McDowell-Phillips House Docuseries
Join us as we document the preservation and restoration of the historic 1890 McDowell-Phillips House in Medina, OH. The property was acquired in 2019 by the Medina County Historical Society, for expansion of Museum gallery and archives space, as well as a special events facility.
The series, produced in partnership with Armstrong Local Programming, Medina County Historical Society, and Main Street Medina, will document the restoration and preservation of this outstanding project. Hosts Matt Wiederhold of Main Street Medina, and Medina County Historical Society President, Brian Feron, will walk through the house, sharing updates on projects, and discoveries found through the process.
The McDowell-Phillips Project series may be found at Armstrong Neighborhood Channel, channels 4 and 100, and is available to all Armstrong television customers. Armstrong Neighborhood Channel content can be found easily at ArmstrongNeighborhood.com, or by finding Armstrong Neighborhood Channel on YouTube.
McDowell-Phillips Project episode 1: overview of the project, and introduction to family history
McDowell-Phillips Project episode 2: In this episode, Main Street Medina Executive Director Matt Weiderhold and Medina County Historical Society President Brian Feron will explore the barns and other structures on the property and take a look inside the McDowell-Phillips House, as we get a closer view of the restoration plans for the home's interior.
McDowell-Phillips House History
This outstanding home was built for the eminent Medina resident, R.M. McDowell in 1890, and is considered one of the finest examples of Shingle Style residential architecture in the State of Ohio. McDowell was president of the Old Phoenix Bank, and his wife, Elizabeth A. Blake, was the daughter of nationally known abolitionist and State of Ohio Congressman, H.G. Blake.
The property is significant for many reasons, including its architecture, its history, and its family ties to H.G. Blake, who served two terms in the U.S. Congress as a State Representative for Ohio, from 1859-1863. Blakes home, on the corner of S. Jefferson and E. Washington, is a documented, well-known stop on the underground railroad. He survived an assassination attempt in Columbus while advocating repeal of the “Black Laws”. Numerous original archival materials related to Blake still exist in the home, including a recently found invitation to Abraham Lincoln’s Union Ball Inauguration, held in March of 1861, and hand addressed to H.G. Blake.
As a child, Elizabeth often accompanied her father to Washington, DC, and witnessed the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, and the resignation of Lincoln’s Confederate counterpart, Jefferson Davis, from the U.S. Senate. Elizabeth married Lieutenant R.M. McDowell in 1863.
Brothers R.M. and O.H. McDowell married sisters Elizabeth and Helen Blake, respectively, and originally lived in twin Italianate 1860s homes on the north east corner of W. Washington and S. Prospect Streets. Around 1888, R.M. McDowell had the H.G. Blake Greek revival home moved roughly 100 yards to the south so that the McDowell House could be built at the terminus of West Washington Street, allowing a direct view from the house to the Square, and Old Phoenix Bank. The McDowell’s cemented their places as leaders in Medina society with their new home.
The home is currently owned by the Phillips Family, the 5th generation of the original owners, and it is one of the largest, private estates of the Victorian era in the City. It was recently approved as a designated local historic landmark in the City of Medina.
This home was designed by eminent architect, George Nettleton, who in 1896 joined the esteemed architect Albert Kahn in Detroit as the firm of Nettleton, Kahn, and Trowbridge. Albert Kahn would go on to become the foremost American industrial architect of his day. He is sometimes called the "architect of Detroit”.
The home is a three-story, twelve room and seven fireplace mansion. The windows are leaded glass with large, four-panel stained glass section located in the front of the home, providing light to the main stairway
The exterior of the home features signature American Shingle style motifs, such as shaped and decorative shingle siding on the upper stories, rounded corners, and eyebrow window headings. The massive cut granite foundation also extends up the first story of the two-story conical tower on the southeast corner of the home. The front porch fully extends across the entire east façade of the property, and also features signature Shingle Style designs, including simple curved balustrades and heavy, muscular turned columns. Consider constructing by hand a complex, geometric home in the late 19th century. Most Victorian era homes were simple boxes or rectangles with applied ornament, whereas shingle homes feature curves and sleek lines, with incorporated ornament.
The main façade of the house features two outstanding leaded/stained glass windows, and one notable wooden window. The first is the stained glass, staircase landing window, recognized as one of the largest residential stained glass windows in the City of Medina. The second story main bedroom, on the northeast corner of the home, features an expansive, flattened curved, leaded glass window, with a built-in wooden arch. The third-floor space features a ½ cylindrical window of wood, with 170 individual panes of glass. The original south side porte cochere matches the style of the home, with wooden shingles, turned columns, and a granite foundation.
This year, the Medina County Historical Society exercised an option to purchase and preserve this grand estate from descendants of the original family. They are currently in the midst of a capital campaign to raise $300,000 to purchase the home, and another $200,000 for repairs and systems updates. The County Historical Society is in critical need for additional gallery and archives space for materials that cannot be accommodated at the John Smart House. Once completed, the McDowell Phillips home will be a museum, additional gallery and archives space for materials related to the history of Medina County. The non-profit society, founded in 1922, is very interested in receiving new members and potential board members. MCHS offers educational programs on the history of Medina County throughout the year, and trains docents on the history of Medina County. The Society is particularly rich on local Civil War history, and has incredible collections of American Indian arrow heads and local historical artifacts on view at the John Smart House on N. Elmwood across from Medina City Hall.