Walking Tour of Jefferson
This "Walking Tour of Jefferson" will take approximately 2 1/2 hours to complete if you are walking the entire route at a leisurely pace, but less time if you are driving all or part of it. Some of the spots are marked by Historical Plaques which were placed on rocks in front of the spot they are commemorating. The rocks were put in place in 1932 in an effort led by the Lampson family. You can start your walking or driving tour at any place along the route. I have started the descriptions at 192 West Jefferson St., near the corner of West Jefferson St. and South Poplar St.
Stop #1: The Warner House
The Warner house, 192 W. Jefferson St., is an excellent example of Greek Revival Architecture, which was very popular in the years from 1820-1850. The house was built prior to 1850. Jonathon Warner was the second person to arrive in Jefferson Township, coming in 1805. He purchased 200 acres of land surrounding the corner of West Jefferson and Poplar Streets. His marriage to Nancy Freithy in 1807 was the first marriage to take place in Jefferson Township. Jonathon Warner also served as the first mayor of Jefferson Village. The home also served as an inn and a tavern for travelers.
Stop #2: The Talcott House
The Talcott house, 175 West Jefferson St., was built in 1867 by Henry Talcott who was the owner of a hardware store, a flour mill, and a bank.
Stop #3: The Howell House
The Howell house, 110 West Jefferson St., built in the 1850s, was the home of William Dean Howells (1837-1920), known as the "Dean of American letters" and "father of American realism". Howells' father, William Cooper Howells, and later his brother, Joseph Alexander Howells, both served as the editor of the Ashtabula County Sentinel, the leading liberal newspaper in the county. William Dean Howells was a friend and cohort of Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain). In addition to his most famous novel, The Rise of Silas Lapham, and his many other works of literature, Howell was also the editor of the Boston-based Atlantic Monthly. His family is buried in Oakdale Cemetery. The home was also once owned by Joshua Giddings.
Stop #4: Camp Giddings
Camp Giddings, northwest corner of West Walnut and North Elm Streets, was located on the site of the present Ashtabula County Fairgrounds. Ohio had more volunteers than any other state in the Union. This camp was the home site of the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. On December 25, 1861 1,532 men marched from here to the train station in Ashtabula, where they boarded a train for Camp Chase in Columbus. Among the many engagements the 29th OVI fought in were the battles of Lookout Mountain TN, Chancellorsville VA, Gettysburg PA, and Sherman's March to the Sea. Of their 1,532 men, they suffered 540 casualties. They were mustered out of service in July 1865.
Stop #5: Oakdale Cemetery
Here in the original section (the southernmost part) of the Oakdale Cemetery is the resting place for many of the Jefferson's pioneers and prominent citizens, such as Joshua Giddings, Benjamin Franklin Wade, William Cooper Howells, Joseph Alexander Howells, and many others.
Stop #6: The Giddings Law Office & the McKinley Elm
Moved here to Giddings Park, East Jefferson St. in 2018, it was originally located on the east side of N. Chestnut St., where the McDonalds restaurant is currently located. Joshua Giddings was considered to be a Radical Republican. He not only advocated for the abolition of slavery, but for voting rights for African-Americans and women as well! Giddings was responsible for writing several parts of the original platform of the newly formed Republican Party in the 1850s in this very office.
A short distance to the west of this office is the stone that marks the location of the so-called McKinley Elm tree, now lost to time and disease. Future president William McKinley gave a speech under that elm tree in 1892.
Stop #7: The Corner of East Jefferson and Market Streets
The corner of East Jefferson and Market Streets was originally planned to be the center of town, hence the name Market Street, where all the stores would be located. It has a noticeably larger "village square" area than the present town center. However, one street to the west the ground was slightly more elevated and not as prone to standing water as was this corner. And once the Courthouse was built, the corner of Jefferson and Chestnut Streets became the undisputed center of town. But this corner would be the site of several school buildings over the course of almost two centuries. The newest portion of the old elementary school now houses the Village Police Department, and the green space is now named Giddings Park.
The Jefferson Educational Institute, Jefferson's first brick schoolhouse was built in 1870 and was in continuous use until it's demolition in 2009. In its later years, it was used for the sixth grade classrooms of Jefferson Elementary.
Built in 1929-30 to educate Jefferson's growing student population, this building would have additions built on in 1953 and 1957 for Jefferson's burgeoning population. A new high school would be built in 1962 with a junior high added on in 1970, after which time this building would house Kindergarten through sixth grades through 2008.
Stop #8: The Theodore Burton house
xx East Jefferson Street is the birthplace of Theodore Elijah Burton (1851-1929). He would go on to graduate from Oberlin College in 1872 and become a prominent Cleveland attorney. Burton was nine times elected to the House of Representatives from Ohio, and would later become a U.S. Senator.
Stop #9: The Jefferson Historical Society (formerly Trinity Episcopal Church)
In 1876, the cornerstone was laid for the Trinity Episcopal Church. It is a fine representation of the American Gothic Revival style of architecture. After the building ceased operations as a church, it was purchased by the Henderson Memorial Library. In December of 2005, a group of concerned citizens, learning that the building might be moved, altered or destroyed, formed the Jefferson Historical Society and purchased the Trinity Church Building. Through special arrangements with the library, the building was purchased interest-free for $100,000 to be paid back over ten years. The name "Trinity Church Building" was chosen for the home of the Jefferson Historical Society.
Stop #10: The Congregational Church
The First Congregational Church, 41 East Jefferson St., was founded in 1831, and the brick building was constructed in 1835. Long known for their support of social justice issues, their members have fought for human rights issues from the abolition of slavery to suffrage for women to the enfranchisement of southern African-Americans in the 1960s. Betsey Mix Cowles held a meeting for women's rights here in 1844, four years before the Seneca Falls Convention! And famous abolitionist John Brown preached here in 1859.
Stop #11: Jefferson Town Hall
The original Jefferson Town Hall (left) was constructed between 1877 and 1880 by John Waters at a cost of $12,000. It included a second-floor auditorium/opera house that was also used for lectures, meetings, and other community activities. A huge fire in November 1927 destroyed the upper floors, and only the first floor of the building was saved.
Stop #11: The Courthouse Corner
In 1807 Ashtabula County was formed from a portion of Trumbull and Geauga Counties. In 1808 Jefferson was chosen as the county seat. In 1811 the first courthouse was completed, and the first court held. The second courthouse was built in 1837 for a sum of $16,000. In 1850 the second courthouse burned and was rebuilt using portions of the burned walls and foundation for a sum of $10,000. The courthouse was remodeled and an addition was built on the north side. Two primitive murals were painted in the Common Pleas Court Room. The west wing was added to the courthouse in 1909. In 1934 Frank Frazier redecorated the Common Pleas Court Room as part of the Depression-era Civil Works Administration project.
Behind the Courthouse to the north is presently the County Commissioner’s Office. Previously it had served other purposes, including as a jail.
What is today still known as Lawyer's Row, at one time also was home to the village mayor's office.