It was the latest fad in the last decades of the 19th century throughout the Midwest, and particularly in Ohio.
Tired of rigid and formulaic approaches, houses and commercial buildings in the Italianate style sprouted up along the streets of Richland County communities.
This Victorian-era style that began in Britain and spread around the world favored the use of architectural elements from a romanticized past to create buildings that offered an alternative to the prevailing formality of classical architecture. You can easily recognize them by their wide eaves supported by brackets.
Such was the case in Bellville, where one was built to house the family of an enterprising hardware store merchant who wore other “hats” as well.
His Name was Oliver Hubbard Gurney, and he was born in Maine in 1835 and came to Ohio soon afterward. It was here that he met his wife Louisa. The couple had two daughters, Annette and Carrie.
What do successful, young merchants do? They build nice houses on Main Street, that’s what, and in the latest style.
The house at 174 Main Street is referred to as a “tour de force” of the planning milling industry by the Ohio Historic Places Dictionary. The brackets and millwork are some of the most involved and elaborate in southern Richland County, and the front porch scrolls are impressive.
Gurney, as we mentioned before, was a bit of a jack of all trades. Not only did he manufacture rakes in addition to running his hardware business, he was at other times the local railroad station master, an insurance agent, clerk at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, and at the turn of the last century was Mayor of Bellville.
He is also credited with being the conductor on the first B&O passenger train to leave Chicago.
Gurney died in 1909 and is buried with his wife in Bellville Cemetery.
The Gurney-Kochheiser House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
Photo: Creative Commons License