The Fountain City Historic District [†] is significant as an important example of the historical development of Williams County as found at the county seat and as evidenced through the evolution of its residential architecture. The boundaries of the district encompass the major concentration of historic residential properties that are associated with the growth and development of Bryan, Ohio in the mid and late 19th and early 20th centuries at a time when the town was popularly known as "The Fountain City". As such it is a place that embodies the distinctive characteristics of a period, and that represents a significant and distinguishable entity, some of whose components lack individual distinction. The name Fountain City is derived from the long-time nickname for the town, in reference to the many underground wells and streams that flowed beneath it. Bryan historian, the late Paul VanGundy, wrote of these well-known artesian founts in his local history entitled Stories of the Fountain City. Bryan was platted in 1840 and incorporated in 1849. Williams County was erected by the Ohio Legislature in 1820 on former Indian lands. The county originally encompassed a much larger area which included part of present day Defiance County,(now directly south of Williams County).
Until the mid-1840s the City of Defiance was the county seat, but when the two counties were separated in 1845, the seat of Williams County was established at Bryan. The town is named for Ohio State Auditor John A. Bryan, who firs proposed that Bryan become the new county seat. Bryan also was an agent for the American Land Company of New York which owned the land where Bryan was to be founded. John Bryan donated the land for and erected the first courthouse and arranged for the original plat of 180 lots to be surveyed.
Williams County was, and remains, primarily an agriculturally-based economy. Bryan grew slowly but steadily after its founding. Within twenty years, the town had firmly established itself as the major population center of Williams County, with 2284 inhabitants by 1870. A commercial district grew up around the courthouse square, with residential development occurring along North and South Main and East and West High Streets; (these areas have since lost their cohesiveness and integrity as residential districts, as many of the homes have been demolished or severely altered). North and South Lynn St. also evidenced residential growth. Center St. originally was known as the 'Bryan Plank Road' and served as a major transportation route to the southwest. Near Beech, Center St. intersected with a small stream, Lynn Run, which had been diverted for use as a mil race. Subsequently, a small industrial area developed near this intersection and included a brewery,(now two apartments), a woolen mill (now demolished) and a flour mill (also demolished) at the intersection. In response, residential units began to be constructed in the area, eventually following Center St. southwesterly out of town. By the 1880s, a substantial row of dwellings lined each side of Center St., as well as Lynn and Beech Sts.
By 1890 Bryan boasted over 3000 residents. Several examples of the pre-1890 development of the town are found in this area, including the Milton Plumner House at 341-43 Center St. Constructed between 1864 and 1869, the structure combines elements of the Greek Revival and more fashionable Italianate style. Plummer was politically active in Williams County, having held the posts of County Recorder, County Auditor and Mayor of Bryan. While owner of this property, he served as County Clerk and as postal clerk for the Wabash Railroad. His business ventures included real estate and grocery businesses. The Buchler family owned the property from 1869 to 1904.
The brick residence at 346 Center St. was either erected by Jacob Youse before 1875 or the Kampf family after 1875. The house is a superior illustration of the restrained, classical form of the Italianate Style. Youse was a well-known citizen of the area, having built the first tannery in the county at Bryan shortly after his arrival in 1841. He had an active politica career, having served as an early County Recorder and as Justice of the Peace for Pulaski Township. From 1857-1863 he was Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas, and later was elected mayor of Bryan, but died suddenly before taking office in 1888. Youse also was active in business affairs, having been involved in real estate, stove and tinware, boot and shoe and grocery enterprises throughout his ownership of this property and afterwards as well. Subsequent owners were notable County residents also, and include the Kampf family, who split the property in 1888, allowing for construction of a brick house next door at 332 Center (described in next section) to which they moved in that year. A prominenmt lawyer, Thomas Emery and his wife Lena owned this house until 1899. Later long-term owner Cass Cullis resided here until 1964 when it was sold to the present owners Herb and Joan Plassman. Cullis was the well-known editor of Bryan's newspaper, the Bryan Times; Cullis' son Ford Cullis, who succeeded his father as editor of the paper, lived here for many years as well.
Another illustration of the physical development of this period is reflected in the palatiam brick residence at 302 S. Beech which was erected in 1880 f o r Aaron and Salina Brannan. Highly ornamented on the exterior, the structure exhibits a wealth of high-style Italianate design elements including carved stone hoodmoldings, heavily bracketed and decorated cornice and iron roof cresting, which now i s deteriorating. The architect is not known but the owner, Aaron Brannan, was a wellestablished resident of the county having arrived in 1846 from Columbiana County, Ohio. Brannan, in addition to actively farming for several years, was associated with lumber milling, hub and spoke production and the hardware business before his death in 1898. The house became the property of the Brannan's daughter Fossie and her husband Adalbert P. Chilson from 1898 to 1915. The house has been owned by the Dawson family since 1954, and now functions as rental property.
A simpler and more typical version of the Italianate style house of this period in Bryan is found at 317 W. Butler. This house appears to have been built about 1874 by Dr. John Long, after a larger parcel of land was subdivided by Dr. Long's brother, George Long. Dr. Long began medical practice in Bryan in 1868, after serving in the Union Army as a physician. He eventually took his son Dr. James Long as a partner. Enjoying a long and locally distinguished career. Dr. John Long practiced from and occupied this house until his death in 1906. His wife Eugenia continued to reside here until her death in 1914. The dwelling was inhabited by George and Anna Shaffer from 1914 to 1946 and Gibson and Elizabeth Fenton from 1946 to 1963, when i t was sold to the current owners Cecil and Shirley Goldsmith. The Goldsmith's home i s opened to the public for three months during the Christmas season under the name Christmas Manor, an enterprise which was begun in 1986.
The last structure indicative of the improvements of the mid-19th century period of Bryan's development is the [now] Second Empire style house at 230-32 V. Wilson. Erected by John Welker about 1863, the house was remodeled with a mansard roof sometime around the decade of 1670-80. Originally the house stood at the northwest corner of W. Wilson and Lynn, but was moved to i t s present location in the 1920s. Welker was a highly-regarded citizen of Bryan, having engaged in a variety of business ventures including merchandising, a cheese factory and creamery (cheese factories later were set up i n the Williams County towns of Edon and Edgerton) and wool trade. He was an authority on the production of wool, and reportedly was regularly consulted by the U.S. Congress on matters pertaining to wool. Welker lived in this house until his retirement from active business in 1910. The house later was converted to rental property and moved when owned by the Garn family in the 1920s. In the late 1880s, Bryan experienced a brief o i l and gas boom, as did other Northwest Ohio towns, such as Bowling Green and Findlay,(both with National Register residential districts ). Bryan's boom was relatively short-lived, having spent itself by 1893. However, this brief period of prosperity, augmented by the coming of the Cincinnati, Jackson and Mackinaw Railroad in 1887, greatly bolstered both the image and affluence of Bryan. Although the size of the town grew slowly (3068 in 1890 to 3131 by 1900), the wealth of the community increased, as did the completion of larger homes and businesses. Physical evidence of this period is illustrated by the brick commercial structures surrounding the courthouse (Bryan Downtown Historic District, National Register), as well as by the courthouse itself (also National Register). The "new" courthouse was completed in 1888-90 and was designed by prominent Toledo architect E.O. Fallis. Fallis also is known to have designed at least one home in the Fountain City Historic District — the Shingle Style residence at 322 S. Lynn.
Similarly, several of the pivotal structures in this historic district illustrate the evolution of Bryan's b u i l t environment at the time. For instance, the Hala House at 233 If. Wilson, was erected in 1889 for brewmaster Jacob Halm, Jr. who replaced his father as head of the Fountain City Brewery in 1883. The elder Halm had established the brewery at the intersection of S. Beech and Center Sts. in 1873, but was kikked in an industrial accident at the brewery in 1883. The younger Halm carried on the business through the 19th and into the early 20th century, when i t closed. The house was purchased by and remained in the Clara Rosendaul family until 1978, when the present owners acquired the property. While the exterior is relatively modest, the interior is rich in architectural finish, including stained and leaded glass, wooden fretwork, and oak mantles; oak moldings throughout the house feature carvings of hop vines, elm leaves and German crosses (reportedly a good luck custom).
Another example, the Horrison/Eaton House (circa 1872/1893) at 234 S. Lynn, apparently was first erected by a Dr. Morrisson, a physician who was active in local road-building efforts. After Morrison's death in 1875, his widow Harriet (nee Wilber) married Oscar Eaton, who was one of Bryan's most active businessmen. Republican loyalties gained him the title of postmaster in 1877. A year later, he helped found the First National Bank of Bryan and served as its vice president until his death in 1895. Eaton was among those who established the Bryan Gas Company, which was formed to exploit the gas/oil reserves discovered in the late 1880s. In the early 1890s he helped persuade the Cincinnati, Jackson and Mackinaw railroad to locate in Bryan. In 1892 Eaton was the local delegate to the Republican National Convention. About this time the house apparently was completely remodeled, updating the style from an Italianate form to a more modern Victorian-period design that was influenced by the popular Queen Anne style.
Another reminder of this boom period is the Folk Victorian/Stick Style/Queen Anne house at 332 Center, which was built around 1890 by the Kampf family, who had owned this parcel since 1875. The large brick home is an excellent representation of the architectural splendor of the period and features unusual wood- faced gables embellished with a series of vertial raised panels. Theodore Kampf, a popular restaurant owner in the Central Business District who was responsible for the erection of several substantial brick commercial blocks, owned this house until 1910. From 1926 to 1971, the property was owned by the McKarn family, who were associated with the prominent McKarn Realty of Bryan.
The Salznan House at 416 S. Lynn is another important example of late 19th century domestic architecture in the Folk Victorian idiom. Built about 1898-99 by William Salzman (Saltzman), the house features an unusual profile highlighted by seven gables at the roofline and porch. Salzman was brewmaster at the Halm Brewery for many years. Like the brewery's owner, Jacob Halm, Salzman too was killed in an accident at the brewery, and although he died in 1904, the house remained in the Salzman family until 1972.
Bryan's advancement did not ebb after the effects of this late 19th century boom had diminished. In fact the largest decennial increase in population occurred between 1900 and 1910, when the populace of the town jumped by over 500, expanding from 3131 in 1900 to 3641 by 1910. Examples of the physical evolution of the community from this period also are found in the Fountain City Historic District. The house at 310 S. Lynn is an illustration of the style which gained popularity throughout the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Erected for Henry W. Ellis, a prominent insurance agency proprietor in 1912, the home was designed by Toledo architect Harry W. Wachter at a cost of $13,000; (other examples of Wachter's residential commissions are listed on the National Register as part of Toledo's Old West End Historic District). Ellis was an active promoter of civic improvement, as well real estate development. The home remained in the Ellis family until 1953 when it passed to the Warren Thomas', and in 1984 to the present owners Lora and Steve Bird.
Final evidence of this later period of growth is the superb example of the Bungalow/Arts & Crafts style at 233 S. Beech. This is one of the best representatives of this type in the h storic District, and is highlighted by a broad open porch with stick-work details and a boulder and pebble-stone porch foundation. It is believed that this house was built for Forest O. Hutchins and his wife Rachel (nee Price) upon their retirement from farming. Hutchins had arrived in adjoining Defiance County in 1863, where he later established a farm, which eventually grew to 165 acres. The Hutchins' purchased this property in 1913, and likely moved to Bryan shortly thereafter. The house remained in the Hutchins family until 1925 when i t was purchased by Elmer and Mary Alice Smeltz. The present owner Vera May Tucker bought the house in 1968.
† Adapted from: Ted J. and Patricia M. Ligibel, Historic Resources Consulting, Fountain City Historic District, nomination document, 1989/1990, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Beech Street South • Butler Street West • Center Street • Lynn Street South • Maple Street West • Portland Street South • Wilson Street West