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History of the homes built in the 1820s

By Henry Timman • Feb 1, 2019 at 12:00 PM

Norwalk celebrated its 200th birthday in 2017 and is in the past, but ramifications from it come into my mind regularly. I wrote much about the beginnings of the town and the earliest buildings and now I’m plagued with thoughts of houses built in the 1820s — the first full decades of Norwalk’s existence.

There are at least six houses standing in our town which were built between 1820 and 1829. There may be others, or parts of others which have been incorporated into later and larger dwellings, which I can’t discern from the tax records. There were commercial buildings built in the era, too, but they have all been removed. The oldest building in the business district dates from the 1830s.

To my knowledge, the oldest house from the 1820s in Norwalk’s corporate limits is at 5 S. Old State Road. It was built in 1823 at East Main Street and Old State Road on the site of Evans Funeral Home and was moved to its present location in 1880. It was not in the corporate limits of Norwalk at that time. In 1823 it was “out in the country” two miles or so from the village of Norwalk.

This house was built by David and Elizabeth Lockwood Gibbs. David served as Huron County Clerk of Courts for almost 20 years before his death in 1840. The house then became home to Prudden Alling, who had married Eliza Gibbs. The intersection of East Main and Old State became known as Allings Corners until well into the 20th century.

At least two extant dwellings were built in 1824. One was the home of Theodore Baker’s family at 121 E. Main St. Theodore operated a tannery on Corwin Street and worked with his brother, Timothy, who lived at 124 E. Main St. The main part of the Baker house was moved about 1920 to 7 Chatham St. and made into a duplex. Originally the house had several one-story additions.

Another 1824 house in Norwalk now stands at 77 N. Hester St. It was built at 50 W. Main St. by John G. Taylor. In the 1830s, it was occupied by Samuel Preston, a co-founder of the Norwalk Reflector in 1830. Samuel’s daughter, Lucy, met her future husband, Frederick Wickham, in the front yard of this house. They were married in this home in 1835. Frederick Wickham owned and operated the Reflector newspaper almost until the time of his death in 1901.

Either Sullivan Moulton or one Benjamin Franklin built a house at 25 Woodlawn Ave. in 1825. In the 1880s, this house was moved to the back of the lot and still stands at 12 Mill Street St.

John Whyler, an Englishman by birth, had the house at 108 W. Main St. built in 1826 by local carpenter, John V. Sharp. Whyler believed the town would grow up at that corner and opened a store in one room of his new home. After 10 years he gave up on his theory and moved his store to the business district. Prior to that move, American Indians from Seneca and Wyandot counties would come there to do business with Whyler, since they considered him to be “Honest John.”

The final house (to my knowledge) built in the 1820s decade is the one standing at 170 E. Main St. Samuel Barnes came from Wilton, Conn., and bought a 117-acre farm. The house was under construction in 1828 when Barnes died suddenly at the young age of 42. The inventory of his estate lists 14,000 feet of lumber; 12,000 feet of wood shingles; eight boxes of glass; plus six locks and a gross of screws, among other building items. The house was duly completed and owned and occupied by Mrs. Barnes and her second husband, Orfus Perry, for many years afterward.

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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.

 

Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.

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