About the Read House
Built in 1868 in the Gothic Revival style of architecture, the Reed House was home to the Reed, King, Dow, and Downing families for nearly 150 years. The house was remodeled in 1989 and features interesting leaded glass windows, built-in cabinets, refinished woodwork and an updated fireplace. The stunning rhododendron bushes in front of the house were brought from England by the Dow family in the early 1900’s. The house was named a heritage Home by the Lake County Historical Society in 1968.
The Mentor Public Library Board of Trustees purchased the Reed family’s home and its 1.33 acre grounds in June of 2009. The purchase is an investment in the community, while providing expanded services to our patrons. Story times, outdoor activities, and educational programs for children, teens and adults are made possible by this unique venue and all speak to the Board’s accommodation of community needs formed by MPL’s Strategic Plan. Additionally, a portion of the historic home serves as a collection point for donated and canceled items which are redistributed throughout the community.
History of the Read House
- At the time of the formation of Lake County in 1840, the property was part of a 55 acre parcel owned by Elias Randall.
- In 1845, it was transferred to Orrin Loomis and in 1857 inherited by Oscar Loomis. 1865 tax records indicate a property division with 10.16 acres listed in the name of Oscar Loomis with a valuation of $325. In 1866 the valuation was $920 (property only).
- Records indicate the Gothic Revival/Neo-gothic style house was built in 1867/68 by owner H. C. King: center core; first and second floors + full basement. (Wings and porch were added on later.)
- In 1900 the title changed to Laura C. Harris, in 1912 to George N. Dow (for the 10.16 acres), and in 1928 Mrs. Alice Harshaw (daughter of Mr. Dow) inherited the property. In 1940 the title changed to Hoyt P. Downing, and in February 1942 the front 2 ½ acres (along Rt. 20) including the house was purchased by J. R. Reed. The lot was later divided by Mrs. Catherine M. Reed to build the home to the east for her son.
- The property had a barn big enough to contain 4 horses, a cow, and chickens. An ice house was attached to the rear of the barn. It was the custom to cut ice at Newell’s Pond (now in the Mentor Recreation Park) and store the ice in sawdust.
- According to Mr. Felice who heard it from Mr. Reed, the rhododendrons along the front of the house were brought over by Clipper Ship from England by The George W. Dows around 1912.
- At one time a 300’ wrought iron fence ran across the front along Mentor Ave. with stone posts at the ends and driveway. A small part at the front is the only remaining part. A row of apple trees lined the avenue. An interurban trolley line ran along the south side of Mentor Ave. with a stop just across the street.
- According to Mrs. Reed, at some time wine was made in the basement. Barrels were rolled out using a side doorway, now covered by corrugated metal.
- The original fireplace was rebuilt with a damper and new mantle about 1950.
- Matching lead glass fixtures are in each wing.
- 2 original doors (vertical panel) are still in place with original hardware, door casings and trim.
- Heating at the turn of the century was originally hot air (as indicated by duct openings now boarded over) and later changed to hot water with heavy cast iron radiators. No heat is provided on the second floor except for metal grates in the first floor ceiling (“cheaters”) which permitted heat to go up to the bedrooms. The original furnace was a hand fired coal unit, later changed into a stoked-type, and is now gas fired.
- The rear one-story wing was originally a summer kitchen used for canning, washing and utility. A dug well with a hand-pump was located at the back door with a hand crank and equipment for raising water in buckets.
- The original water system was a dug well in a tower building at the rear which probably had a windmill on top and a tank at the upper level of the building to supply water by gravity to the house and barn. Later a pressure tank and pump were added and in use up until the Village furnished water around 1940.
- Mrs. Reed applied for and the home was granted membership as Lake County Heritage Home #61 by the Lake County Historical Society in 1968.
- The Mentor Public Library purchased the home from Catherine M. Reed in May, 2009.
Compiled from Mr. J. R. Reed’s Review of History of Property and Time of Erection of House at 8245 Mentor Ave., Mentor, Ohio (3/9/68); Description of Origin of House and Outbuildings at 8245 Mentor Ave. (3/9/68); and documents provided by the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, Lake County Historical Society and the Lake History Center.