Friday, November 18, 2011

A Church and the Landscape - The Congregational Church at Claridon

1381 - Congregational Church, built 1831
Photograph by I.T. Frary. 1922. Scanned from a photocopy of an original in the I.T. Frary Audiovisual Collection at the Ohio Historical Society.

On Wednesday, I illustrated how the changes in landscape around St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Church affected the perception of the structure, from something monumental to something more ordinary. Today, I hope to illustrate how more subtle changes affect the perception of a historic structure.

The Congregational Church at Claridon was built in 1831, at the intersection of Mayfield Road (US 322) and Claridon-Troy Road, in Geauga County. (If you took Mayfield Road east from Interstate 271 and continued east for 16 miles, you'd end up there.)

The church is an especially good example of the type built in this area during the time specified.

As you look at these photographs, try to notice how the church has been changed over time.

Church at Claridon
Photograph by I.T. Frary, in the collections of the Ohio Historical Society. From the Cleveland Artists Foundation exhibition Designing History: I.T. Frary; Interior Design and the Beginnings of Historic Preservation in Ohio.

This photograph, circa 1929, was used by Frary in his landmark work, Early Homes of Ohio, which remains the best work on Ohio's architectural heritage as a whole.

First Congregational Church of Claridon

Finally, we have a photograph that I took, back in March of this year.

The most obvious change is that the windows are no longer arched, but now have rounded tops. But there's another significant change. Look at the stairs leading to the church.

In 1922, there are just two front stairs. By circa 1929, there are three. And today, there are four.

Note how much the church feels like it's part of the landscape in 1922. Something's lost in the addition of stairs - to my eyes, it feels more separated from the landscape. Perhaps that was the intention.

As in Tremont, these changes, large and small, make a difference.


  1. Even with all these modifications, it is quite a handsome building. The increased steps do further isolate the building from the ground, but this effect is unduly intensified by the now necessary, but spindly iron railings. Other railings would match better, but as you point out, would further modify the original look.

    To me, the worst offenders are those bizarre(!) new window tops--especially the side windows. If they could raise the money, it would be well spent in restoring the original windows.

    By the way, I count five steps in your recent photo.
    --Road to Parnassus

  2. This church has caused quite a stir in Marion County, where the village of Claridon is. At one time, Claridon was consider to be a runner for the countyseat, but lost out to Marion. However when postcards of this church surfaced on the Internent on ebay, people from north central Ohio thought that the church was in our unicorporated town of Claridon.

  3. That church is near my parents' house! We occasionally pass it when we take 322, although we usually take 422 to get there. Really neat picture.

  4. There is a chance that this church was built by Zenas Kent, a joiner (and later developer), who helped found Kent. I had the privilege of being taken up into the rafters a couple of years ago and was shown some initials (see below) carved into a post, maybe those of Zenas Kent's son Marvin (for whom Kent is named). Records show that he was schooled partly at a "Claridon Academy." Agreed, the church is a real beauty, good to see it featured here.

    "M. Kent Ravenna, Ohio Dec. 1834."

  5. John - Did you by chance take photos while you were up in there?

  6. Christopher -- I did, but the lighting was not good. I'll send you a few via regular email.