The city’s historic structures and landmarks offer a look at years past
As an early town of the Western Reserve, Aurora lays claim to more than 100 century homes sprinkled throughout the township. Additionally, many other historic local landmarks still stand to remind us of Aurora’s commercial, educational and religious past. It is impossible to list all of them here, but the following is a representative sample.
The Congregationalist Church
Church in Aurora, 146 S. Chillicothe
Gracing the center of town is the Victorian gothic revival church known as the Church in Aurora. Although today it is a community church, the building was constructed by the Congregationalists in 1872.
They had originally built a brick church on this site in 1823, but it was demolished amid much controversy to make way for the present white frame structure. The bell in the octagonal steeple was forged in Troy, N.Y. in the year of the church’s construction.
District Schoolhouse No. 5
Town Hall, 130 S. Chillicothe
Aurora Center School No. 5 was located on this site as early as 1820. The current building was opened in 1882 as a two-room, two-story school, and expanded in 1894 to four classrooms.
Soon after, Aurora centralized it’s school system, the first town in Portage County to do so, resulting in all students attending classes in this building. The structure was sold to the township in 1914 and remodeled for use as Town Hall.
Samuel James Shop
Chamber of Commerce, 173 S. Chillicothe
The Hurd Store and home were originally on this site. In 1904, Samuel James removed the frame structure and built his stove and tin shop. The historical concrete blocks used in building the rusticated cast structure were cast on site. All early cast blocks in the community are of the same pattern and aggregate composition. The Pioneer Tavern occupied the building for many years until 1985 when the Chamber of Commerce took it over and renovated it in a plan to upgrade Town Center.
Sheldon-Harmon & Sons Store
Chet Edwards Store, 182 S. Chillicothe
The original central block of this store was built in 1838-40 by Ebenezer Sheldon II, a member of the first family of Aurora, who used it as a residence and a store. Later his heirs sold the property to C.R. Harmon, who along with his sons, used it as a store until the 1940’s. The north wing was moved to this site in the early 1850s from a lot further north on Chillicothe.
Samuel Forward House(1815 House)
Three Elizabethes, 170 S. Chillicothe
This building was built in 1815 as a house for Judge Samuel Forward and his family, pioneer settlers from Connecticut. Samuel used his contacts in the East to direct westward settlers to Aurora Township, greatly accelerating its early growth.
He served as the first elected justice of the peace and associated judge of the Portage County Court. Records indicate Forward kept an inn which served as the center of Aurora’s social and political life. Nelson Effleston converted the inn into a residence between 1840 and 1850, adding Greek revival sections to the federal style main portion.
by James Converse, the owner of a nearby store. In 1839, he sold it to leaders in the Baptist movement in Aurora, who planned to use it for their minister.
The Rev. Samuel R. Willard returned to the Aurora congregation from Bedford in 1843 and lived in the house for four years. Thus the house has the distinction of being the boyhood home of Archibald Willard, the artist who panted “The Spirit of ’76.”
Aurora Train Station
Demming Financial, 13 New Hudson
This site has been the location of three train stations, the first two having burned down. In 1866, William McDonald was the ticket agent, and his son Johnny followed at age 17, making him the youngest station master in the late 1800s
In 1904, the current structure was build to resemble the previous one that burned. During this era, with Aurora the cheese center of the U.S., more cheese was shipped from this station than any other in the nation.
F.M. Treat General Store
Bowen Block, 330 E. Garfield
Located just east of the railroad tracks on the south side of Garfield Road, this two-story brick commercial building was constructed in 1899 for Frank Treat by his father J.M. Treat to replace an earlier wooden store destroyed by fire. The east side of the building was used for retail establishments, with residential units above. The west side was a grain elevator.
C.R. Howard House
411 E. Garfield
Chester Howard was a prominent miller in Aurora. In 1853, he razed the existing house on this site and built the current gothic revival structure. The house is distinctive with its coursed cobblestone walls and gingerbread finishing touches. The Chagrin River runs behind the house and Howard ran a grist mill on the west bank and a sawmill on the east side.
Sheldon Family Homestead
|Spring Hill Farm, 1113 E. Pioneer Tr.
This farm is near the site of the first log cabin in the township built by Capt. Ebenezer Sheldon when he settled here in 1799. A dig paid for by the city’s Landmark Commission took place in May to locate the exact site of the cabin. The surrounding acreage saw a succession of homes built by the Sheldon family, the present home having been erected in 1851 by Albert Sheldon, grandson of Ebenezer.
Editor’s note: Information for these sketches was taken from the Preservation Plan for Aurora, Mark A. Gilles, AIA et al.