Mantua – History might seem irrelevant to some, the boring past. Yet we are all walking through history, each of us adding our stories to the complex narrative surrounding us. And, Portage County overflows with history. Mankind wandered, hunted and fished these lands thousands of years prior to the birth of Christ.
Have you ever canoed, fished, or waded into the Cuyahoga River? Are you aware that Cuyahoga is the Native American word for crooked/ twisted river? Do you know that all five of the Great Lakes are located in their correct relative position on a French map of 1650? Have you ever wondered how Portage County got its name? French trappers noted that the lands of present day Portage County, Ohio were easier to travel because they didn’t need to constantly portage (or carry) their canoes. Native Americans had created a path, which Europeans later dubbed the “Portage path,” which ran from the Cuyahoga River to the Tuscarawas River. Here travelers portaged their canoes. Since the Cuyahoga flows south to present day Akron then flows north to Lake Erie, our area provided an easier circular river trip which ran through excellent trapping and hunting lands and required less canoe portaging than in other locations.
Do you believe that towns just disappear in the American West? One did here! Mud Mill was one of the earliest settlements in northern Portage County. This small hamlet boasted a saw mill, several distilleries that made corn whiskey, and cheese factories. Many of Mud Mill’s goods were shipped back to the eastern states as early as 1803. Where was this settlement? It was located on both sides of the Cuyahoga River and Pioneer Trail. Today, all that remains is a name on old maps.
If you still find history boring, consider the joy of discovering Native American arrowheads along our local rivers and streams after a rain has washed them loose. Or, you might admire the beauty of century homes and pause for a minute to reflect on the ghosts surrounding you.
Amzi Atwater, a member of Moses Cleaveland’s surveying company of 1796, purchased 200 acres of the original lot 41 from the Connecticut Land Company. Today, this property is in present day Mantua Village. In 1807, Amzi sold 100 acres to his brother Jotham Atwater. Two days before Christmas in 1843, Amzi sold to 26 acres from lot 41 to his son Darwin.
On June 15, 1870 Darwin Atwater and his son Orris G. Atwater along with others, submitted a new plat for the third Mantua Station, which is today Mantua Village. This plat listed lots 119 and 120 as new lots on the south west end of Mantua Station, on present day West Prospect Street.
On September 30, 1871, John M. Atwater another of Darwin Atwater’s sons sold lots 119 and 120 to J.B. Gilbert. Mr. Gilbert retained these lots until Oct. 24, 1887 when he sold them to Ziba and Mary Haupt.
Ziba and Mary Haupt eventually parceled off the south ends of lots 119 and 120, selling them to P. Gielacta on March 14, 1890.
It is possible that this lot partition provided the funds for construction of the home on 4540 Prospect Street, which has a recorded date of 1890 in the Portage County deed book.
For reasons unknown, Ziba and Mary Haupt sold their home and lots to John Darling Sr. (aka John Zarlenga) on December 7, 1893. Thirty-six years later, John Darling died on July 26, 1929. He left his property to his two sons John Darling, Jr. and Louis Darling. On March 25, 1931, Louis Darling and his wife Nina sold their half of the property to John and Rose Darling.
On October 8, 1948, John and Rose Darling sold their home to Margret Pyle. A little over two decades later, on September 5, 1970, the home transfers to Andrew and Linda Dvorak. The last transfer was on January 18, 2011, when Linda received it due to survivorship.
This lovely 1890 home and carriage house radiate 19th century charm and warmth. For reasons unknown to this writer, the home’s design is often incorrectly referred to as a New England-style farm home. This design was extremely popular throughout the United States from the late 1880’s until the early 1900’s.
This home and its companion carriage house both sport sandstone block foundations, sandstone most likely cut from a local quarry. Both structures were also constructed with wooden clapboard. As most owners of any old clapboard building can testify, wood ages, cracks, shrinks, splits and rots with time. By the 1940’s, the clapboard was most likely showing a fair amount of wear and tear. Somewhere between 1930 and the 1950’s, the old wooden clapboard was covered with asbestos shingles.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that when mixed with Portland cement creates an exceptionally strong and durable building product. In addition to their strength and durability, asbestos shingles retain paint very well, are weather resistant, and do not rot the way clapboard does. They are also fire resistant.
Thus, the development and use of asbestos shingles was very popular from the 1920’s through the 1950’s. Many old homes were retrofitted with asbestos construction products both on the interior and exterior during that time period.
In the years since asbestos’ heyday, we have come to understand that it is a carcinogenic material. However, it is this writer’s understanding that asbestos products are considered safe if they are not cracked, chipped, or flaking. It is asbestos dust that causes health issues when inhaled.
The eastern half of this home, with its idyllic front porch, might be the ideal spot for morning coffee, a moment of reflection in the afternoon, and, possibly, cocktails in the evening as the sun sets. The two-story western end radiates strength—perhaps similar to a watchtower of old. It is a place where north, south, east and west can be viewed. This home, though nowhere near the grandeur of the Hine and Craft homes, both located farther east on Prospect Street, radiates the same warmth and charm as those homes but on a smaller scale.
The back of the home overlooks Regan Street and the wetlands on the south side of the street. When standing on Regan Street looking upward at the house, there appears to be a path that leads up to the carriage house’s ground floor level. The original barn door on the south end has been changed to a smaller man-door (inset photo).
The lovely, one-time carriage house barn with its beautiful sandstone foundation has been converted into an apartment. On West Prospect looking at what is presently a driveway this structure can also be viewed. Though it no longer remains, there was likely a barn door on the structure’s north side.
Generally, horses would have been housed on the ground floor with carriages and sleds stored on the first floor. Grain and hay, and possibly a small living quarters if there was a hired hand on the premises, would have been on the second floor. This description can be viewed at the old livery on East Prospect Street.
** The Mantua Historic Landmarks Commission and the Mayor and Village Council of Mantua wish to thank Mrs. Linda Dvorak and family for allowing the Landmarks Commission permission to write this article.
A special thank you to Sharon at Portage County Recorder’s office, and to my wife Linda for her level headed patience and assistance. Also please note that while this article is accurate to the best of this writer’s knowledge and capacity there is no legal bearing and should be relied on as nothing other than a historical narrative.
Written by Nicholas Ehlert, Landmarks Commission Chairman; Terri Vechery, Vice Chair; Renee Henry, Secretary; Members, Eric Hummel, Jack Schafer and Clark Magdych