Looking at Buildings in Ohio Village
by Tom Wolf
Backstory: Ohio Village opened in 1974 as a living history village. Carefully designed to look as though it had been built over decades from the settlement of Ohio through the Civil War, in reality it was all built at once except the school, church and John Hauck Foundation Welcome Center, each built since then. Though the buildings are inspired by real buildings of Ohio, none of them are known to be replicas of specific buildings. By looking at the buildings in Ohio Village, you can learn to sharpen your observation skills and build your old-building vocabulary, both useful as you travel Ohio.
Carpenters planned and built most early Ohio buildings, relying on their own experience plus books that had pictures of finished buildings and drawings of common details. There were very few architects as we think of them today.
Because people coming to live in Ohio brought their construction skills and familiar building types with them, most early Ohio buildings are similar to ones that were traditional elsewhere, especially in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
The Taylor House, Schmidt House and one-story wing of the American House Hotel are some of the “earliest” Ohio Village buildings. All have big fireplaces for cooking, reflecting their early date. By the mid-1800s, cast-iron stoves like the one in the kitchen of the Burton House had largely replaced fireplace cooking. Some early builders referred to books such as The American Builder’s Companion by Asher Benjamin (1827).
Taylor House – The Taylor House has a very simple door surround with a transom window, a six-panel door, a six-over-six window, lapped siding and a wood shingle roof. Although it does not show in this photo, the Taylor House is a saltbox house; the roof has a longer slope in the back than in the front.
Schmidt House – The Schmidt House has wood clapboard siding, a six-panel door with a simple surround, two six-over-six windows, a roof of wooden shake shingles and a stone chimney on one end of the house.
The Barrymore Funeral Parlor and Barrington Bicycles buildings on Main Street are typical of many two-story wooden buildings constructed in Ohio from the 1820s to 1850s—traditional building types influenced more by who built them and where they came from than by any particular fashion of the time. These buildings represent what would have been some of the earliest commercial construction in many Ohio towns.
Barrington Bicycles – The Barrington Bicycles Building has clapboard siding with corner boards, six-over-six windows, six-panel doors and a standing-seam metal roof.
Barrymore Funeral Parlor – The Barrymore Funeral Parlor Building has clapboard siding with corner boards, six-over-six windows, two-over-two windows in the storefronts and a wood shingle roof, with a standing-seam metal porch roof. The fan in the gable and the blue eave returns hint at some Greek Revival influence.
As with clothing, there are styles and trends in buildings, too. Some Ohio Village buildings can be classified by their style. From the 1830s through 1850s, buildings with the look of ancient Greek temples went up across Ohio. Most Americans, including many Ohioans, thought Greek-style buildings were especially fitting because ancient Greece was a democracy, and the United States is, too. Ohio’s biggest and most famous Greek Revival building is our state capitol, built from the 1830s to 1860s.
Greek Revival buildings in Ohio Village include the Town Hall and the Telegraphic Advertiser office, both on Second Street, and the Burton House on Main Street. Look for details that make you think of Greek
temples, such as columns, pilasters and pediments. The Telegraphic Advertiser looks much like a little Greek temple, with four pilasters and a triangular pediment above them.
The Greek Revival Burton House on Main Street is a type called Upright and Wing found especially in northeast Ohio, where builders built houses like those they remembered in New England. Many people from Connecticut and other New England states moved on to New York state in the 1700s and 1800s before moving on to northeast Ohio, so you’ll find houses that look like this in New York state, too. The taller part of the Burton House is the Upright. The lower part is the Wing.
The Bank of Ohio has a Greek-style porch. The banker likes that it reminds him of pictures he’s seen of the Parthenon in Greece. The porch has fluted columns with Doric capitals.
Builders of this time referred to books such as The Beauties of Modern Architecture, by Minard Lafever (1839).
Greek Revival: Town Hall – The Town Hall is brick with a stone water table and stone sills and lintels, flat-topped nine-over-nine windows, double two-panel doors with a transom above and a triangular pediment with a fan inside.
Greek Revival: Telegraphic Advertiser – The Telegraphic Advertiser office looks like a little Greek temple, with four pilasters and a triangular pediment above.
Greek Revival Upright-and-Wing: Burton House – The Burton House has clapboard siding, a Greek-style door surround, a six-panel door with sidelights, nine-over-six windows, corner pilasters, and a triangular pediment above. The taller part of the house is the Upright and the shorter part at right is the Wing.
Greek Revival: H&P Women’s Study Club | Bank of Ohio – This brick building with stone lintels has stepped gables, a standing-seam metal roof and flat-topped six-over-six windows. The Bank of Ohio has iron shutters and a Greek-style portico with fluted columns that have Doric capitals.
From the 1820s to 1860s, romantic stories set in the middle ages, such as Ivanhoe, inspired some Ohioans to build Gothic-style houses and picturesque medieval-style buildings. A New York architect, Andrew Jackson Downing, published a book called Architecture of Country Houses in 1842. Books like his helped Ohio builders and carpenters re-create the Gothic look.
The Village Pharmacy on Third Street is Gothic Revival, with bargeboards in the gables, pointed windows, vertical board-and-batten siding (wide flat boards, with a narrower board, or batten, covering any gaps between them) and a patterned slate roof.
The Village Church at the north end of Market Street is Gothic Revival, too. The door and windows have pointed, or Gothic, arches. Look for more Gothic arches in the brickwork just below the roofline.
Gothic Revival: Village Pharmacy – The Village Pharmacy has board-and-batten siding, pointed or Gothic windows, ornamental bargeboards in the gables and a patterned slate roof.
Gothic Revival: Village Church –The Village Church has a Gothic-arched doorway and windows with hoodmolds, Gothic-arched brickwork just below the roofline and pinnacles at the corners of the building and top of the tower.
Inspired by the look of Italian country houses and palaces, the Italianate style was in fashion throughout Ohio from the 1840s to 1880s, a time of growth in many Ohio towns. Most Ohio downtowns still have some Italianate buildings built during this time to house stores and businesses. Look for tall, narrow windows that are flat-topped, round-arched or segmental-arched (not flat, but not a semi-circle, either—an arc).
In addition to its windows, the Emporium on Second Street has another standard Italianate feature: a very wide band or cornice at the top, just below the roof, with scrolled brackets.
The Emporium and the American House Hotel both have typical Italianate-style roofs: a low, four-sided roof, called a hipped roof, with a very wide overhang. The room atop the American House is called a cupola or belvedere, another Italianate feature, though not every Italianate building has one.
Builders of this time referred to books such as The Model Architect, by Samuel Sloan (1852).
Italianate: P. Wylie’s Emporium – This Italianate-style building typical of the 1840s–1880s has round-arched windows and doorways with hoodmolds on the first floor, segmental-arched two-over-two windows on the second floor, a wide cornice band with paired scrolled brackets and a low hipped roof with a wide overhang.
Italianate: American House Hotel – The American House Hotel has double doors and a segmental-arched doorway with sidelights and transom, tall segmental-arched windows with hoodmolds on the first floor, flat-topped four-over-four windows with hoodmolds on the second floor, square third-floor windows, a low hipped roof with wide overhang, and a belvedere atop the roof.
MORE BUILDING TYPES
Not all buildings can be identified by style, and that’s OK. Some are identified by their floor plan or by their use. The Welcome Center, One-Room School and the Freight & Livery buildings are typical of such practical, functional structures.
The John Houck Foundation Welcome Center is inspired by 19th-century railroad “combination stations,” which combined separate areas for passengers and freight or baggage.
Combination Station: The Welcome Center resembles a 19th-century combination railroad station, with separate areas for passengers and freight. It has horizontal wood siding with vertical board-and-batten siding above it, two-over-two windows, brackets under the eaves, and a wide overhanging roof. Stations like this were built in Ohio from the 1860s to 1890s.
One-room schools like the Ohio Village School are a traditional building type that’s a common sight in rural Ohio, even today. Because of the two-mile district law passed in 1851, one-room schools are
usually about two miles apart. Most are rectangular, one-story buildings like this one, with a simple gable roof of slate. Also like this one, many have a belfry that houses the school bell.
One-Room School: The Ohio Village School is built of brick with a stone foundation, six-over-six windows, and a round louvered vent in the gable. It has a slate roof with lightning rods, a bell in the eight-sided belfry and a weather vane on top. Two outhouses are behind the school.
There are many types of barns in Ohio. The Freight & Livery building is called an English Barn. It stands on flat ground rather than being built into a slope or bank.
Books such as Barn Plans and Outbuildings by Orange Judd Company (1889) aided many barn builders.
English Barn: The Freight & Livery building has vertical wood siding, with six-over-six windows, a pair of hinged double doors and a standing-seam metal roof.
Plan Your Visit
Our living 1890s village is open Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., except Sept. 24–26, when it will be closed to host the Columbus Coffee Festival, and Saturdays in October, when the village will close one hour early at 4 p.m. This year, you’ll find seasonal activities and more villagers and artisans on hand daily to share new stories of 19th-century Ohio life. Admission is $13, $11/age 60+ or college student with ID, $7/ages 4–12, Free/age 3 & under. Ohio History Connection members enjoy free
admission. All visitors, including members, must reserve advance timed tickets. To order, visit ohiohistory.org/ohiovillage or call 800.686.1541
Put your new building-observation and vocabulary skills to use as you travel the Buckeye State. You may enjoy these guides:
A Field Guide to American Houses, by Virginia Savage McAlester
Building Ohio: A Traveler’s Guide to Ohio’s Urban Architecture, by Jane Ware
Building Ohio: A Traveler’s Guide to Ohio’s Rural Architecture, by Jane Ware
Society of Architectural Historians Archipedia—Ohio
Tom Wolf is communications manager for the Ohio History Connection and a writer and editor for the Ohio History Connection’s Echoes Magazine