Silas Roberts came to Greene County in 1808 to purchase land on which to build a home for his family. He continued purchasing acreage until his estate was bounded by the Columbus Pike, East Church Street, Detroit Street and Kinsey Road, a considerable amount of property.
After Silas died, the children Micajah (Caje), Emessetta, Diana and John, inherited the property. A new house was constructed in 1877, just east of the original residence.
When the building was under construction, the contractor misread the blueprints, turning the building 90 degrees from the original plan. Thus the front entrance which was to face Detroit Street, actually faced into the countryside, while the side door, designed to face Church Street, actually faced Detroit. The error was not discovered until the foundation and some of the exterior walls were in place.
Two of the sisters, Emesetta and Diana lived in the house until their deaths in 1900 and 1914 respectively. A nephew, Samuel Ewing was the last family member to live in the house.
A rather high iron fence had been constructed, intended to discourage visitors, but Helen Hooven Santmyer relates in her book Ohio Town that when she was quite young, her friends dared her to go to the door and knock. She hoped no one was home, but when the door opened, she was invited in, offered tea and cookies and spent an hour with the Misses Roberts who inquired about her mother and grandmother, as well as other topics of interest at that time. When she left, she was invited to come again for another visit.
The house was quite large with twenty-two rooms on two floors. One interesting feature was that the walls were brick and ran from the basement to the attic. The same number of rooms was on each floor, as well as the basement and attic.
Lewis Clark provided a description of the interior of the house many years ago, so let’s take a tour.
After entering the front door, visitors found themselves in a large reception hall in which the walls and ceiling were paneled with quarter-sawed oak. A wide, winding stairway was a wonder to behold, since it was constructed without nails, but mortised and pinned with wooden pins. On the opposite wall was a mirror with a hand carved frame with a seat beneath it. A large number of beautiful hand carvings were featured over the mirrors throughout the house.
The library, a small room to the north, featured walls which were paneled and quarter-sawed. The bay windows were of French plate contoured glass. What would appear to be a fireplace was actually an air stack, part of the heating and ventilation system. There were air registers in each room which opened to an air duct from an open window in the basement, then over a steam radiator and into the room.
The West parlor featured white holly woodwork with folding door leading to the reception hall. The floor on the parlor side was white holly, while on the reception side it was quarter-sawed oak. In the west parlor, the woodwork was curly maple. The remainder of the house featured native walnut.
A small hall could be closed by sliding doors which featured French cut and ground glass design. One of the doors featured a hunting scene, the other similar intriquite design.
The dining room featured a large mantle with a mirror, the next room was the butler’s pantry then the kitchen, near which a stairway let to the servant’s quarters.
A bathroom on the main floor featured a wooden boxed-in tub, lined with lead. The basin was also boxed in, and typical of the era, all plumbing was lead.
Upstairs, the rooms were similar, including another bathroom with boxed-in tub and basin. A clothes closet featured drawers and cupboards made of cedar. A staircase in the back of the building could be used to go from the first floor to the attic. The bathroom at this end of the hall was used by the servants.
A clothes drying room contained several racks on rollers which pulled out like drawers. They were perpendicular and had a wire across the top upon which clothes could be hung to dry. The racks were about eighteen inches from the floor with a radiator under each. Better than hanging laundry outside.
In the attic, a large wooden tank lined with lead was part of the early plumbing system for the house. Water was pumped into the tank by the servants, and then by gravity, it was fed to the faucets giving a slight amount of water pressure.
From the attic, another set of stairs let to the roof area. It is said on a clear day, one could see the Antioch College towers, a distance of about ten miles.
A small brass handle which could be moved up and down was attached to the wall. Wires inside the wall were connected to the servant’s area, alerting them that they were needed. An added feature was that each room’s handle was attached to a different bell, thus the servant knew which room to attend.
Buried in the side yard was a large tank which was filled with carbide. When water was added to the chemical, an illuminating gas was formed which was piped into the basement to another tank with a large bellows which when weighted with large stones, gave pressure to the gas, thus pushing it through tubes to the light fixtures.
The Roberts family apparently spared no expense in having all the most modern conveniences available in their home.
Unfortunately, this magnificent structure did not survive the April 3, 1974 tornado.