Clark-Steele House

420 East College, 1862

This handsome place is a happy example of the charm that could result from eclectic home improvement. Its earliest version, dating from the late 1850s, was a plain, oblong, frame farmhouse. In 1862 the owner, John Clark, enlarged and refurbished it. The transformation inspired the local newspaper to pronounce it "one of the finest places in town." Clark's changes no doubt included most of the features which lend an Italianate air -- the twin bays flanking an elegant flat-roofed porch entry, the bracketed eaves (particularly fine at the gable ends), and balustraded twin chimneys creating a cupola effect at the center of the roof ridge.

In the mid-1880s the house became the home of Judge John Steele, the main man in the public life of the village in the late nineteenth century. Steele was the son of Dr. Alexander Steele, a physician who arrived in town in 1836. The son came home from the Civil War bearing a splendid record and promptly won election as a probate judge. He then left the country for several years to pursue railroading in Canada and South America. On his return to Oberlin he moved in with the Clarks, whose daughter he had married. Steele soon became the Republican leader of the town, twice serving as postmaster. He was a prime mover in the building of the village waterworks on Morgan Street and the county orphans' home on East College. A hearty, gregarious man, given to occasional profanity and regular cigars, Judge Steele was a refreshing first citizen for sober Oberlin.

Later owners made substantial additions to the rear of the house, the most important coming in 1913. Robert and Margaret Kilmer have lived here since 1956.

(Blodgett 89-90)

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