Who was Lilly Weston?

The Lilly-Weston house, as illustrated by artist M. Kershner.

Who was Lilly Weston?

She sounds like she could have been the childhood friend of Annie Oakley or Calamity Jane. Actually there was no Lilly Weston. But there is a Lilly-Weston, as in the historical house in Westlake. No, that is not a modern family, hyphenated last name. It is two surnames: Lilly and Weston.

The Lilly-Weston house is located at 27946 Center Ridge Road, just east of the Westlake Recreation Center entrance drive. “Lilly” represents the last name of the family who built the stone portion of the house in about 1844 and added the brick portion in about 1855. “Weston” represents the last name of an early Dover/Westlake family whose ancestor, George Weston, purchased the home from the Lillys in 1866 and owned it until 1872.

In 1995 a Weston descendent, Alice Ladanyi, purchased the nearly abandoned home from a subdivision developer who had purchased it for the backland and deeded it to the city in 2000. In 2004 the Westlake Historical Society entered into a lease agreement with the city for the property. The gist of the agreement is that the city would set aside money to stabilize and maintain the exterior and structural integrity of the building and the historical society would raise money to restore the interior and operate it as a museum.

In the last 15 years the excellent city service department, a few dedicated historical society volunteers and contractors hired by the city or historical society have installed a Ohio historical marker, got the property listed on the National Register, stabilized the foundation, removed later additions inside and out, removed nearby hazardous trees, replaced the roof, and repaired and painted trim, windows and doors.

Recently the City administration issued a request for proposals for a contract to determine the structural integrity of the building, particularly the floor joists which were damaged years ago when the house had a leaky roof and to come up with a plan for the restoration of the building to make it “warm, safe and dry.” Also involved in the contract is for the consultant to come up with a plan for how to use the building. The lowest bid came back at about $22,000 for this work. Both the Mayor and City Council are reluctant to spend money imprudently.

I think the key to moving forward is to find multiple uses for the property while staying within the limits of the deed. The historical society’s vision has always been to make this a museum of early Dover history. Clague House Museum is the high style Victorian Italianate gem and Lilly-Weston could be viewed more as the vernacular venue for farm implements and maybe a place to get your hands dirty or work up a sweat. It IS located right next to the Recreation Center.

At one time Center Ridge was the main route west in these parts for the Conestoga wagon and the stagecoach. What if Lilly-Weston became a trail head for a bicycle network linking a new 30-acre park next to Porter Library with the existing Recreation Center trail loop and the Hilliard Boulevard bicycle lanes? What if it became the permanent site of a community garden or a memorial garden or a sculpture garden?

The display boards prepared for the city’s bicentennial in 2011 are ready and waiting for a home. Depicting 200 years of history, the timeline created by the Observer explains the story of the evolution of this patch of ground from Dover Township to the cities of Westlake, Bay Village and North Olmsted. What better place to exhibit them than in a building MADE from that very ground – brick from local clay and stone from local quarries?

If you want to get involved with this project contact the Westlake Historical Society at westlakehistory@yahoo.com or 216-848-0680 and donations are always welcome, just put the name “Lilly-Weston” on your check's memo line and send to P.O. Box 45064, Westlake, Ohio 44145.

William Krause

Assistant Planning Director for the City of Westlake.

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Volume 7, Issue 9, Posted 9:18 AM, 05.05.2015