Attached to the Western Reserve Historical Society is a gem of a house, easily overlooked and passed by if you don’t take the time for the tour. Walking through, you can imagine the life of the Cleveland upper-class across the 19th and 20th centuries.
First, a little history on the house from the Historical Society’s web site:
In 1908 Clara Stone Hay, daughter of Amasa Stone and widow of John Hay, engaged Abram Garfield, youngest son of President Garfield, to design a home for her in the Wade Park Allotment. While the house, with terraced courtyard garden and modern conveniences, was completed in 1911, Mrs. Hay never furnished or occupied the house, preferring to return to New York City on the death of her sister, Flora Stone Mather.
After Mrs. Hay’s death, the property was acquired in 1916 by Price McKinney, of the McKinney Steel Company. He and his family lived there during the 1920s. In 1938 McKinney ’s widow, by now Mrs. Corliss Sullivan, sold the house to WRHS, and in 1939 it was opened as the Society’s Museum. Today the Hay-McKinney House is furnished as a series of period galleries exhibiting furniture, decorative and fine arts and domestic artifacts from the Society’s collections.
Inside, the rooms portray how a house might look at various periods in American history. Most of the items on display have been donated, our guide told us.
Names of design styles popped up. Rococo, Empire, Louis XIV, all of those and more. Those names I recognized but never understood. Room to room, we saw the progression of history and how it helped shape design.
Portraits and stories showcase some of the major players that shaped the city and surrounding areas. Of note, Jeptha Wade, namesake of Wade Oval, and Mr. and Mrs. Justin Ely, whose son, Heman, went on to found the village of Elyria.
Although we have to rely on stories and archives to picture Millionaires’ Row in its day, the Hay-McKinney House gives us an understanding of what that life was. If you’re at the Historical Society, take the time-about 1 ½ hours-to take the tour.