The Sylvanus and Mary Crocker House, 29242 Detroit Road, part II

The east facade of the house, shows the rear "game room" addition.

The current owner, Bill Nordgren, purchased the property in 1973. During his 45 years of ownership he did research on the house which he made available to me. Some of the highlights of his research, along with my own, will be recounted here.

In 1865 Sylvanus and Mary Crocker sold a 97.46 acre portion of Original Lot 63 to Ernst F. Walker and another buyer. An 1874 plat map shows E.F. Walker owning 77.46 acres of O.L. 63 including the subject property. This acreage includes all the property north under I-90 all the way to today’s Bassett and Clemens roads and includes a rectangle with corners consisting of the Red Roof Inn on Clemens to the Hampton Inn on Detroit back to the subject house. Ernst and his wife Maria owned all of this property until shortly before his death. They sold the property to their son J.F. Christian Walker in 1909.

Bill Nordgren’s uncovered quite a bit of information about Ernst F. Walker. Ernst was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1837. He moved to Ohio with his parents in 1854. He married Maria Boehning in 1860 and moved to Dover Township upon purchasing this land in 1865. Ernst was a trustee of Dover Township for one year in 1866. They had eight children, all but one were born while they owned this house.

The Walkers' daughter Emma married August Lamp, and had a son Oliver who used to spend his time at this, his grandfather’s farm. Oliver became a commercial artist, and did an oil painting of the farm from memory. The view is from the north, looking past two barns (one of which still exists) to the house, from about the location of the creek which cuts across a corner of the property. At that time the northern section of the house was a single story. The long porch on the east side was already there. There is a 1903 plat map which shows the house and two barns in the configuration depicted in the painting.

The farm was sold and purchased back by the Walker family in the early 1900s. Finally in 1925 Christian and Mildred Walker sold the easterly 47.46 acres with the house and barns to Delphine and William R. White. Delphine split the property into the Ramona Acres Subdivision shortly afterwards and sold the 1.3 acre Sub-lot 1 with the house and barns to Mildred White in 1938. It is most likely this Mildred who gave her name to a street that was largely obliterated later by the construction of I-90. A short section of Mildred Avenue remains as an entrance drive just east of Sibling Revelry brewery on Clemens Road.

Mildred White sold the property to a bank in 1941 and John H. Mattern purchased it from the bank.

According to Bill Nordgren, at some time during the Whites' ownership of the property, the house was used as a “road house” – a gambling and (most likely) drinking establishment. When the Matterns bought the house, they had to scrape black paint from the bottom half of all of the windows on the ground floor. There was a signal system from the kitchen to the second floor “game room” to alert the occupants of an impending visit from the police. This system was still functional when the Matterns moved in, and one of the sons used it to harass the daughter whose room the bell was in.

Nordgren states that there are still artifacts of this era in the barn, including an iron plate with a peep-hole that was used to make the door to the game room bulletproof. The size of the one-room addition which is much larger than a typical bedroom, the location of the creek behind the property (handy for smuggling liquor), a sort of crude stone stairway that ascends to a window in the basement and deteriorated wood liquor boxes found in the basement add credibility to the story that this was a drinking as well as a gambling establishment.

Another interesting clue is that an old Dover directory which lists the occupants of houses in the city, probably used by safety forces, is mysteriously blank next to this address. The directory is undated but based on its other contents dates from about 1934 until 1938.

After John and his wife, Nina Mattern, both died the property was sold to Bill Nordgren.

Germans typically love beer so it seems only fitting that Sibling Revelry brewery recently located on property that was once owned by Germans who sold part of it earlier for a speakeasy.

The four bedroom, one and one-half bathroom, 2,514 square foot home and 1.3 acres with barn is currently for sale for $325,000.

William Krause

William R. Krause, AICP I am the Assistant Planning Director for the City of Westlake. I have worked for Westlake for 28 years. I served on the Bay Village Planning Commission for 5 years. I was a member of the Reuben Osborn Learning Center Steering Committee. I am a Board Member and Historian for the Westlake Historical Society and a Trustee of the Western Reserve Architectural Historians. I have been married to Debra for 36 years and am the father of three grown children, grandfather of two and owner of two Shih Tzu's.

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Volume 10, Issue 9, Posted 10:10 AM, 05.01.2018