LIMA — In 1888, Lima’s Daily Democratic Times judged there were “no prettier homes in this part of Ohio” than the Baxter house, set on five acres of gently rolling, park-like land between Charles Street and Jameson Avenue on the western edge of the city.
Dissenters would have been difficult to find, particularly when the home at 910 W. Market St. was decked out for entertaining, as it often was and as it most definitely was one late July evening in 1888.
“The grounds and house last night presented a scene of rare loveliness and the street cars along the Market Street line were crowded until late in the night with persons going out to see the illumination,” the Times wrote July 25, 1888. “Around the entire grounds had been laid a four-inch gas pipe, along which at short intervals were upright pipes reaching to a height of about 15 feet, surmounted with monstrous burners. A number of smaller pipes were laid into the grounds with which the entire lawn was brilliantly illuminated. The exterior of the house was illuminated by innumerable smaller gas lights covered by parti-colored globes, all combining to give a most charming effect.”
Although the home by 1888 was owned by Dr. S.A. Baxter, president of the First National Bank and the man with whom the house would be most closely associated, it had been designed and built more than a decade earlier by George W. Jameson, who also was instrumental in forming the streetcar company which transported gawkers past the home that evening.
Jameson, The Lima News wrote in December 2000, “was a very quiet man, a lawyer by trade and a businessman by hobby. He enjoyed living in the country and writing poetry. In all, he only lived in Lima 16 years, but his name, George Jameson, has had a lasting impact on this community.”
When he died in January 1913, the Lima Times-Democrat paid tribute, declaring, “He was one of the pioneers of the city of Lima and was in the early days interested in practically all the progressive movements that were instigated.”
Jameson was born in Wayne County in 1838 “and there lived with his parents throughout the greater part of his boyhood and youth. Spending most of his time on the farm with his parents, he at different times devoted some time to teaching and studying,” according to the Times-Democrat. In 1857, he married his childhood sweetheart, Mary E. McClure. After serving in the Civil War in 1864, he attended law school at the University of Michigan and graduated in 1867.
“They moved to Lima, Ohio, the summer of 1867 where he opened a law office located where the Old City Building stood in the square,” George and Mary’s grandson, Robert Hurd Jameson, wrote in a family history. “In a letter dated Aug. 17, 1868 to his parents in Apple Creek, Ohio, he tells of finishing building a house, and reported that Charles, our father, then just past two years old, having been ill.”
In a remembrance written in April 1937 for the Allen County Historical Society and reprinted in the family history, Alonzo S. Bower recalled, “I, as a boy remember them very well when they lived in the last house, a cottage, with an orchard, chicken yard, stable and outhouses, situated on the west side of South Tanner Street, which is now Central Avenue.”
Bower added, “Of all the housekeepers, Mrs. Jameson is remembered as being very pleasant and generous to all comers especially children who were attracted by the wonderful churn Mr. Jameson had constructed. It was operated by a treadmill which was powered by a dog, a large mastiff, who, when led into the mill had naught to do but keep going until the butter was churned.”
By 1873, with more and more people moving to south Lima, Jameson decided it was time to move out. He sold his land, which stretched from Kibby to Vine streets and from Central Avenue to Main Street. He then bought 160 acres to the west of the city.
Jameson’s new land was bounded by what today are Spring Street on the south, North Street on the north, Cole Street on the west and Baxter Street on the east. In the middle of his land, on West Market Street between Charles Street and Jameson Avenue and rolling north to High Street, he built his home.
“A few days ago we visited the new house now being built by Mr. Geo. Jameson, in the western portion of the city, and do not remember of ever having seen a building more complete in its exterior and interior arrangements, or arranged with more attention to convenience than this one…,” the Lima Gazette wrote May 5, 1875. “Mr. J. has shown his faith in the ultimate growth and importance of our city by building in what are now the extreme outskirts, a large and elegant house ….”
The four-story red brick house, the News wrote in 2000, “included oak and cherry woodwork, boasted 11 rooms and a basement, numerous porches projecting on all sides, a large attic and capping it off, a tower room boxed by four long, slender windows. Inside, a serpentine oak staircase extended from the front entrance to the fourth-floor tower room.”
From the tower, Jameson could have looked to the east down a slight hill to a pond dug for harvesting ice in the winter. “And after that was done,” the News noted, “they allowed Charles to run the pond as an ice-skating rink, charging 10-cents admission.” According to another account, shortly after the house was completed, the circus came to town and the circus elephants plopped down in the pond and refused to leave.
Elephants weren’t alone in enjoying the spot and the home soon became a venue for local events, as in September 1878 when the Allen County Democrat reported that “Mr. and Mrs. George Jameson tender the use of their lawn and grounds for a Union Lawn Fete and Festival to be held on next Tuesday evening, September 17th, for the benefit of the Yellow Fever Sufferers of the South ….”
Jameson platted streets around his home, naming the one to the west Jameson and the one to the east of his residence, Charles, in honor of the Jamesons’ only child. He also platted out lots, which became Jameson’s first and second additions to the city of Lima.
“Although he loved life in the country, Jameson did not like the drive into Lima it required for him to do business,” the News wrote in 2000. “As a result, he and a few Lima businessmen, including Benjamin Faurot, joined together to form the first street-car line.” The horse-drawn line, which, according to the family history had a green, a yellow and a red car (for use on special days such as a visit by the circus), was formed in 1878.
In a reminiscence recorded in the family history, Albert G. Keith, whose father had purchased a lot in the 1000 block of Market Street, recalled, “On various occasions I have seen Mr. Jameson board the car at the old Court House (which stood on the west side of the Public Square) westward bound for dinner. In those days everyone went home at noon for a regular bang-up dinner.
“Sometimes from mental abstraction or from being diverted by the greetings of fellow passengers,” Keith continued, “Mr. Jameson would forget to pay his fare. Although he was president of the company, yet that fact did not in the least deter ‘Lish’ (Lish Maguire, the streetcar driver) from reminding him that he had not dropped his ticket in the fare box.”
In 1883, Jameson sold his Market Street home to Baxter and moved to a large tract of land he owned west of Dola (which was known as North Washington at that time) in Hardin County, farming mainly onions and potatoes. “At the northwest edge of Dola he built a large brick home almost identical to the Market Street house in Lima,” according to the family history.
After his beloved wife died in 1899, a grief-stricken Jameson could no longer live in the house, so he sold that property and moved to Ada where he died at the age of 74 in January 1913.
The house at 910 W. Market St. would continue to be a popular gathering spot for parties, high school photos and other events for decades. In the 1940s, the house was divided into apartments. By the 1960s, too costly to heat and with too much wasted space, it stood empty. It was razed in 1962 to make room for a the Christian Science Church, and later, a parking lot.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.