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Sutton-Ditz House


Sutton-Ditz House (18 Grand Street) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Sutton-Ditz House (1847; remodeled 1909-1910) is a two-and-one-half-story Neo-Classical Revival style brick residential building located in the Borough of Clarion. The property occupies a single town lot in the center of the community, which is the county seat of Clarion County, in rural north-central Pennsylvania. Immediately north of the Sutton-Ditz House, across Grant Street, is a municipal park known historically as the Public Square. The park contains a Civil War veterans' monument and a modern gazebo, and north of the park, across Main Street, is the Clarion County Courthouse. The majority of the formerly residential properties in the immediate vicinity have been converted for commercial uses. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for the community illustrate the original character of the site and indicate that by 1930 a filling station occupied the rear of the original lot, behind the house, facing South Fifth Street. The law office of Thomas Sutton, the original owner of the house, stood at the northeast corner of the Sutton-Ditz property; it was demolished when John Ditz began the remodeling of the house in the Spring of 1909. Two other small commercial buildings stood along Fifth Avenue; their demolition occurred prior to Ditz's remodeling of the house. No extant outbuildings are associated with the Sutton-Ditz property.

Residential in character, the Sutton-Ditz House is built upon a substantial foundation of rock-faced ashlar sandstone which is capped with a smooth-dressed sandstone water table. Corners of the water table exhibit vertical troughs which originally accommodated downspouts. The house was originally built in 1847[1]. A major remodeling begun on April 1, 1909 and completed the following year[2] resulted in the property's present appearance, including its surface finish of Flemish bond polychrome brick.

The building measures 44'6" x 34'6" and its three-bay facade, which is oriented to the north, is dominated by a full 2 1/2-story pedimented Ionic portico supported by fluted columns. The portico is capped with a gabled roof with a Palladian window centered in the pediment. A wood railing, 2'8" in height and with turned balusters and a molded handrail, extends around a porch beneath the portico; the original lattice porch skirting has been retained. The principal entrance to the house is centered on the facade and is distinguished by sidelights and a transom sash. Above the main door is a wood balcony one bay in width which extends outward from the north end of the second-story hall and is anchored into the portico's middle two columns. The building is capped with a laterally-oriented gable roof clad in asphalt shingles and punctuated by paired interior gable-end brick chimneys. One secondary chimney rises from the south slope of the roof. The cornice returns completely on the side elevations and is trimmed with Neo-Classical Revival style modillions which were added in 1909. Most fenestration on the Sutton-Ditz House is flat-topped, with one-over-one-light windows set on extended stone sills and capped with stone lintels. Some original multi-light basement windows are extant and oval windows dating from the 1900-1910 remodeling are found on the east and west side elevations of the second story. On the east elevation is a single-story open porch of wood with a shallow hipped roof. Similar to the portico on the facade, the porch is supported by four columns and includes wood balustrades around its perimeter and along the edge of the porch roof.

Historic photographs and post card views indicate the Sutton-Ditz House to have been originally Greek Revival in character, with single-story wood porches on the facade and east side. An 1890s T.M. Bowler lithograph of the community shows the house to have had a two-story rear wing with a double-gallery porch, but this may reflect the lithographer's artistic license. The original windows incorporated exterior operable wood shutters. The present exterior appearance of the property reflects the major remodeling early in the twentieth, century, which also completely re-configured the interior spaces of the home.

The interior of the Sutton-Ditz House incorporates a central-passage, double-pile, four-over-four plan. Included among the notable features of the interior are hardwood floors and trim, including baseboards and doors, carved wood mantles with classically-hid ornament, and a double-run stair. The mantles were the product of the Grand Rapids Clock and Mantle Company. The existing interior finishes date from the 1909-1910 remodeling; no Greek Revival style interior elements are extant, although original volumes have been generally maintained and the overall plan, although not the finishes, appears to be minimally altered from the original.

Significance

The Sutton-Ditz House is significant as a locally-distinctive example of an originally Greek Revival style mid-nineteenth-century residence which was remodeled in the Neo-Classical Revival style during the first decade of the twentieth century. The period of significance of the property begins in 1847 when it was originally constructed and ends in 1910, when the property assumed its present Neo-Classical Revival appearance.

Clarion was first settled in 1839 when Clarion County was erected from portions of Armstrong and Venango Counties; Clarion was named county seat at that time. The community was incorporated as a borough in 1841 and lay along the Susquehanna and Waterford Turnpike (later known as the Lakes-to-Sea Highway and now U. S. Route 322). The 'pike was an historic overland road which extended from the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in Clearfield County westerly and northwesterly to Waterford, in Erie County. Clarion developed as a local center of commerce and industry and became known as a producer of glass bottles. In the oil boom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Clarion figured prominently in the frenzy of local and regional oil and gas exploration. In the 1870s Carrier Seminary was established in Clarion as an institution of higher learning; it eventually became Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and continues to be among the leading economic forces in the community.

Clarion was little more than a frontier settlement when the house was erected by an unidentified builder for Thomas Sutton, Jr. (1815-1853), a native of Indiana County, Pennsylvania.[3] As was the custom of the day, Sutton "read" law and was admitted to the bar in 1841. In 1843 he was appointed Deputy Attorney General for the County of Indiana, southeast of Clarion County, a position which he held until moving to Clarion County where he continued his practice of law. In 1846 he wed Anne (also referred to as "Annie" in public documents) Mahon, a Pittsburgh native. When the Suttons moved to Clarion, Thomas Sutton immediately became active in the affairs of the community and was instrumental in the construction of the local Presbyterian Church. He acquired a building lot opposite Clarion's "Public Square" one block south of the Clarion County Courthouse and built a modest brick law office. It is not known where he and his wife lived initially, but in 1847 Sutton built his new home conveniently beside his law office, adjacent to the town park, across the square from the county courthouse. He chose the Greek Revival style for his new home; while the Greek Revival style was on the wane in many parts of Pennsylvania by the 1840s, in the more remote regions of the state it remained the design of choice.[4] Unfortunately, Sutton's enjoyment of his new residence was short-lived as he died six years after its completion. His widow, Annie Sutton, retained ownership until 1862 when she sold the property to William J. Reynolds for $2,000 and relocated to Philadelphia to oversee a girls' school. The property remained a single-family residence and subsequent owners included C.C. Brosius (1872-1874), Nathan Myers (1874 until his death in 1892), Nathan Myers' widow Sue Myers (1892-1907), and John Reed (1907-1908).

As first constructed, the house was a three-bay Greek Revival style home with asymmetrical facade, exterior operable shutters, and a full return on the cornice of the gable ends. No historic photos of the pre-1909 appearance of the interior are known to exist As noted, the 1909-1910 remodeling of the property added a substantial Neo-Classical Revival style portico, complete with a pedimental Palladian window typical of the Colonial and Neo-Classical Revival styles which were in their heyday in the first decade of the twentieth century.

In 1908, the home built by Thomas Sutton, Jr. was purchased for $7,000 by John A Ditz. Ditz (1872-1941) was a native of the western Clarion County community of Fryburg who had moved to the county seat in 1886. He entered the employ of the John Magee Hardware Company and in 1901 with Benjamin Mooney and Walter A. Graham established the Ditz and Mooney Hardware Company, which became a leading purveyor of hardware, buggies, wagons, and farm implements and was one of the largest such retailers in the area. Ditz was the senior member of this hardware business continuously until his death and became a state and national leader in the professional organizations associated with his trade. He served as president of the Pennsylvania and Atlantic Seaboard Hardware Association and was a director of the American Hardware and Supplies Association. He was also a leader in local community activities serving during World War One as a member of the executive board of the local Red Cross and as chairman of the Clarion County Liberty Loan campaign. He was also president of the Clarion Chamber of Commerce (which he had helped to organize) and a director of the Clarion Community Fund Association.

John Ditz's hardware business prospered and in 1904 he wed Paoli, Kansas native Minnie Aldinger. In 1908 he and his wife acquired the property opposite the Public Square that contained Thomas Sutton's 1844 law office, the 1847 Sutton house, and several small buildings along the lot's Fifth Avenue frontage. On April 1, 1909, Ditz began a major remodeling of the home, a project which converted the formerly Greek Revival style residence into an imposing Neo-Classical Revival style home, complete with a dominating centered portico on the facade. John Ditz's day book identified the contractor as Joseph Eckel but the identity of the architect responsible for the remodeling has not been identified. Eckel's name does not appear in community directories of the day and no other information is known about him. The house retains its Neo-Classical Revival style character and its integrity.

John Ditz's hardware business flourished but Ditz himself suffered significant financial loss in unsuccessful Florida land speculation in 1925. While his was not a "riches-to-rags" life story, by the 1930s — likely the result of Ditz' losses — the home had been converted into "tourist rooms," a precursor to a bed-and-breakfast inn. No major physical changes occurred with the property's conversion. A post card from the 1940s shows the property with a yard sign proclaiming, "Ditz Tourist Home." John. Ditz remained in his Grant Street home until his death in 1941; his widow, Minnie, lived here until she died in 1972 at the age of ninety-nine. In 1975 the one hundred twenty-eight-year old house was acquired by the Clarion County Historical Society. Except for the addition of a handicapped ramp and a fire escape on the southeast corner of the house, the Society has not altered the property significantly. The building presently serves as the organization's house museum.

The Sutton-Ditz House is dearly one of the finest historic homes in the community and in the county as a whole. Clarion is both the county seat and the largest municipality in the county, and as such, possesses the largest collection of historic residences in the area. Clarion was the home of the institution first known as Carrier Seminary and later as Clarion Normal School, Clarion State Teachers' College, Clarion State College, and now Clarion University of Pennsylvania. As a college town, many of Clarion's large homes have been converted for multi-tenant use or for use as fraternity or sorority houses and some historic homes have been demolished to make way for the physical expansion of the University. The Sutton-Ditz House, located approximately six blocks west of the University, is not threatened by University expansion.

Viewing the Sutton-Ditz House in the context of local and regional architecture, the only other property in Clarion presently listed in the National Register is the Clarion County Court House and Jail. The colonnaded Neo-Classical Revival style c.1910 Graham House on Clarion's Main Street (long operated as the "White Pillars Gift Shop by John Ditz's namesake son) was determined eligible for the National Register by the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office in 1990. While sensitively adaptively re-used as a bank, the Graham House has lost most significant elements of its historic residential flavor; the Sutton-Ditz House retains virtually all of its 1910 features. The county's smaller villages and boroughs, including St. Petersburg, Strattanville, Sligo, and Shippenville have few properties that compare with the Sutton-Ditz House. New Bethlehem's Shingle style Andrews Mansion, seventeen miles to the south, is larger than the Sutton-Ditz House and retains its original single-family residential use. East Brady, an Allegheny River town in southern Clarion County, claims a few substantial homes from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and these are in far less pristine physical condition than is the Sutton-Ditz House. The adjacent counties of Venango (to the west) and Jefferson (east of Clarion County) have significant unaltered concentrations of historic homes in historic districts in Emlenton, Oil City, and Brookville. Clarion has no such concentrations, and the Sutton-Ditz House, as an individual property, is dearly significant under National Register Criterion C.

Endnotes

  1. Clarion Democrat, April 15,1909.

  2. "Bills and Records for remodeling of Ditz House, 1909-1910," John Ditz' day book, in the collection of the Clarion County Historical Society, Clarion, Pennsylvania.
  3. The brother of Thomas Sutton, Jr., was John Sutton, one of Indiana County's most famous sons, a prominent local merchant and first president of Indiana Normal School (now Indiana University of Pennsylvania). The University's John Sutton Hall (NR 1976) is named in his honor.
  4. "Among the region's finest example of domestic architecture from the 1840s is Greek Revival style Hall-Nicholson-Arthurs House of 1848 (NR 1978) in nearby Brookville, built in an "upright-and-double-wing form.

References

Caldwell, J.A. History of Indiana County, Pennsylvania, 1745-1880 (1880).

Ditz, John. "Bills and Records for Remodeling of Ditz House 1909-1910" in the collection of the Clarion County Historical Society, Clarion, Pennsylvania.

Taylor, Ruth Campbell, Journal of James Campbell (1955).

Sanborn Map Company, Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Clarion, Pennsylvania. New York: Sanborn Map Co., 1887, 1912, 1930.

Stephenson, Clarence D. Indiana County 175th Anniversary History (1978).

Taylor, David L., Sutton-Ditz House, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Sutton-Ditz House Map

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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