Saturday, September 17, 2016

School Reopened in September 1916


The Carroll Cutler House from the 1916 Catalog.
It was then used as a dormitory.
It was 100 years ago on September 12, 1916 that Western Reserve Academy reopened as a coed boarding school. The school had closed down in June, 1903 because of bankruptcy, and alumnus James W. Ellsworth rescued the campus in 1912 by lifting the mortgage, buying the entire campus, launching a restoration effort for the historic buildings, and constructing Seymour Hall as the new “recitation center” for the school. Students have been learning in the classrooms of Seymour Hall for a century. The building itself is scheduled for a major renovation that will begin in the spring of 2017.
Harlan N. Wood at his desk in Seymour Hall.
Faculty member, 1893-1903; 1916-1945
When Western Reserve Academy reopened in the fall of 1916, there was a small faculty that served the student body which numbered just over 50. William Sands Morley of Idaho was the new Principal, but did not last the entire year, and Harlan N. Wood, a member of the class of 1888 and a faculty member before the 1903 closing, took over the school until another WRA alumnus, Homer Oscar Sluss, could come from Covington to take over the headship of the school in 1917. He would remain through 1924. Mr. Wood would remain on the faculty until his unexpected death in early 1945.
The Nutting House on Hudson Street from the 1916 Catalog.
It would be the school dining hall until 1922.
The catalog for 1916 tells the story of renewal and hopes for the future. It notes that the school boasts a “splendid new main building”, a new athletic field, the restoration of all the historic buildings, and an endowment of $200,000, provided by the benefactor, James W. Ellsworth. New trees had been added to the “fine old elms already standing” to make the entire campus beautiful once again. The school had a Board of Trustees that included William M. Fincke of New York, stepson of Ellsworth, and local entrepreneurs and community activists Frank A. Seiberling of Akron, Warren Bicknell and John L. Severance of Cleveland. The catalog concludes that with such strong backing and in such a setting, “a high and fine educational purpose will be accomplished.” Estimated total costs for a boarding student in 1916 was placed at $255 per year.

Morley Cottage on Hudson Street from the 1916 Catalog.
It was a faculty residence.
The photos that accompany this article, except for the one of Harlan N. Wood, are from the 1916 catalog of Western Reserve Academy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Louis Bromfield, The Chamay Brothers and WRA



Patric Chamay '56, senior photo
Sometime around 2008, Bob Carabell of the Class of 1956 asked what had become of Patric Chamay ’56 and whether he had a connection with Louis Bromfield.That sent me to the files to learn more about the two Chamay brothers, both of whom attended WRA in the 1950’s. I learned that they were indeed sent here by their guardian, notable Ohio author and conservationist, Louis Bromfield (1896-1956). It seemed that it would make a good story for our WRA Magazine or a blog post, but instead we are making a short documentary that should appear on Hudson Community Television (HCTV) sometime this fall.
Inside the big House in Louis Bromfield's library.
To the left of the desk is the framed certificate that he received in 1925
for winning the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Early Autumn.
This summer we went down to Malabar Farm State Park in Richland County where the Chamay brothers grew up, and the place they called home, until the untimely death of Louis Bromfield early in 1956. Patric, who was supposed to graduate that June, was denied a place at graduation because of a discipline problem. He may have been under some stress caused by the death of his guardian. In any case, he went to on to attend Carnegie Tech, then pursued a career as a mountaineer, dying in 1968 while trying to scale Mount Rainier. The other brother, Anthony, who never graduated from WRA, is probably still alive. Ellen Bromfield Geld, the last surviving daughter of Louis Bromfield, has a section on the Chamay brothers and their socialite mother in her book, The Heritage. We hope to interview her this fall.
Nick Zlantanovich of Hudson Community Television taping my
commentary atop Mount Jeez, the popular overlook of Malabar Farm
(seen behind me).
We did extensive video taping at Malabar Farm in July, both outside and inside the Big House that Bromfield built in 1939. We have contacted researchers at the Malabar Farm Foundation who have made some rare photos available to us and are interested in the Hudson Cable production. We also taped at “The Mount”, the home of novelist Edith Wharton, who corresponded with Bromfield during the 1930’s when both had elaborate gardens at their respective chateaus in France.
In Edith Wharton's formal garden at "The Mount" in
Lenox, MA, where I taped video in mid-July
It is hoped that this program, which will run about 30 or 40 minutes, will be on Hudson Community Television (HCTV) late this fall. We plan to do another taping at Malabar Farm in late September to get some autumn color, and perhaps meet Ellen Bromfield Geld, who is coming from her home in Brazil for a program there. This is a story that has waited some 60 years to be told, and we hope to do it justice.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Join Me for a Guided Walking Tour on Sept. 8

 The Hudson Heritage Association has asked me to serve as their first presenter for their fall programming series. I will conduct a guided walking tour of Markillie Cemetery, beginning at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8. The tour will begin at the chapel in Markillie Cemetery.

Located on Route 91 north of downtown Hudson, Markillie is one of five cemeteries owned by the city of Hudson. It was established as a cemetery in 1855 by John Markillie, who immigrated to Hudson from England. Upon his death in 1869, the cemetery was bequeathed to the Village of Hudson. It has been expanded several since its beginning and now is the city’s largest cemetery. It is adjacent to St. Mary’s Cemetery and is the final resting place for many of Hudson’s most notable residents.

I will begin with a history of the restored chapel on the cemetery's grounds, followed by talking about the Markillie family and others whose graves will be seen during the walking tour. I will lead this tour through the oldest section of the grounds. Refreshments will be served in the chapel on the cemetery following the tour. For additional information visit the Hudson Heritage Association.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Long Shadow of John Brown

Abolitionist leader John Brown (1800-1859)
Abolitionist leader John Brown (1800-1859)
On Wednesday, April 13, I spoke at the Peninsula Library. My talk, "The Long Shadow of John Brown", sponsored by the Cuyahoga Valley Civil War Round Table, is one of my favorite topics. I have followed the story of John Brown for over 40 years and would like to share some observations about Brown, his family's years in Hudson, Ohio, and his connections to Western Reserve Academy.

WRA connections:
  • Owen Brown, father of the abolitionist, was a founding trustee of the college and school in 1826.
  • Samuel L. Adair, brother-in-law of John Brown, went to our school in the 1830's
  • Charles Storrs Adair, son of Samuel & Florella Brown Adair, was named for Charles B. Storrs, first President of Western Reserve College (1830-1833) and "the first martyr of the abolitionist cause".
  • Charles Storrs Adair, nephew of John Brown, was a student here at WRA 1860-1862 before dropping out to join the 2nd Kansas Cavalry and serving for the rest of the Civil War.
  • Newton B. Hobart, (b.1854) Headmaster of Western Reserve Academy 1880-1892, was proud to be the nephew of John Brown. Hobart mentioned Brown in letters to WRA years later.
    Newton B. Hobart
    Headmaster Newton B. Hobart, who was Head of WRA 1880-1892; he was a nephew of John Brown and could recall sitting on his lap as a small child (Hobart was born in 1854).
  • Julian Scott, grandson of Lora Case to whom John Brown's last letter was addressed, was a WRA graduate, class of 1897. He was the father of Ellen Scott Mickel, WRA 1921 and Jeanette Scott McCuskey, WRA 1925.
  • Julian Scott, WRA class of 1897
    Julian Scott, WRA class of 1897
  • John Brown's last letter, written to Lora Case of Hudson, was loaned to the school in the late 1920's for a special exhibit. It is now in the Schomberg Collection at New York Public Library.
 John Brown's 216th birthday is May 9, 2016.
John Brown (1800-1859)
Abolitionist leader John Brown (1800-1859)

His wife, Mary Ann Day Brown's 200th birthday was April 15, 2016.
Mary Ann Day Brown
 Mary Ann Day Brown, wife of John Brown, with daughters Annie and Sarah, taken in 1851.
John Brown's house built in the early 1820s
The house that John Brown built in the early 1820's, still standing at 1842 Hines Hill Road, Hudson. It was here that the first three of John Brown's 20 children were born. Photo from Reserve Record, 1929, before the house was remodeled.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New Photo of School Benefactor is Gift

A small box from the estate of the late Luella Crawford Dodds (1879-1978) who was among the 24 graduates of the 1898 class at Western Reserve Academy arrived at WRA Archives a short time ago.  It had been hiding in the attic of a Hudson house for the last 35 years.  Among the little treasures of this collection include some diaries that Luella kept, a number of clippings from the local paper, and a couple of rare photos of James W. Ellsworth and his wife, Julia.
Luella Crawford Dodds had become the travel companion of Mrs. Ellsworth around 1910 and remained with the Ellsworth household until the death of school benefactor James W. Ellsworth in 1925.  Her frequent travel to Europe or to Jekyll Island, Georgia, with the Ellsworths was quite a contrast to the other young women who grew up in Hudson at the end of the 19th century.  Luella must have had the charm and panache to mingle in the society that the Ellsworths kept.  One photo shows Luella with Mrs. Ellsworth at the Schloss Lenzberg in Switzerland in August, 1920.  It is interesting but not as good as the one taken around the same time at the Villa Palmieri, the Ellsworth home at Florence, Italy.
The photo of Ellsworth himself and his wife was probably taken in Switzerland around 1914 and shows them both posing on a rustic staircase in what appear to be seersucker outfits, appropriate for summer season. Ellsworth is wearing one of the Lenzberg straw hats that he sported during his summers abroad.  This same hat appears on a Swiss postage stamp of our era.
Luella came back to Hudson in 1925 and lived with her husband on Owen Brown Street where she remained for more than 30 years.  She served on the Board of Trustees at the Hudson Library and Historical Society for over 60 years and was active at Christ Church Episcopal where she was cashier for the church's annual fall rummage sale.  She lived in a house on North Main in her later years, liked strong cocktails and cigarettes, and always wore a hat.  Alice Stark of WRA recalled her attending a function on campus around 1975 where she was "seated bolt upright on a Victorian sofa, sipping tea and smoking a cigarette at age 95, the only person in the room wearing a hat".  We are pleased to add these items from an unforgettable alumna to the collections of WRA Archives.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Archives Makeover

It was a pleasure working with designer Inga Walker on posting historic photos in the hallway outside the WRA Archives on the lower level of the John D. Ong Library. We examined a number of vintage photos and made a selection of the ones we hoped would be of interest to visitors and alumni. The oldest photo shows the campus buildings in the late 1860's with a heavy fence on the College Street side of Brick Row.

Another photo on the walls is one of student cadets ranged in front of the Chapel in the late 1870's when military drill was a part of the curriculum. Other photos show a girls' basketball team from the early 1920's, a baseball team with coach "Doc" Frew from the 1930's, two photos of the Senior Cabin built in the East Woods in 1928, and an interior chapel photo from the 1940's showing Headmaster Joel B. Hayden at the podium with the beautiful Palladian windows behind him. In all there are 15 photos in the hallway, each with an explanatory tag.

We invite all visitors to the school to come down to the lower level of the John D. Ong Library to see this photo collection, as well as visit the Archives. Some other items of historic interest have been framed for the adjacent College Counseling Office and should also be included in the visitor tour.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A History of WRA

I am contacted often regarding Western Reserve Academy's history. Here is a brief overview of major WRA happenings. Please do contact me for additional details not provided here. Ours is an exciting and unique history on many levels.

Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio, was founded in 1826 as the preparatory school for the Western Reserve College, located in Hudson from 1826 until it moved to Cleveland's University Circle in 1882. The school became autonomous, then completely independent, of what is now Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. There is no current connection between our two institutions except for a common founding date, and the fact that our school now occupies the historic buildings that once were the seat of the old college.

The earliest buildings were constructed starting in 1826 with the building of Middle College, where the cornerstone was located, and which served as a dormitory from its completion in 1827 until its demolition in 1912. South College, which was the home of the old Preparatory School, was built in 1829-30 and continued to be the main classroom and dormitory building for the school until the college moved to Cleveland. This building was demolished in 1884. Both of these were on Brick Row, that line of buildings facing west that were modeled loosely on the Brick Row at Yale College in New England. In fact, during the 1840's and '50's, the old college liked to call itself "the Yale of the West."

The historic Brick Row consists of several buildings lined up on the ridge facing west in order to best catch the sunshine that was needed to light 19th century structures. Lemuel Porter, who had emigrated from Waterbury, CT, and had built the wonderful Church at Tallmadge Circle (1825), was hired as the architect/ builder for the campus of the old college. He had completed the two buildings described above, and was just finishing up the duplex President's House (1829-30) when he died suddenly in the fall of 1829. The college trustees decided to extend the contract to his young son, Simeon Porter (1807-1871).  He was only 22 years of age, but had worked as an apprentice to his father on his college projects.

Using the plans of his father, often based on the models in the Asher Benjamin pattern books, Simeon Porter completed the work on Brick Row and then went on to a distinguished career as an architect in Cleveland. Simeon and his father were responsible for introducing the Greek Revival style to Hudson and this campus, and the Brick Row is an excellent example of this important architectural style.

Simeon Porter completed the majestic Chapel (1836); the North Hall dormitory (1838), one of the oldest in Ohio; Loomis Observatory (1838) based on the plan of astronomer Elias Loomis (1811-1889), who had gone to Europe to purchase the instruments that are still in this little building. Loomis Observatory is now the 2nd oldest in this country, the only one older is also an 1838 structure at Williams College in Massachusetts. Simeon also built the Athenaeum (1843) on the north campus that was the main classroom building on campus until the completion of Seymour Hall (1914) on the Brick Row. He also helped build the Nathan Seymour House (1842) on Prospect Street, used as a guesthouse. The other building on WRA's historic Brick Row is the John D. Ong Library (2000), designed to fit into the line of historic buildings on this walkway.

James W. Ellsworth (1849-1925) was the multi-millionaire Hudson man who became the chief benefactor of the town during the 20th century and the principal benefactor of Western Reserve Academy which "reopened" on his foundation in 1926. It was his gift that saved the school and its historic buildings, which might otherwise have been demolished, as the school itself went bankrupt in 1903. Ellsworth is the man who rescued the school and put it on a sound financial basis which is why it is one of America's leading independent schools.

You can read about the early history of this campus in Frederick Waite's Western Reserve University, the Hudson Era (1943) which should be available for loan from your local library. Additional historical significant articles are also always available by reading my archival blog postings.