is possible that the original chimney (1853) was also situated at this spot; if so, it served for a cook stove in the kitchen and also for a heating stove in the parlor to the north of the kitchen. The current kitchen has a south entrance by means of the porch (1924 ?) attached to the east side of the rear elevation of the house.
The second floor of the house consists in plan of the stairwell hallway on the west side, a small room at the northwest corner (currently a full bathroom) with two bed chambers to the east of the stair well and one to the south of it. The original bed chamber to the east of the stair well has been divided by a modern wall into two separate rooms, while the bed chambers south and south-east of the stair well seem to have retained their original floor dimensions. The window surrounds. The ceiling height of all second floor rooms is consistently 9′-0″. Like the original windows of the first floor, these windows were presumably double hung sash with a number of lights yet to be determined from historical documentation.
A ceiling hatch way in the south-west bedroom, located in a closet directly below the ridgepole of the roof, is accessible by ladder and gives access to the third-story attic of the house. The massive timber framing of the attic interior has two great “truss” supports running parallel to the ridgepole above and between them. These truss supports, consisting of adze-hewn 10″ by 10″ oak beams with diagonal bracing connecting horizontal and vertical members, are joined by means of mortise and tenon which in turn are secured by wooden pegs. These truss supporting beams slant outward from the floor of the attic up to the roof purlins (rafters), supporting them at a right angle. The timbers of the north and south gable ends of the attic are of identical shape and dimension to those of the trusses supporting the roof purlins. These purlins, of smaller dimension, appear to be sawn lumber, either by hand or from a local saw mill. They meet at the peak of the roof a ridgepole of similar shape and dimension. It is the massive timber construction within the attic in which the traditional timber frame construction supporting the whole of the house is most fully revealed. Within the tympanum of either gable end of the attic may be seen upright 2″ by 4″ studs (oak?); whether these were hand-sawn or were produced by a local saw mill is uncertain. The original exterior roof cladding of the house is also uncertain; further investigation of it will be necessary to determine if any of the original shingles (1853) remain intact, but it is assumed they do not.
Taken as a whole, the Kent/Sherman house remains remarkably intact considering its age and its removal in 1924 from its original to current site. All the more remarkable is that its exterior and interior mill work has survived fairly extensive remodelings and alterations since 1924. So much of the original fabric from its original construction in 1853 remains intact that the Kent/Sherman house is perhaps one of the very few remaining examples of its period left in Kent. This is reason enough by itself to suffice for preserving this house apart from its well-documented association with Zenas Kent (whose son Marvin in 1863 brought the railroad to then-named Franklin Mills and for whom Kent was thereafter named) and local Civil War Union Army physician Aaron Sherman, a local man who gained prominence after the Civil War as a state legislator, among other notable achievements. That these two historic figures in Kent’s history were associated with the house now bearing their names thus serves as a second and equally important reason for preserving the house. Its historic significance is thus doubly affirmed and its preservation thus should be beyond dispute.