The improbable saga of the Wells-Sherman House move+renovation began in early 2012. Sally Burnell, a lifelong Kent resident, asked friends and participants of a Kent history group on Facebook about a 19th century house on East Erie Street that was slated for demolition to make way for Kent State University’s Esplanade. Those conversations led to focused discussions to try to save the house.
The little house that moved
Burnell and others did research and learned that the house was of significant historic value: it was built in 1858 by Marvin and Henry Kent for their sister Frances, who had married their father Zenas’ glassworks business partner, George Wells. The original site was on South Water Street near the corner of Erie Street. The research also revealed that several other important Kent residents had owned the house. It was the home of Civil War Union Army physician and state legislator Aaron Sherman. Sherman graduated from Western Reserve College in Cleveland in 1851 and set up his practice in Garrettsville. He later moved to Kent to set up a pharmacy business, but later returned to medical practice.
The house was purchased in 1924 by railroad surgeon Dr. William Baird Andrews, who had the house moved to East Erie Street. It was sold in the late 1960s to the first of many landlords who used it as a student rooming house. In 2010, Kent State University purchased the property for the Esplanade.
With this information on hand, a small group went to the Kent Historical Society, which offered fundraising support. City Council also provided some assistance. The group then began a hunt for a new site for the house.
After examining sixteen locations that summer and fall, a vacant downtown lot was determined to be a perfect fit. The North Water Street site is a highly visible location, and the owner was ready to sell. The ad hoc group then formed a state-registered nonprofit — Kent Wells Sherman House, Inc. The land was purchased, site plans were approved, and a house mover was hired.
A couple setbacks delayed the move. The Planning Commission rejected their initial proposal, but later approved a revised version. When opposition to placing the house on the North Water Street site ended up in court, the building was stored near Haymaker Parkway while the Esplanade construction moved forward. The legal case was dismissed nearly a year later, and the little house was finally moved to 247 North Water Street on a rainy Saturday morning in October 2013. There are photos of the building being towed through downtown Kent on “Restoration: moving the little house” (a link at the lower right of this page). Restoration of the interior and exterior was completed in 2015.
Kent homes in Kent
The Sherman House is one of five buildings still standing that are directly connected to the Kent family:
- 237 East Main Street: the Clapp-Woodward House. Once the home of Charles Kent Clapp, grandson of Zenas Kent and nephew of Marvin Kent (1883). Now the Kent Historical Society and Museum.
- 125 North Pearl Street: the home of Zenas’s son Charles (1843). Currently a private residence.
- 409 West Main Street: Marvin Kent’s summer residence (1880). Now the Masonic Center.
- 217 East Main Street: the home of Helen Parkhill, daughter of Frances Kent Wells. Currently a private residence.