By Timothy Simandl, M.A. Historic Preservation
Look carefully at the right side of this 1910 photograph to see a reflection of Wells-Sherman House in its original location on South Water Street. Photo Courtesy Roger DiPaulo, RecordCourier
The Kent/Sherman house (shown at 250 East Erie St., above) is a two-story timber-frame Greek Revival dwelling. Originally built in 1853 at the northeast corner of East Erie and South Water Streets in Kent, it was moved from this site in 1920 and set upon a concrete block foundation on Erie St. 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 prior to move to N. Water St.
The circle marks the original building location.
Current location on N. Water St. is about 2 blocks north (left) of Huntington Bank.
The exterior details
The original exterior appearance 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 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.
One side of the house has first and second story windows similar in size and shape to those of the front facade, and has identical clapboard siding and cornice mill work to the facade. The rear gable elevation of the house is identical in size (24′-4″) and basic shape to the front gable end of the house. However, the rear gable end has a different placing of windows on the first and second stories.
At the side and on the first story of the rear elevation of the house is an attached enclosed rear porch, probably an addition from 1924. The attic tympanum of the rear end of the house contains beneath the current vinyl siding a small double-hung sash window. As with the front elevation of the house, there are two cornice “returns” supporting the lower ends of the raking cornice of the gable. One 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.
An engraving showing the house in its original location, Blumenson, 1977
The interior plans of the house
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 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. The ceiling height of the entrance hallway is the same as for all the first floor rooms–9′-0″.
The entrance hallway was next to the front parlor or living room. Previous owners divided it into two separate rooms. The two front windows 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.
The dining room windows still have their original mill work surrounds with base panels below the sills and match those in the parlor. Prior to its current renovation, there was a modern full bathroom, and a full kitchen. It is likely that the original kitchen was also in this spot. A central chimney (1924 ?) ran up from the cellar through the 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 and also for a heating.
The second floor of the house consists in plan of the stairwell hallway on the west side, a small room at the corner and two bed chambers. 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 hatchway to the attic is in a bedroom closet directly below the ridgepole of the roof, is accessible by ladder. 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 mortise and tenon and secured by wooden pegs. These truss supporting beams slant outward from the floor of the attic up to the roof purlins (rafters). The timbers of the 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.
A remarkable specimen of mid-nineteenth century Ohio architecture
Taken as a whole, the Kent/Sherman house remains surprisingly intact considering its age and the number of times it has been moved. All the more unusual is that its exterior and interior mill work has survived fairly extensive remodeling and alterations since 1924. So much of the original fabric from its original construction in 1853 remains intact that the Kent Wells Sherman house is one of the very few remaining examples of its period in Kent.