Lewis Home (1843), 1591 Center Road, Avon, Ohio

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MOVING THE LEWIS HOUSE ON AUGUST 21, 2002:

Photo 1 -- Photo 2 -- Photo 3 -- Photo 4
Photo 5 -- Photo 6 -- Photo 7
Photo 8 -- Photo 9 -- Photo 10
UPDATE ON THE LEWIS HOUSE -- 10-17-02
UPDATE ON THE LEWIS HOUSE -- 4-23-03

11-27-03: Lewis House Wins 2003 Lorain County Beautiful Award

This description is based on information compiled by the Avon Historical Society, and was researched by Arnold Savage.

The stone used for the dwelling was brought from Amherst Quarry, a journey which is said to have taken eight days. The house was built in a square ... with a pyramidal roof and walls measuring 21 inches in thickness. The stone is cut 18 inches thick.

The side facing Center Road had two parlors, each with one window facing the road and another just around the corner. Fireplaces were in each of these rooms on the side walls. The other two windows on each side looked out from very small bedrooms, four in all. The windows were of the six-light variety and are angled on the inside to allow more light to enter the rooms.

There was a long central hallway from the main entrance that traveled to a large central family room/kitchen. This room had a huge walk-in fireplace at the back wall, joining the two-story frame portion. All woodwork and doors of the home were "grain-painted" to simulate exotic woods, as was the custom in the 1840's and 1850's. Some of the original doors and baseboards, and one fireplace, still exist, showing what the beautiful graining must have looked like at one time.

Lewis House
The Lewis House

In 1851, the property passed into the hands of John Blackwell, Sr. ... and then in 1864 to Matthew Blackwell, a younger brother. Matthew, in turn, sold the property to James and Anna (Mary Ann Peak) Lewis in 1878. ... In 1929, the property was owned by Howard and George Lewis who, in the 1930's sold some of the "back land" with frontage on Detroit Road to Taylor and Evelyn Smith, where Dr. Smith built his medical office, now the Vintage House Cafe

Upon the death of George Lewis in 1958, Mary Lewis Sawyer had to raze the two-story frame section because of termite damage. ... Other than a few doors, some woodwork, and one fireplace, only the exterior walls of the original stone structure remain. It has been stated that this house is the only pyramid-roofed, square stone home in Ohio, which is why it was placed on the Historical American Building Survey by the Department of the Interior in 1937, and is on file at the Library of Congress.

NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 2-7-02, By Brad Dicken

``Historic house may fall victim to incoming Wal-Mart

AVON -- After withstanding the forces of nature and progress since 1843, the aging tan sandstone Lewis House on old Center Street faces Wal-Mart's bulldozers.

With less than two months to get out of the way, Ron Larson, owner of the Tree House restaurant in Avon's French Creek District, hopes to save the house by moving it behind his Detroit Road business.

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Lewis House
MOVING THE LEWIS HOUSE -- PHOTO 1 OF 10
Looking South on Old Center Road toward I-90
August 21, 20002

Larson said he has the support of fellow members of the Avon Historical Society and the store developer, First Interstate. But the project remains tentative.

Efforts to get local, state or federal funding for the move failed, Larson said, and banks don't typically lend money for such projects. Still, he thinks it's worth the effort to save.

"The Lewis House has a lot of meaning for us and for the area," he said.

"The cost to move the building is estimated at $35,000. It may cost another $25,000 to $30,000 to build a new foundation for the building at Larson's Olde Avon Village," Historical Society president Taylor J. Smith said.

There already are three historic buildings at the [Olde Avon] village [behind Ron Larson's Tree House restaurant] on Detroit Road.

"We see it as salvation of those buildings for generations to come," Larson said. "We want to create a sanctuary for those types of buildings."

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Lewis House
MOVING THE LEWIS HOUSE -- PHOTO 2 OF 10
A last look East at the old homestead
August 21, 20002

Smith said the Lewis House is a historic relic of the early days of the Western Reserve, as the Cleveland area was known in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

"For me it's a real landmark," he said.

In 1843, Thomas Cave, an early settler, added the stone section that still stands at the site to an original two-story frame house, according to research by the Historical Society. No one knows when the original frame section was built, but it disappeared long ago. The stones, quarried in Amherst, remain.

"The home is on the Ohio Registry of Historic Sites and was detailed by the American History Survey in the 1930s, a Works Progress Administration project during the height of the Great Depression," said Society member Jean Fischer.

"There are so few of these old stone houses left in the Western Reserve," she said.

Larson said First Interstate, the developer building the new 150,000-square-foot Wal-Mart, is working to help save the building. A gas station will be built on the land the Lewis House now occupies.

"This is the first time we ve had a house (on) a property that's historic," said the company's vice president, Richard Carlisle.

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Lewis House
MOVING THE LEWIS HOUSE -- PHOTO 3 OF 10
Moving West on Detroit Rd. after clearing the traffic lights at Garden Drive
August 21, 20002

First Interstate has agreed to give the building to Larson and also has done some initial survey work for the move, but beyond that the company hasn't committed to any other involvement.

Carlisle said he is meeting with the Historical Society next week to discuss the house and that the company may do more.

"We like to do what we can," he said.

Larson stressed the project is by no means definite, especially because he will probably end up footing most of the bill.

Mayor James Smith sold the Lewis House, which he owned and rented out until last month, to First Interstate.

"I was hoping that someone would be able to take the house," he said. "It's a unique building, and it would be nice to put it down in [Olde] Avon Village."

Contact Brad Dicken at bdicken@chronicletelegram.com

NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 2-21-02, By Catherine Gilfether, Plain Dealer Reporter

``Saving the old requires new cash

AVON -- For Ron Larson, what's new is what's old.

Specifically, Olde Avon Village. When Larson is not running the Tree House Gallery and Tea Room, he's focused on preserving history in one of the fastest growing cities in Lorain County.

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Lewis House
MOVING THE LEWIS HOUSE -- PHOTO 4 OF 10
Passing the Village School, Avon's first consolidated school which at one time held grades 1 through 12
August 21, 20002

First on his agenda is moving the 1843 Lewis home before it's torn down in April for a Wal-Mart. The move of less than a mile will cost $38,000. And that's just the beginning. He estimates another $62,000 is needed for a foundation, architectural and site work, renovation and planning.

But Larson believes the building represents an era well worth the investment.

"There are a lot of stories to be told," he said, rattling off facts about Avon's German pioneers, religious heritage and bustling saw and grist mills.

The farm fields have given way to a community of 11,446 residents. In the town's center, called the French Creek District, quaint antique shops and stores line the main thoroughfare. But also dominating the once rural area are housing developments, offices and retail shopping centers, which soon will include the Wal-Mart.

Similarly, Larson witnessed his hometown landscape of Independence change. "I watched it grow into an area with massive office buildings," he said. "I think everyone regrets it now, but no one took any action."

He envisions the village, near the town center, as a sanctuary for buildings that might otherwise be destroyed. "I think the old and new can coincide and they can run parallel," he said, walking the gravel pathways near the historic homes tucked behind the busy street. "But this can be a little haven in a large growth area."

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Lewis House
MOVING THE LEWIS HOUSE -- PHOTO 5 OF 10
Turning North into the drive by the Police Station
August 21, 20002

The Lewis home was built of sandstone quarried in nearby Amherst, but back then it was an eight-day task to carry the load to Avon. The home is the only pyramid-roofed stone home in Ohio and was placed on the Register of Historic Buildings in 1937.

First Interstate Properties, developer of the Wal-Mart, agreed to donate the Lewis home to Larson at the request of the Avon Historical Society. The company also has donated some preliminary survey site work at the village, where the home would be moved.

The concept for Olde Avon Village began in 1981 when Dr. Delbert Fischer bought the 1850's Alten-Casper house, which fronts on busy Detroit Road. Larson's restaurant is now in that house. Fischer moved a train station, caboose and Greek Revival home to the three-acre site. A hobby shop and fiber arts store are housed in those buildings.

Larson sees similar potential for the Lewis home. Perhaps it could become a bakery, candy store, ice cream shop or women's clothing store. Also on his agenda is to dismantle and rebuild an old barn at the village. He wants to move an old brick schoolhouse, one of six original schools in the area. And, he is searching for an authentic wooden greenhouse to honor Avon, which was once a major grower of greenhouse tomatoes.

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Lewis House
MOVING THE LEWIS HOUSE -- PHOTO 6 OF 10
Ron Larson at the left
August 21, 20002

Any new structures would be built in a Western Reserve-style true to the period, he said. During special community events, like the holiday lighting walk, people might roam the paths in period costumes.

"It would have the look and feel of 1850's Avon," he said. "Avon hasn't experienced the amount of commercial growth that's going on now since 1850 ..."

Tonight [2-21-02], Larson will present his dream of nurturing "a small community within a community" to the city's Planning Commission for approval ...

Jack Smith, president of the historical society, applauds Larson's commercial approach. "The greatest incentive to maintain and preserve structures is the fact that they are profitable," he said.

Scott Hetzel, owner of the village's Heritage Train & Hobby shop, supports Larson's vision. "It's like any other part of history," he said. "You need to leave a little behind."''

Contact Catherine Gilfether at cgilfether@plaind.com

NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 3-18-02, By Brad Dicken

``Donations allow past to be preserved

AVON -- Three donations of $5,000 a piece are helping Ron Larson to achieve his dream of moving a home built in 1843 from its current location -- where Wal-Mart is building a store -- to downtown Avon.

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Lewis House
MOVING THE LEWIS HOUSE -- PHOTO 7 OF 10
Passing behind the police station toward Olde Avon Village
August 21, 20002

Wal-Mart, developer First Interstate and Taylor J. Smith, president of Avon Historical Society, have donated the money to help defray the expected $100,000 price tag that comes with moving the sandstone structure known as the Lewis House.

Larson, who owns the Tree House restaurant and the buildings that compose Olde Avon Village in the city's French Creek District, is pleased with the donations, but still has to worry about covering the rest of the cost.

"I'm still seeking outside help," he said. "And I already have a loan in place."

Wal-Mart, which bought the land and the buildings on it earlier this year, is also donating the house to Larson. The company and Larson still need to sign an agreement for that, but Larson said he doesn't foresee any problems.

He already has set his sights on a new project after learning of a sandstone foundation in the woods behind the house that once provided the base of a barn.

"We believe the barn is older than the house," he said. "It's almost ghostly when you walk back there and see these stones rising out of the woods."

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Lewis House
MOVING THE LEWIS HOUSE -- PHOTO 8 OF 10
Inspecting the destination
August 21, 20002

The barn will also be moved to Olde Avon Village, and Larson plans to restore it to how it would have looked around 1825, when he estimates it was built. When finished the barn will be about 30 feet tall.

"At that point, I would have the whole Lewis homestead, except for maybe some other small outbuildings," he said.

Larson still has to get final approval from Avon Planning Commission, but Chairman Jim Piazza said he doesn't expect any problems after what the commission saw during an informational presentation last month.

"The property won't be too full even if Larson adds several other buildings to his property," Piazza said. "The only concern left will be how close the buildings are to other properties."

"If there's no problem with frontage, they're fine," he said.

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Lewis House
MOVING THE LEWIS HOUSE -- PHOTO 9 OF 10
The steel plates are down; the truck is backed around; and Toni Barnhart says they are ready to go
August 21, 20002

Smith said he donated the money because he believes in preserving the past. He also hopes the city will waive most of the fees Larson could incur from the project ...

City Council is considering legislation that would help protect buildings more than a century old.''

Contact Brad Dicken at bdicken@chronicletelegram.com

NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 8-22-02, By Brad Dicken

``This old house gets new location

AVON -- After about 160 years on Old Center Road, the Lewis House was moved Wednesday to new digs at Ron Larson's Olde Avon Village on Detroit Road.

The old site is only about one mile from the new site, but moving the 85- to 100-ton house took three and a half hours.

"It's here, and it looks like it's in good shape,? said Larson, who spent the morning on top of the house lifting traffic lights and utility wires.

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Lewis House
MOVING THE LEWIS HOUSE -- PHOTO 10 OF 10
At last at home in Olde Avon Village
August 21, 20002

The house, which had its pyramid-shaped roof removed to get under the wires, began its journey off Old Center Road about 9 a.m., moving at a maximum speed of 5 mph.

The pace was slowed along the way with workers lifting power lines and dodging street signs, some of which had to be pulled from the ground.

"I'm sorry to see it go, said Joe Toth of Old Center Road as he watched the house roll away."

Traffic backed up as the house moved onto Chester Road and followed state Route 83 over Interstate 90. It then turned right onto Detroit Road, narrowly missing the fixed pole stoplights at the intersection.

Rubble from the bottom of the house occasionally fell to the ground. That type of fallout is to be expected, said Jim Kazak, president of AA House Movers of Cleveland.

As it rumbled through town, residents with cameras swarmed around the house. Downtown Avon had the festive atmosphere of a fair as business owners, kids still enjoying summer vacation and even the house's former owner, Avon Mayor Jim Smith, showed up to see the slow-moving process.

Lewis House
September 22, 20002 -- Awaiting removal of the steel beams after construction of the foundation.

Before the move, Larson acknowledged being a bit nervous, especially after the stone walls of an old barn behind the house collapsed when it was moved earlier this month.

"The only thing holding the barn together was gravity, and as soon as the excavator bit into it, it crumbled," he said. "Some people tell me gravity s the only thing holding this together."

But the house, with its thick walls built of sandstone quarried in Amherst, was solidly built, Kazak said.

"It takes a lot to destroy a house," he said.

Lewis House
September 22, 20002 -- Ron Larson acknowledges some of those who have helped him.

The Avon Historical Society's research indicates the stone section was added in the early 1840s to an existing two-story frame house owned by Thomas Cave.

The wooden portion finally gave in to a century and a half of weathering in the 1950s, but the stone half remained standing.

Larson received donations from the society and developer First Interstate and a promise of a donation from Wal-Mart, which is building a new store on the land where the house stood.

The cost to move and restore the house will be about $100,000, he said.

The house still must be backed into the hole excavated for it, something Kazak said will happen today or Friday. It will be lowered into place and the foundation built beneath it.

Larson said the restoration will be complete, and the Lewis House should be ready for a tenant by next summer.''

Contact Brad Dicken at bdicken@chronicletelegram.com.

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UPDATE on the LEWIS HOUSE by Ron Larson, 10-17-02

``I have removed all of the existing construction exposing only the original interior.

The house is in terrible shape at this point. The home is still not sitting on a complete foundation, as we are waiting for the mason contractor to return. We have been working on window selection and roofing material that is (SLATE LIKE), original slate roofing was quoted at $20,000.

Lewis House
UPDATE ON THE LEWIS HOUSE -- 10-17-02
The challenge of the interior

Two of the three fireplaces are in bad shape. The original floor seems to be reusable. We have moved forward in securing a tenant for the building as long as we can complete the restoration within a reasonable time frame. The French Creek Ice Cream Parlor will be housed in the Lewis Home, as early as Jan. 2003.

The need for low interest restoration money in Lorain County has really become a large issue with me. Without this tool we loose by the day a large amount of complete preservation and protection of physical history. Avon needs to become a leader, now! What can I do to light this fire again before Council?

11-27-02:

The Lewis home is secure on a its foundation now. The primary roof is complete. We have replaced two large border timbers that had water damage as well as two roof timbers because of rot. We have opened up the inside ceiling exposing all beam work; its' going to look nice.

We are trying to find wide board T&G flooring to replace damage on the original floor. Windows have been ordered. We are having a tough time finding a mason to re-work the fireplaces.

I am still trying to find a way to save the Casper Garage.''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 4-23-03, By Julie A. Short

``AVON -- After months of renovations, the 1843 Lewis home will finally have an occupant. The home was moved last year to Olde Avon Village on Detroit Road through the tireless efforts of Ron Larson (owner of the Tree House Gallery and Tea Room) and the Avon Historical Society. The Lewis home was located on Center Road on the site that will eventually house the new Wal-Mart.

The shop, named Details -- Gifts from the heart and home -- is slated to open in June. It will feature unique home accessory gifts. Owned and operated by Avon resident Lori Miles, along with her husband Stephen, Details has been a dream of Lori's ...

Lori is currently employed as an assistant general manager for the Nautica Queen. She plans to balance her current position with the operation of Details. The Lewis home was a dream come true and the perfect opportunity for the Miles to develop their business plan.

"The items available within Details will be something that someone wanted for themselves, but thought it would be a perfect gift to give to someone else," Lori said. "The shop will be set up like a home, with a living area, bedroom, bathroom, etc. Each room will be furnished that way for props and the gift items available will reflect that room."

Lori wants to offer customers a homey feeling. As customers walk in the shop, they will be greeted with the smell of coffee available for sampling and purchasing from the gourmet food section that will be included in the shop.

The shop will also feature a unique gift program entitled "A little birdie told me." Since the shop will be unable to offer customers a traditional gift registry, the program is a way for customers to select items or colors they like, and a postcard will be mailed to family and friends noting what they have selected.

"It's great for women to do for their husbands as a reminder since sometimes husbands seem to have difficulty remembering important events like birthdays," Lori said. She is eagerly awaiting to be a part of Olde Avon Village.

"I think what Ron Larson is doing is phenomenal," she said. "This is the start of what I feel would be like a Rosco Village in southern Ohio. A place where people will come from all over for tours and do a little shopping, while reliving a sense of history."

Olde Avon Village is made up of a number of older homes that have been restored and are now used for commercial use. The concept for Olde Avon Village began in the 1980s when Dr. Delbert Fischer bought the 1850s Alten-Casper house that is now a restaurant. A train station, caboose and Greek revival home make up the more than three-acre site. A train hobby shop and fiber arts store is now housed in those buildings.

Larson envisions the Village as a sanctuary for buildings that might otherwise be destroyed.

"It's an important part of history, not only for Avon, but history in general. The Lewis home is listed on the Register of Historic Buildings. We're also looking at other buildings in the area," Larson said.

He has put up most of the money for the moves from his own personal finances. The Lewis home was built of sandstone quarried in Amherst. The home boosts the only pyramid-roofed stone home in Ohio. Larson worked with the Library of Congress to research the original look of the home. The home took longer than expected to renovate due to the unusually bad winter.

"The home was restored to its original look," he said. "Two fireplaces were restored and the cathedral ceiling features exposed timbers."

Lewis House
The Lewis House as of March, 2005

He envisions Olde Avon Village as a place where visitors can park in one spot and walk from shop to shop and enjoy a nice meal. "We are very committed to protecting history. Commercial and residential growth is inevitable, but we should do our best to preserve what our founders gave us."

Staying true to his word, Larson has purchased timber-framed barn currently located in Frederickstown, Ohio (Knox County). The 1851 Blackwell Barn is reminiscent of German/Dutch construction and fits well with Avon rich ethnic heritage. [The foundation stones for the barn come from the same property in Avon where the Lewis House was located.]

"We had several timber-frame barns in mind," Larson said. "It will fit well in our efforts to create a village and fits appropriately resembling 1850s Avon."

Larson has been working with Charles Whitney of the Ohio State Extension University, in the search for a barn.

"We will be dismantling a portion of the barn and rebuilding it on the site," Larson said. "The barn is 27 feet tall and sits on two layers of sandstone. It is 130 feet long, but again, we are only taking a portion of that."

He received approval from the city's planning commission last week for location plans for the placement of the barn. Possible uses for the barn include an ice cream parlor or specialty store.''

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11-27-03: Lewis House Wins 2003 Lorain County Beautiful Award

HISTORICAL SKETCH OF AVON, OHIO, TO 1974

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