Historic West Main
This outstanding tour of Historic West Main Street was prepared by PGH Board member Craig Clinger, a true historian and resident of Galion’s primary street. It begins just east of the Gill House, and continues westward along the street to the current location of Family Video, crosses to the south, and then moves eastward.
Otho Hays House
When the Gill House construction was begun in 1903, Galion was a thriving town of over five thousand people. The Gill family had made its fortune from developing and selling building lots to the influx of people who settled here in the years after the Civil War. Galion’s prosperity was due in large part to the railroads. Now Galion was about to see more growth with the coming of industry. The Freese Works had been established here in the 1890s as was the Flickinger Wheel Works and the Galion Wagon and Gear Company. Within a few years Charles North would move his telephone manufacturing business to Galion (North Electric), D.C. Boyd would begin the Galion Iron Works, and American Steel Grave Vault would be established. West Main Street was Galion’s version of Millionaire’s Row. Bloomer & Nellie’s neighbors were doctors, lawyers, merchants, industrialists, and their next door neighbor was a bank president.
Otho L. Hays started his banking career with the First National Bank in 1866 at the age of 18. He quickly advanced thru the ranks and became head cashier by 1875. His father William founded the Hays Bank in 1886 and served as its first president with Otho as cashier. After several prosperous years they applied for a national bank charter and became The Galion National Bank. The elder Mr. Hays was involved in several business enterprises. He was a partner with Henry D. Lee in the Central Ohio Oil Company. When they sold out to John D. Rockefeller in 1885, Henry Lee went to Kansas and started the company that still bears his name today, making Lee jeans and Mr. Hays used his portion of the profits to start the bank. By 1889, O.L. Hays was elected president of the Galion National Bank and shortly thereafter built his family’s mansion just east of the Gill family home on West Main Street on the present day site of Rite Aid. The mansion is pictured above. It was torn down in the 1980s after sitting vacant for several decades.
The Galion National Bank was one of three banks in Galion at the turn of the century and was its largest and most prosperous. However, on the evening of February 14, 1904 the board of directors was summoned to a special meeting at the Hays home. Mr. Hays informed the board that the Flickinger Wheel Works had defaulted on a $40,000 loan. This in turn caused a financial panic in Galion as the bank collapsed and never re-opened. Mr. Hays and Mr. Flickinger were both indicted on numerous counts of fraud and sent to the state pen. The bank failure happened during the construction of the Gill House. It is quite possible that this event is what caused Bloomer and Nellie to scale back their plans, especially on the interior of the Louis Kamper design of their home.
412 West Main
Tonight’s home on Historic West Main Street is located at 412 West Main, just east of the Crim/Unckrich/McDavid home. It was built in 1908 by Edward W. Seeman, a druggist whose store was located at 108 East Main Street in uptown Galion. It was built in the Stick style, a part of the Arts & Crafts movement. It retains much of its original appearance except for the front porch which is now enclosed. Mr. Seeman died in the early 1940’s and the drug store passed to his nephew Harold Seeman. When the younger Mr. Seeman decided to retire, he sold the drug store to Conrad Vaughn. Vaughn’s Pharmacy was located in the uptown until sometime in the 1960’s when it relocated to a location across from Galion Community Hospital on Portland Way South.
The home was later owned by Lewis J. & Nelle Davis. Mr. Davis was the president of the original Power Equipment Company. He and his wife left a generous fund for scholarships for Galion High School students which continue to be awarded annually. Next the home was owned by C.R. Kammerer and his wife Florence. Mr. Kammerer was the executive vice president of Hercules Steel Products. Bruce & Pat Campbell were the home’s longest occupants for over 50 years. Today it is owned by the Ivy family.
Samuel Riblet House
Today’s picture is of 448 West Main Street. Built by the Riblet family in 1880 in the Italinate style, it features a 3 story tower with mansard roof, leaded glass windows and a monitor roof. It also includes one of the few carriage houses still standing. As you can see, it once had a beautiful wrap around porch.
Samuel Riblet was a descendant of one of Galion’s pioneer families. His occupation listed in the 1900 Galion City Directory was “advertising and billboards”. The home was later owned by Lloyd Bender, a vice president of North Electric and by the Biehl family. It is now home to the Sutton family.