What the 'genealogy' of your land reveals about your home's age
[The second in a series of four articles on the history of homes in Dover – now Westlake and Bay Village – and the Westlake Historical Society's century-home plaquing program.]
The process of determining the actual year of construction of a building is like researching the “genealogy” of the piece of land on which it was constructed, determining both the chain of ownership and the history of the appraised value used for tax purposes.
The telltale sign of the “date of birth” of the house is an increase in the appraised tax value of the land underneath the structure. It is only in relatively recent years that the assessed value of the improvements on a parcel, such as a house, are assessed separately from the value of the land. For century homes, there was a time when the land, with a productive agricultural value was worth relatively more than the house.
The dedicated work of local historians and genealogists and the wealth of historical records on the internet make detailed research on century homes and their occupants possible in a way that was undreamed of even just a few years ago. The chain of ownership of the land can be determined from many different paper and online sources. The critical records for researching the early tax value for property in Westlake must be researched in person at the Cuyahoga County Archives at 2905 Franklin Blvd. in Cleveland.
There is some basic “genealogy” that all Westlake and Bay Village homes share in common:
Native Americans gave up their claim to the land west of the Cuyahoga River in 1805 and the land was surveyed into townships in 1806. The territory that was to be Dover then became Township Seven, Range Fifteen. In 1807 a lottery drawing was held and Nehemiah Hubbard and Joshua Stow, two of the 35 investors who made up the Connecticut Land Company, received ownership of all of Dover Township.
Each township was surveyed into lots of a uniform size, in the Western Reserve this was usually a square of 160 acres, they are known as “Original Lots” (O.L.) today. Early deeds even sometimes list the name of the surveyor such as: “as surveyed and measured by Joseph Darrow in his map and field book.”
The Westlake Historical Society has re-energized a plaquing program for century homes in the city. Application forms can be obtained with a call to the Society at 440-808-1961 or with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. A $50 application fee defrays some of the cost of doing the research to determine if the home is one hundred years old. Then, if it is found to be a century home, the applicant is notified and is eligible to purchase a personalized plaque with the approximate construction year from the Society for $75.
William R. Krause, AICP I am the Assistant Planning Director for the City of Westlake. I have worked for Westlake for 23 years, I have recently resigned from Bay Village Planning Commission after moving from Bay Village to Westlake. I am the Historian for the Westlake Historical Society and a trustee of the Western Reserve Architectural Historians. I have been married to Debra for 31 years and am the father of three grown children and owner of two Shih Tzu's.