Editor’s note: This article is one of a series of articles provided by the Champaign County Preservation Alliance and leading up to the annual Historic Home & Garden Tour. This year’s tour is an opportunity to visit eight homes, a couple museums, a garden, a church, a business and a railroad car. The tour is 11 a.m.-5 p.m. June 29 and 30 in Urbana. Pre-sale tickets are available at local banks and retailers, and a complete list is available at www.ccpapreserveohio.org
The Rittenhouse home at 410 Laurel Oak St. is one of the tour homes undergoing renovation. This 1,215-square-foot house sat vacant and unheated for many years. The Rittenhouse family is two-thirds of the way through bringing this adorable home back from near death. When built around 1892 it was in the industrial area of Urbana and the house was designed to be affordable for the working men and women of Urbana. The layout and home design are very similar to the 1908 kit house “Modern Home No. 107” sold by Sears and Roebuck Co. for $695 complete.
The house style is “American Folk National – L house.” American Folk is an architectural style hallmarked by sturdy construction with simple window and door surrounds. It is usually unadorned. The Rittenhouse home features a late Queen Anne “Carpenter Gothic”porch with turned columns.
The home is in the Depositor’s Addition, a part of Urbana laid out in 1866 but not developed until the 1880s and 1890s.
The interior has been completely gutted and rebuilt from the foundation up. New plumbing, electric, heat and a new kitchen have been installed, and the rooms are painted in bright colors.
House History: The lot was owned by four owners prior to being purchased by Catherine Lawrence, who paid $250 for the lot in January 1892 and sold the lot and house for $1,000 to Barzillius Gearheart in July 1907. Mr. Gearheart was a bricklayer who constructed many factories and homes in Urbana. He is listed as one of the masons who built the Johnson Manufacturing Company and the Pennsylvania Railroad Station on Miami Street. (Both can be seen when visiting the NX-23 Railcar at 644 Miami St.).
The house was sold in 1933 to Benjamin F. Baker; in 1936 to Emma A. Shook; in 1949 to John W. Lewis; in 1969 to Truman B. Mather; in 1990 to John C. Parker. It was purchased from the Parker estate by the current owner in 2017.
The Rittenhouse home shows how a long unused structure can be brought back to usefulness and is a delight to visit.
Info from the Champaign County Preservation Alliance.