The special, unusual, mysterious Lilly/Weston house
Situated close to the road, just east of the Westlake Recreation Center’s driveway on Center Ridge Road, is the Lilly/Weston house. Named after two of the families to own the house, it is special, unusual and mysterious for a whole host of reasons.
First of all, it is special because it is one of only two structures in the city of Westlake on the National Register of Historic Places (the other is the Clague House Museum). Secondly, it is unusual in that it is one of only about 220 early homes in northeast Ohio ever constructed of native stone between 1800 and 1860, according to Roy Larick on his Bluestone Heights website, bluestoneheights.org. I had the pleasure of attending a geological/cultural/historical walking tour he spoke at in Cleveland Heights last weekend. The Lilly/Weston house is included in his list of Western Reserve stone houses constructed of Berea sandstone.
Roy Larick’s website helped me appreciate in a new way what a treasure the Lilly/Weston house is. Most homes in this early settlement period were constructed of timber and less frequently of brick. Another way that the Lilly/Weston house is unusual is that the original structure is constructed of stone and the addition 10 years later was constructed of brick on a stone foundation.
Now for the mystery: The sandstone-and-brick Lilly/Weston house was constructed by someone “with special talents for manipulating especially large blocks of stone,” according to Steve McQuillin in the narrative he wrote as part of the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places. He explains that the small Lilly/Weston house is built of unusually thick blocks that extend clear through its thick walls. The blocks are two feet thick in the basement and 18 inches thick at the first floor level.
In the application he notes that the 1850 census lists one stonecutter in Dover Township, Sidney Beibe (sic) who told the census taker that he had been born in France. Could this be the person who constructed the house? Most of the early settlers here were from the British Isles or New England. How did a stonecutter from France end up in Dover Township? Does this house represent a French building tradition married to the prevailing Greek Revival style of the period?
Why would someone move and build with such large, heavy blocks of stone when more typically in this era the blocks of stone were chipped down to a manageable size and the chips used to fill in the walls behind the dressed stone? What about the curious small window toward the western end of the rear, on the first floor? It appears to be original, but its possible specialized use also remains a mystery.
So, next time you are on the walking trail around the Recreation Center or have time to safely park nearby, come check out the outside of the Lilly/Weston house. Take a close look. The stones on the front elevation are delicately hand tooled with vertical tooling marks on the edges and pick marks on the body of each block of stone. Notice how the stones on the sides of the building are nicely finished but don’t have the fine details of the front, and check out that mysterious window in the back.
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.