HISTORY of
THE

HARRISON HOUSE
BY: Suzanne Wolfe Mettle


The Harrison House or Jacob Overdier House, located at 570 West Broad Street is one of the few remaining original structures in the Franklinton area. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The oldest house in Franklinton is David Deardurfs log house at 72 South Gift Street. Built before 1810, its west room was used for many years as Franklinton's first post office. Both of these houses are located on the same street. Franklinton was platted in 1797 by Lucas Sullivant, fifteen years before Columbus was established in 1812. Franklinton was the eleventh town to be settled in the Northwest Territory and Franklin County's seat of government until it was moved to Columbus (1803?1824). Never incorporated, Franklinton is now part of the Columbus.

The Harrison House was built on the east half of lot 123 at the corner of West Broad and Gift Streets. Gift Street was so named by Sullivant because he offered some of the lots on this street as gifts to individuals who would settle in Franklinton. Broad Street was originally called Franklin Street. It was part of the Old National Road. Broad Street and Sandusky Street were the main intersecting streets on the original plat. A stone marker at Broad and Route 315 gives the approximate location of the center of Franklinton where Sullivant's 20-room brick house was built in 1800. Diagonally across from it was the courthouse.

At present, there is little or no documentation to prove that the Harrison House was actually built in 1807 by Jacob Overdier. An analysis by a Columbus Landmarks Foundation architect indicates that while the house's style is similar to other buildings in central Ohio built in the early 1800's, lack of drawings, photographs or other documentation makes it difficult to pinpoint specific changes and dates. At present, the actual age of the house remains a mystery.

The home became known as the Harrison House because of its connection with the War of 1812. It was believed to have been used in 1813?1814 as the main headquarters for the Northwest Army. As commander, William Henry Harrison (later the 9th President of the United States), often stayed in Franklinton. An 1812 description of the area indicates that there were about one hundred houses, ten or twelve of them brick. If the house existed in 1812, it would have been logical for the general staff of the Army to use all the larger houses in the area. Current research now indicates that the main building used as Harrison's Headquarters was located at 769 West Broad Street near the corner of Broad and Foos Street.

Earliest documented evidence of the existence of this house is found in an 1824 court case which refers to an 1820 will listing ". . . the house and 2 half lots (123 and 124) where the late Robert Culbertson lived and died. " Research notes of Andrew Denny Rodgers III, a descendent of Lucas Sullivant, suggest that John Hunter sold lot 123 to Robert Culbertson in 1805. Franklin County land records indicate that Jacob Overdier bought the east half of lot 123 and 124 in 1832; his son, David Overdier, obtained it in 1838. Thus the Harrison or Overdier House is documented to be at least 165 years old.

Seventeen individuals have owned this house including Michael L. Sullivant, second son of Lucas Sullivant. Among its residents were wealthy landowners, storekeepers, butchers, watchmen for the railroad, and even the chief engineer for the Columbus water works. The Henry KUHN and Caroline ROMOSIER KUHN family are probably the longest residents and the last family to actually live in the house. This German family passed the house from father to son to granddaughter, residing in the Harrison House from 1863 to 1973. The Harrison House, Sullivant Land Office, and surrounding grounds are now part of a small park owned by Columbus Parks and Recreation. In 1985, the Harrison House was leased to the Franklin County Genealogical Society.

The Harrison House is Federal in style and rectangular in plan. The part facing Broad Street is the original structure. The first floor contains a living room and an entry hall with stairs. Above the living room is a large room of identical dimensions that suggests it was used for purposes other than sleeping quarters. The one story addition to the rear was constructed about thirty years later. It contains five rooms of varying sizes (kitchen, dining room, pantry, and bedrooms). The attic above them was later finished into another room.

The basement under the original structure has two rooms and a dirt floor. Walls are limestone rubble masonry and the ceiling still shows exposed log timbers between recently added steel beams. At some earlier time period, steel rod reinforcements were placed in the second floor. Decorative black stars were added to hide the ends of the rods.

The brick walls are arranged in a running bond pattern with comers of Flemish bond pattern. The facings, steps, and lintels are limestone. The gabled roof was originally flush with the exterior wall. Inside, the wavy texture of a few early panes can be seen in the original six?over?six sashes in the living room. Windows on the east and west are later additions. Of the replaced flooring, the living room's narrow width planking is more recent than the entry hall's wide random widths. All the walls and ceilings were originally wood lath and plaster. At the time of restoration, ceilings and some walls were replaced. Most of the walls had been papered. During the history of the house, mantels and woodwork have been added and replaced. Wood burning fireplaces were converted to coal and then to gas. Within the walls are pipes for gas jets once used to light the rooms. A coal fed furnace, plumbing, electricity and now gas heating have been added.

The living room, now the Society's library, has two interesting features: doors, which have hand painted grain, and a small wood lined box in the left wall of the fireplace, which was possibly used for valuables. In the hallway, grained paneling, rails and baluster built in the late nineteenth century have replaced the original staircase. A jog in the chair rail on the wall at the landing may indicate a window was once there.

The Harrison House has a history spanning many years. It has witnessed many events including statehood of 38 states and the terms of 42 presidents. Almost turned into a parking lot in 1975, it was saved through the efforts of many concerned citizens, public officials, and both private and public organizations. As long as this interest and support continues, we will be given the opportunity to share its past, and the Harrison House will be given the chance to share our future.

July 1, 1993
Suzanne Wolfe Mettle




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