HIRAM: Hiram College has purchased a nearby historical home once owned by U.S. President James A. Garfield for $200,000.
The college has agreed to allow the current resident, Phebe Zimmerman, to live in the Hinsdale Road home for as long as she wishes.
When the college takes possession, the house will be known as the Garfield Robbins Zimmerman House to reflect the people who owned it.
“It fits so well with the work of the Garfield Society and the Garfield Institute,” which memorializes the public service work of the former president, Hiram President Tom Chema said. “It’s an appropriate addition to our assets.”
Chema said he is beginning to raise about $300,000 for eventual renovations to the home, which was built in 1860 and has three bedrooms, 2½ baths and two fireplaces, according to the Portage County Auditor’s Office.
The family has maintained several of the rooms on the first floor in the style of the 1860s to 1880s and included some period furniture in the sale.
Eventually, the home will serve as a quasi-museum and a salon for discussions and guest speakers, Chema said. The home also will house the offices for the Garfield Institute for Public Leadership, which instructs students in public service.
Garfield was a student at Hiram’s forerunner, the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, shortly after its founding in 1850.
He went on to teach Greek and Latin at Hiram and became the principal, the equivalent of president. He left in 1861 to lead a Civil War volunteer infantry recruited from the Hiram area.
In 1863, Garfield bought the home on Hinsdale Road and made it his base when he served in Congress. He and his wife, Lucretia, built an addition on the west side of the house that became the living room.
The couple sold the home in 1874 to one of Garfield’s former students, Burke A. Hinsdale, who was serving as the first permanent president of what had become Hiram College.
In 1882, Hinsdale sold it to Phebe Boynton Clapp, Garfield’s cousin. The house went on to stay in the family for three more generations.
Sometimes it was used as a country home during the summers.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.