Friday, August 19, 2011

Lyme Village

History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. ~  Winston Churchill

In all my journeys back and forth from Cleveland to Bowling Green, never did I really consider the town of Bellevue. My previous post about what drew me there this week attests to the word having been tucked away in my mind for some time now, but I never really knew what was tucked away in all of those cornfields until today.

Historic Lyme Village is essentially this complex of 19th century buildings that have been collected over the last several decades, save for the John Wright Mansion and Carriage House, which are in their original locations. If you're not paying attention, you'd drive right past it to be quite honest. It's not some elaborately run historic center, but in some ways, that makes it even more charming. I arrived yesterday afternoon and joined a group of three on a guided tour of the village, which includes three log houses, the Wright
Mansion and Carriage House, two barns, the woodworkers shop, general store, Schug Hardware, Groton Town hall, Lyme Post Office, Seymour House, shoe shop, Merry School House and Detterman Log Church.

Our guide, Emily, who is 18 and has been volunteering at the village since she was 11, took us through the quaint village, starting with the 1864 one-room school house. It was used to teach first through eighth grade, as that was about the highest education level you needed at that time.

The intricate school desks and chalk slates sat as though eagerly awaiting use. I was tempted to sit down and just breathe it all in, but we soon had to move on. Yet as we filtered out, I glanced back and momentarily imagined the days when that room was filled with uniformed children, just knowing they had once walked right through where I stood gave me chills.

We visited all the buildings, which I could write a novel on, but the ones that stood out for me include the Annie Brown Log House. This woman, Annie Brown, had virtually lived in this tiny log house her entire life, passing away in 1951 at 82 years old. It amazed me to imagine how a person could live in such a tiny space for all those years, but she chose to do so, even in the mid-1900s. 

The Detterman Church, which was built by John Detterman, a German immigrant, in 1848, is one of Ohio's oldest remaining log churches still used today. It's simplicity was what spoke to me, as well as the narrow pews and Detterman's picture in the back corner.

The woodworking shop was also a favorite stop mainly because the musky scent of pine wood assailed my senses the moment I stepped into the shop, which displayed wood workings, including a casket, some made out of oak and walnut wood as well as pine nut. 

We then made our way to the Seymour House, which was originally located across the street from the village and had a basement which was the 9th Underground Railroad stop of the River to Lake Freedom Trail. John Seymour was the post master and clerk in Bellevue at the time and his wife ran a millinery, which is essentially a hat shop.

The N. Cooper General Store was also fun as it was the "happening" place to be in the early 1900s. 
"People bought dried goods and anything you couldn't make on your own," Emily said. "People also came here with goods to barter and the women came here to gossip."
As I walked through the store, I noticed a checkers board set up with two chairs and could just envision two men playing near the pot bellied stove during the winter and on the porch in the summer. The checkers pieces were made from sliced up corn cobb.

And then we got to her ...

The John Wright Mansion

Wright, originally from England, came to Bellevue to work as a farmhand and married a farmer's daughter, Betsy Ford. They had 10 children together and many years later, the Second Empire style home was built between 1880 and 1882 using wood native to the area for the woodwork. However, Betsy died not long afterward, in 1886 and two years later, John married a friend of his daughter's, Fanny Wright (no relation), who was 30 some years his junior. This house was simply beautiful. The rounded corners, which was a Victorian style that tied into the superstitious notion that ghosts hid in dark corners.

Wright had a winter and summer bedroom based on the rising and setting of the sun during seasons and a passage that connected him to Betsy's room. The home had a second floor of rooms and a third floor ballroom, which he simply built to win a competition as his stricter religious practices did not allow for elaborate balls. One room contained several long, lace dresses women wore then as well as gloves, ornate combs and broaches. Another, had a Thomas Edison corner, with an Edison phonograph called a "Morning Glory" by it's shape and bright colors.
There was also a cupola at the very top of the house which contained a spiral staircase that went up to a widow's peak. I imagined being a child in that home and pretending I was locked away in a tower awaiting my rescue ... 

We also passed a room that held Betsy's original, personal writing desk. I could just see her sitting there, dipping her quill into ink, furrowing her brow as she constructed her next sentence, periodically gazing out of the window next to her in thought. 

 As we moved through each room, I felt as though the walls breathed us in, as they'd breathed in the lives and memories of those before us. Every piece of carved cherry oak, every lace curtain and creak in the floorboards seemed to whisper a tale, a moment, a story long forgotten. And being with a group of only three others, I felt like we were all taking in various aspects of the village and mansion at our own pace and to our own liking. In some ways, it felt like I was alone in those rooms, blending into the walls. 

In some ways, it felt like I was a faded ghost.

~ C ~


  1. Have you ever been to the Zimmerman Bury Octagon House in Marshallville ? It's pretty unique among Ohio's octagon houses for its late Victorian date. It's really a wonderful place to visit with its lacy period rooms and friendly hosts. See


    1. I have not actually, but I just checked out that link and am completely intrigued :-) I assume you've stayed there? What, about it, stayed with you?