Listening for the Stories of an Old HouseChristmas Day my wife and I dropped in on my brother Jack, in Mentor. After a few hours of sitting around in the "library" of this house, which has been in our family since 1967, I got to thinking about all the family members who used to be there in that room in Christmases past: our father and mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a housekeeper and a dear family friend, all of whom are gone now (shades of Dick Feagler's annual Christmas column).
But looking above the mantle, I spied this photo of the house taken in the 1870s, when it was already forty or fifty years old, and realized how many family conversations must have taken place in this room over the course of the home's 180-year history. Prior residents may have discussed the new Ohio and Erie Canal that had just opened in downtown Cleveland. They could have debated the issues of slavery and states rights, wondering whether it would come to war, and so on, down through most of the nineteenth century and all of the twentieth.
Joseph Sawyer had the house designed by famous Western Reserve master builder Jonathan Goldsmith and his family owned it for sixty years. Following them, it was the Lake County summer home of several different Cleveland businessmen. (In this picture some Sawyers are posed on the front lawn, playing croquet, and the wing of the home containing the library is the part closest to the camera.)