The History of the House at 527 Avon Place, Napoleon, Ohio

1850 Reynolds-Rebar House, 527 Avon Place
Researched and written by Carolyn Young Rebar, June 2002

Greek Revival vernacular style, combination timber frame and balloon frame dwelling.

The Reynolds house is the only existing Greek Revival house remaining in Napoleon which has not been altered on the exterior. Similar houses have been structurally changed or have been covered with siding or shingles. The Reynolds house still has the original clapboard and Greek Revival detailing on the front, sides, and top facing the street side. One large piece of Indiana limestone still forms the sidewalk at the base of the porch steps. Future plans include a new roof, new wooden railings on the front steps, and new exterior paint which will highlight the structural details.

Captain Charles E. Reynolds and his wife Sarah Parker placed this residence at its present location in 1896. The lot is a part of the Stafford and Phillips addition which was recorded in 1858. Sarah was the daughter of James and Rachel (Langley) Parker from Winchester, Virginia. Charles Reynolds was brought to Napoleon at age 10 in 1854 by his parents, Elijah and Abigail Tyler Reynolds, from Massachusetts, by way of Upper Sandusky. Charles and Sarah had a son Earl in 1869 and a daughter Jeanne in 1870.

Charles enlisted at age 17 as a private in the Union Army on January 5, 1862. He was mustered into "F" Company, Ohio 68th Volunteer Infantry. He was promoted to Quarter Master Sergeant on April 20, 1863 and mustered out in April 1865. He had survived both Libbey Prison and Andersonville Prison. An account of his time in Andersonville entitled "13 Months at Andersonville Prison and What I Saw There" was presented to the N. L. Association on April 24, 1869. He also wrote the chapter on Henry County in the History of Northwestern Ohio, Volumes I and II. He was in the insurance and real estate business and was deputy county auditor and clerk of Napoleon Township for 10 years. He was superintendent of the Presbyterian Sunday School for 25 years and was also for many years the commander of Choate Post No.66, Grand Army of the Republic. The Reynolds family is buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Section B1, Row 19.

An important group of New York City architects, beginning in 1830, developed a distinctive expression for classical building derived from the rediscovery in the 18th century of Greek monuments in Athens. Architect Minard Lafever was a central figure. He and his colleagues had a profound impact on the style of mid-19th century building in New York City,

New York State, and throughout the United States. Many Greek Revival houses can be found in the Midwest, especially in Ohio and Indiana. The Country Greek Revival style became the predominant style of architecture in the early Ohio territory. Local craftsmen using those same Greek decorative details created unique vernacular houses. They used classical detail, but their buildings show individuality. If a portico was beyond the owner’s means, pilasters, or merely a frieze beneath the eaves, and Greek enframement at the doorways could serve the purposes. Unfortunately, many examples of these homes were torn down or abandoned because the value of historical homes was not recognized.

A true Greek Revival house will have the familiar two-storied main section with a one-story wing. The recessed door is framed by paneled windows at the top and sides and opens into the hallway with the stairwell facing it. It is one or two rooms deep and one room wide with a side hallway and staircase. The entrance and hallway are always at the extreme left or right of the elevation. Many architects and builders considered the Side Hallway a model urban house form. Most examples after 1850 of the Side Hallway House often featured Italianate style decoration and hipped roofs. The Greek Revival era had ended by 1860.

The Reynolds house was built around 1850 and was originally constructed on a lot directly behind the Presbyterian Church on Webster Street. The porch was added when the house was moved and a shed for carriages existed where the garage now sits. The kitchen was at the back of the house. The front door is flanked by side lights and headed by an oblong transom light. The door is framed by pilasters and entablature. Pilaster columns topped with entablature consisting of architrave and cornice are applied to the facade on both sides of the house. The gable end faces the street. The center chimney is typically small and insignificant, and has been retained to preserve the silhouette of the rooftop.

The stairway, with its floating banister, is oak with a newel post of walnut. The original oak newel post was probably replaced in the 1900s. The spindles and banister are original and were so fragile that a brace has been used to protect the old wood, as well as for the safety of inhabitants and visitors. The steps are painted, which is consistent with the period. The stained glass window is probably not original to the house, but was added at a later period to show the prosperity of the owner. The bend across the shield is representative of a Knight’s scarf and signifies defense. The garland and festoon symbolize the laurel wreath, an emblem of victory or distinction. The cracks in the glass are not significant given the age of the house. The French doors in the house are original. The library was originally two smaller rooms. Reconstruction of the upstairs back bedrooms was required because a bearing wall had been removed many years ago at some time. The reproduction beamed ceilings and shutters in the library create a private space for daily life. We suspect that sliding wooden doors may have separated these two rooms.

The dining room originally had a window, but the sliding doors added by previous owners provide entry to the porch and allow more light into the dining room. The kitchen was gutted and modernized while retaining the period look. The beautiful cabinets were made by John Light. He also built the impressive wall of drawers and closets in the Patterson Room. None of the floors could be saved except the front bedroom floor, a warm honey-colored yellow pine random plank floor with square nails. It is the only visible floor of the original house. The claw foot tub is original, however, the bathroom was added sometime after 1896. The space probably was used for trunks and for storing clothes and linens. There was originally only one closet in the upstairs. The back two bedrooms were unheated and electric baseboard heating was added in the renovation. The rim locks and hardware are original and were stripped of layers of paint. The small bedroom was restored by removing an acoustic tile ceiling and restoring the ceiling to its nine foot height. A new energy efficient furnace was installed and plumbing problems were corrected. Powder post beetles had long ago eaten away at the supporting beams in the basement which required the addition of substantial "sister" beams to support the first floor, especially the grand piano. The piano was made in London by Chappell in 1940, and is covered in burled walnut veneer with original ivory and ebony keys.

Our goal to let the house speak for itself. We hope that the next owners will also preserve this simple yet gracious old home. The infrastructure has now been repaired and updated so that future generations can enjoy living here for years to come. We are in the process of applying to the National Register of Historic Places in Ohio. It is a joy to be the caretakers of this rare and fragile old house which has been an important part of Napoleon history for 150 years or more.

General Contractor: John Light, Builder and Cabinetmaker, McClure, assisted by construction experts, Todd Jacobs and John Konopinski.

Dining Room furniture purchased at Lange’s Antique Oak, Hamler.

Floors installed and refinished by Heritage Floors, Ottawa.

Rag Rugs made by Carol Witte, "Rags to Rugs."