History: The Homestead of Marvin S. Kent

Artisans from All Around Help Construct

Built by Marvin S. Kent, the first stone was laid June 7,1880.

The barn was first built and used as headquarters for the stone masons, wood carvers, and other carpenters and other skilled men who constructed the home.

Isaac D. Tuttle was called from Ravenna and Palmyra to Kent to do the stone mason work. Mr. Kent searched all over Northern Ohio for the finest wood to finish the home.

When the old covered bridge was torn down a few years earlier (1876?), he took what he thought were the finest pieces and seasoned them in the Alpaca Mill, of Ravenna, Ohio (which he had inherited from his father). They were then carved and placed in the house, somewhere near the west coach entrance. They are believed to be the three similar arch headers in the west entrance hall and in the main center hall.

The wood carvers came from New York and Cleveland. They lived in Kent until their work was finished, boarding in the DePeyster home on South Mantua Street.

The walls and partitions are solid brick. The cellar walls and entrances are very thick sandstone. The sloped portion of the roof was slate. The flat portion and gutters of the roof were tar and felt.

Marvin Kent moved into the home boasting 7335 finished square feet with twenty rooms, including a ballroom and ten fireplaces in 1884.

Notable Guests of the Kent Family

During the time the Kents lived in the homestead there was many notable personages enjoyed the hospitality of the Kent family. Four U.S. Presidents, who were their either before and after their term as President of the United States, have been overnight guests and slept in the southeast second floor bedroom. This room remains much the same as it did in those days including the furniture. It had a washroom with warm and cold running water, which was original to the home. The warm water came from a cistern located in at the third floor level.

A Monument to the Kent Family

Other notable features original to the home was a central vacuum cleaning system used to vacuum the first, second, and third floor carpets. It was operated with a bellows and a treadle mechanism in the basement. A closed vertical wooden shaft with vacuum ports on each floor allowed the hose to be inserted. The hose and vacuum were then run to the various rooms. This was real luxury in the 1880s. Marvin Kent said many times that he built this home as a monument to the Kent Family.

Historians have written that it was one of the most elegant and palatial private residence in Northern Ohio. Within and without there are evidence of a cultured taste in art and adornment. The third floor was used as a ballroom until the death of Kitty North Kent (the wife of William S. Kent, son of Marvin Kent).< The third floor was then closed to all social functions and used for storage purposes.

Continued Remodeling and Repairs

There was fire damage to the back servants quarter stairway portion of the house which was rebuilt. There is evidence of there construction in the difference of the wood trim and stair railings.

The third floor was remodeled and made suitable for the Lodge Room.

The 1.6 acre parcel which the homestead remained on, originally had a wrought iron fence enclosing the property. The fence was removed in 1917 and used for armament during the First World War. It was later partially replaced with the brick fence present today. Only the South entrance has been widened in December 2003.

The barn has been raised in 1956 because of cost of needed maintenance and the fact it was not used. The original slate portion of the roof along with the flat central area had been replaced over the years and the original slate no longer exists.

In 2002, an entirely new roof has been replaced again to protect the homestead from further water damage which was starting to occur. Most of the interior and exterior of the homestead, except for the third floor, remain much as it was when the Lodge took possession. A metal fire escape has been added to the east side to allow escape from the third floor. Wall coverings and carpeting has mostly been replaced. The woodwork was sanded and re-varnished sometime in the mid 1950s.

A Monument Deserving of Preservation

The homestead, which is in generally good structural condition, is becoming in need or restoration if it is to be preserved, as it deserves. In honor of the Kent family and all that they had done for the town of Kent and the heritage this very fine example of 1800s architecture, the masons initiated a non-profit society called Kent Home Preservation Society. This society is for the purpose of raising funds and coordinating the restoration of the home to its 1923 or earlier status. The society is open to anyone having interest in preserving the rich heritage the Kent Homestead brings to this community and stands as a symbol to our great nation especially during the period of time which it was built.

The Family of Marvin S. Kent

Zena Kent born in Middletown Conn. July 12, 1786 and was married when 25 years of age to Pamelia Lewis. In 1812, with his father, Zena came to Mantua, Ohio. His father died at an advanced age, Zena went back and got his wife and settled in Hudson, Ohio. There he met Captain Herman Oviatt. Zena taught school in the winters and worked as a carpenter for Capt. Oviatt in the summers.

In 1815 the firm of Oviattand Kent was formed. They opened a typical pioneer store in Ravenna. Zena bought out Oviatt in 1826, the same year Zena built the Portage County Courthouse. Zena Kent had 13 children 9 of which survived him.

Marvin Kent, the third born at Ravenna, Ohio September 21, 1816. Up to the age of 19 Marvin worked in his fathers store and went to school. Marvin listened to his teacher and studied arithmetic, his favorite subject. He received his knowledge of books at the Tallmadge Academy. At the age of 19 his father sent Marvin to buy the spring stock for the store. The following spring he was made a partner in the business.

In 1836 Marvin came to Franklin Mills to run the tannery in the Captain John Brown Building. While doing this Marvin married Maria Stewart, a daughter of the late Col. William Stewart. He ran the tannery until 1844 when he briefly ran a flower mill.

From 1848 to 1859 many great industries and homes were built. The master hand was Marvin Kent. The New York Pennsylvania and Baltimore Ohio Railroads were built. In 1853 Marvin Kent was elected Treasure of the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad Company. The car shop and machine shop for the Atlantic and Great Western R. R. were built in Franklin Mills.

The Franklin Manufacturing Co., Franklin Cotton Mills, The Turner and Sons Manufacturing Co., Kent Woolen Co. Franklin Glass Co., Rock Glass Works, Franklin Lathe Co., All of which Marvin had a hand in. In 1859 Marvin Kent was the first to petition on June 14, 1859, among three other men, the newly chartered Rockton #316 Free & Accepted Masons Lodge, in Kent, Ohio. Marvin was the first to become a charter member of this lodge.

In the ten years the town of Franklin Mills became very prosperous with the presents of the railroad and the Kent family industrial influence. Some townspeople thought the name should be changed. There were factions, one wanted to change the name to Rocktown or Rockton, the other preferred the name of Kent. The Rockton supporters believing they were in the majority, were about to ask for a charter for a Masonic Lodge and wanted the name to be the same as the town, Rockton Ohio. Marvin Kent was a supporter the new name of Franklin Mills to become Rockton. He felt Rockton to be appropriate because of the rocky edges along the Cuyahoga River and the Masonic Lodge had already adapted that name. Later the name Kent became favored by a majority and the town was renamed in Marvin Kent's honor in 1867.

Due to the industry of Zena Kent and his sons, the Kent family owned all the water rights along the Cuyahoga River in Kent. They donated land for the Kent Free Library, the first Roman Catholic Church in Kent and the Universalist Church.

The A.C. Williams flower mill was built in 1862. Kent National Bank opened in 1864, with Zena Kent as its first President. Zena Kent died suddenly at his residence in Kent Oct. 4, 1865, at the age of 79.

In 1866 the Parsons Lumber Co. was built. In 1876 the Kent Fire Dept. was organized. Marvin Kent became president of the Kent National Bank and in 1880 he began to build a new homestead. He moved into the new home in 1884 from his former home on South River Street. It later became the American Legion Club House.

Marvin Kent's only surviving son by his wife Maria, was William S. Kent who married Kitty North, born in 1851. They had no children. Kitty Kent, at age 35, (1886) was seriously burned when a kerosene heater used to heat the ballroom of the new homestead of Marvin Kent exploded while she was attending the stove.

Although William S. Kent came to the aid of his wife, she was badly burned in the explosion and sadly, Kitty died the following day.

Shortly after Kitty's death William S. Kent moved into the Kent homestead with his father. He lived there 15 years when he remarried to Mary Parsons in 1901.

Mary Parsons was part of the family which owned Parsons Lumber Co. William Kent was also active in the Kent businesses and started the Kent Courier as a publisher.

William succeeded his father Marvin as President of the Kent National Bank upon his fathers death in 1908. William S. Kent remained in the new homestead until his death in 1923. He bequeathed the homestead to his two nieces Mrs. John Reed and Mrs. Charles Curtiss.

The two nieces had lived in the homestead as young girls and occupied the southwest bedroom. Because Mrs. John Reed's husband, father and grandfather were all Masons as well as the fact Marvin Kent had been the first Charter member of Rockton #316 F & AM she favored the sale of the homestead to the Masons.

On November 1, 1923 Rockton Lodge #316 F. &A.M. bought and took possession of the Homestead.