Fact and Fiction

The history of the house is part of the charm.  There are a lot of stories about the home and we have been trying hard to determine what is fact and what is fiction.  We feel it is part of our job as good care takers of a historic home.

Construction began in 1901 for Alvin B. Tillinghast.  He was a bicycle manufacturer, licorice tycoon and patron of the arts. The house is an eclectic mix of Tudor half framing and French gothic architecture.  The attention to details is over the top. Mr. Tillighast frequently visited the construction site to inspect the quality of the work and rumor has it he went bankrupt while building the house.  The original plan for the home was 30% larger than it is now.  Whether it wasn’t built due to bankruptcy or just down sized during the construction is unknown.  We were told Mr. Tillinghast  never lived in the home but city records show the family was living here in 1909, the year the construction is presumed to have been completed.

The construction company did retake possession of the house and sold it to John North Willys, founder of Willys Overland which eventually became the Jeep Company.  Another unsubstantiated fact is the home was traded to Mr. Willys in 1909 for twelve Pope automobiles.  Mr. Willys lived in the home until the death of his wife in 1921 when the home was purchased by Mr. Arthur Bell.

The Bell family lived here until 1938.  The house next passed to an order of Catholic priests.  We are confident the priests lived here and we are in possession of the original blue prints converting the third floor ballroom into a chapel but which order of priests this was is still a mystery.  We have been told The Oblates (but which Oblates?)  The Society Of Oblate Fathers is one guess but I can find no order that goes by that name.  The Oblates of Mary Immaculate?  Maybe but again I can find no link to Toledo for them. This is a mystery that requires further investigation.  In any event they resided here until 1978.

Here are some facts we believe are accurate:

  • The home was intended to be 1/3 larger than it presently is
  • The front porch was originally a covered carriage driveway and was enclosed many years later
  • The stone foundation is 28 inches thick
  • the original roof was stone
  • the porch and sunroom floors are hand laid tile
  • the living room fireplace surround is made of pottery tiles from Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati
  • The stained glass and carved wood living room light fixture is original and designed for the house
  • The four brass sconces in the master bedroom are original as well as the hand carved Della robia chandelier in the dining room.  These fixtures all feature the same design of pomegranates, acorns and other fruit
  • An open window was installed in the sunroom by the priests to hear confessions
  • Two of the bathrooms have original toilets with the tanks located inside the walls
  • All four tubs appear to be original ceramic
  • The half bath, the master and the girls bathrooms have what are probably original sinks.  The beautiful pedestal sink in our sons bathroom is not original and was produced in 1954
  • The “stained glass” transom windows in the living room are peel and stick decorations available at a big box store.  To say I was disappointed to discover that fact is an understatement!
  • Many of the push button light switches are inlaid mother of pearl
  • The fairy lamp on the newel post is not original.  I am curious as to what was originally there.
  • The church pews on the front porch are not original and were probably never actually inside the house

Those are your fun facts and stories for today!

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