The Oldest Stone House
The earliest settlers in Rockport (later Lakewood) built log homes from the abundant forest in the area. As they prospered and their families grew in number, they replaced these primitive homes with more permanent dwellings. One such type found in our early community was built of stone. John Honam, who built what would become the Oldest Stone House museum, chose sandstone to construct a sturdy, practical home. Neighbors like Mars Wagar, Joseph Hall and Jared Kirtland also built homes of stone which were strikingly similar in design during the late 1830's. Mrs. Margaret M. Butler's history, The Lakewood Story, tells of a stone quarry in vicinity of the present Cook Avenue where stone was available.
The houses were constructed from plans available in early builder's manuals which were circulated for this do-it-yourself type project. Perhaps neighbors helped each other in erecting their new homes.
The original site for the Honam home was on the north side of Detroit Avenue in the area of the present St. Charles Avenue. During 1901-02, as Lakewood began to grow by leaps and bounds, St. Charles Avenue was laid out and for some reason Mr. Honam's stone house was moved a short distance west to make way for the new avenue.
Tradition tells us the Stone House served as a residence from 1838 until about 1870. For the next 80 years, it stood on Detroit Avenue and was used for a number of different commercial purposes. At various times it served as a doctor's office, post office, store, shoe repair shop and upholstery shop. It also served as a home for several families for short periods of time.
As Detroit Avenue became the main commercial street in Lakewood, one by one the early homes began to disappear to make way for buildings which would hold businesses in the the thriving community. A new building was constructed on Detroit Avenue in front of the Stone House pushing it out of view from the main thoroughfare. There it remained, a silent reminder of hope and harship in the shadow of progress and prosperity.
Occasionally it was remembered as a quaint, tangible piece of history. In 1935 the U.S. Department of the Interior made a nationwide survey of American homes and buildings in an effort to preserve records of architecture and interior plans of homes built in the early 1800's. The Stone House was chosen for the study and the resultant drawings were placed in the Library of Congress. In 1949 the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a plaque on the Stone House in recognition of its significance to the community's heritage.
In 1952 the owner of the Stone House wanted to expand his commercial property which stood on Detroit Avenue in front of the house. Aware that Mrs. Butler, a citizen of Lakewood with an avid interest in the history of the community, was searching for space to deposit her growing collection of artifacts from early settlers, the Stone House was offered as a repository on the condition that it be moved to another location.
In November 1952 the Stone House was moved from its site on Detroit Avenue to its present location in Lakewood Park. Months of feverish activity began to prepare the house for its new role. Restoration involved removing layers of paint, pulling out 100's of nails, leveling and sanding floors, replacing existing hardware and exterior doors with authentic fixtures characteristic of the period of the house. replacing the roof and installing a fireplace. The formal dedication occurred on April 25, 1953, as the final event of Lakewood's week-long celebration of Ohio's Sesquicentennial celebration. Finally, on September 12, 1954, the Oldest Stone House officially opened as a museum with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The community's response was enthusiastic. Support for the museum through donations and volunteer service gave the Stone House a new life. it could stand proudly with a meaningful purpose once again.
However, at the time of the move in 1952, lack of funds provided a minimum foundation and no basement. This resulted in a constant problem with water standing beneath the structure. Drainage and ventilation were inadequate and the wooden beam which was the main support for the house was decaying. The house was closed in May 1974 for major restoration. A basement with a classroom, office and restroom solved the water problem as well as provided much needed additional space. The area known as the summer kitchen, lost during the first move, was restored for use as a new entrance for guests. Just as the Ohio Sesquicentennial celebration had captured community support for its preservation in 1952, the American Bicentennial provided interest in the museum once again. The museum, fully secure and restored, was re-opened June 1, 1975.
In recognition of its significance, the Oldest Stone House was listed in the National Register of Historic Buildings on May 25, 1977.
With the survival of the Oldest Stone House, the community now has a place to collect and preserve its heritage. Donations have furnished the museum to represent a Lakewood dwelling of 1838-1870. Open to the public without an admission charge, all who enter may experience a look into the past.
The Oldest Stone House
150th Anniversary 1838-1988
Photos courtesy of Carl Staub
See Lakewood Lore Online for more articles on Lakewood history by Dan Chabek. A House Full of History and Memories galore fill Oldest Stone House are brief articles on the Oldest Stone House.
Oldest Stone House Museum | Lakewood Historical Society Home
Lakewood Historical Society
14710 Lake Avenue, Lakewood, Ohio 44107
Mazie M. Adams, Executive Director