Ohio History Journal

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Country Carpenters, Federal

Buildings: An Early

Architectural Tradition

in Ohio's Western Reserve


The Western Reserve1 of Ohio was settled, in large part, by New

England emigrants and, slightly later, by upstate New Yorkers who

were themselves transplanted New Englanders. These people, migrat-

ing west in the 1810s and 1820s, brought with them a storehouse of

cultural tradition as well as dreams for prosperity and success.

Both the architectural historian Talbot Hamlin and the Ohio histori-

an I. T. Frary have recognized connections between Ohio and New

England architecture during the early nineteenth century, with Frary in

particular emphasizing the close ties between the Reserve and New

England.2 While one might not wish to go so far as one cultural

historian who said, "On the Reserve a 'way of life' was lifted from its

Atlantic mooring and deposited in a new setting,"3 still it is important

to realize that the cultural heritage of this area is deeply rooted in New

England. The Western Reserve, originally known as the Connecticut

Reserve, was a large parcel of land claimed by the colony of Connecticut






Nancy J. Break is Assistant Professor and Chair of Art History at Ithaca College.


1. The Western Reserve is that portion of Ohio extending south from Lake Erie to

the forty-first parallel, that is, a line slightly south of present-day Ohio Route 224, and

west from the Pennsylvania border approximately 120 miles to the western edge of Erie

and Huron counties. Completely within the boundaries of the Reserve are the modern

counties of Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Erie, Geauga, Huron, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage,

and Trumbull. Straddling the southern border but located largely within the Reserve are

Mahoning and Summit counties. Additionally, a small section of land, originally part of

Huron county but today comprising the northern tip of Ashland county, completes the

land package known as the Western Reserve.

2. Talbot Hamlin, Greek Revival Architecture in America (New York, 1944), 280,

and I. T. Frary, Early Homes of Ohio (reprint ed., New York, Dover, 1970), 3.

3. Kenneth Lottick, "Culture Transplantation in the Connecticut Reserve," Bulletin

of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio, 17 (1959), 155.