Sullivan, Ohio

John, Jeremiah, Lemuel, Nathaniel, Nathaniel, John, John

Ashland Times-Gazette, Friday, July 27, 2007

Family's old Sullivan house finds new home

By Jennifer Ditlevson, staff writer

Sullivan, OHIO -- Since 1840, one of the first homes built in Sullivan Township sat facing U.S. 224. After years of planning, homeowners Ray and Ginny Dilley and several onlookers saw the house lifted from its crumbling brick foundation Thursday and moved 250 feet behind its original position to preserve a piece of Sullivan history.

"The red bricks lasted their lifetime, so really, it's no shame," Ray said.

Ray said workers devoted several half-days to prepare for the big move of the Parmely House, but the majority of the work was completed Wednesday and Thursday. Foreman Frank Sacramone said the goal for Thursday was to get the house next to its new foundation. (Photo credit: Photo By Duane Martin / Times-Gazette)

Ginny said she and her husband knew they would have to move the home as soon as they moved in the mid-1990s. But until this year, they were not able to carry out the project. Along with having to deal with a decaying foundation, the Dilleys believed the house to be too close to U.S. 224. The Dilleys finally were able to begin the project in mid-June with the digging of their new basement.

"Back when the house was built, [U.S. 224] was just a dirt road, but things have changed since then," Ginny said.

The Original Homeowner

Slyvanus was born March 31, 1784, at Wilmington, Vt. He and Lois Gould (1789-1873) were married in 1806 and lived at Dover, Vt., for several years. His father, John, was a Revolutionary War soldier.

In 1816, Sylvanus traveled by horseback to the Western Reserve of Ohio to assist surveying Sullivan Township and returned to Vermont that fall. The following year his family and six others made their move to Ohio: a 12-week journey by wagons pulled by teams of oxen; Sylvanus walked the entire trip. In 1820, he became Sullivan's first postmaster. The Parmelys moved to Elyria in 1822 but returned to the Sullivan farm for good in 1833. He and Alexander Porter erected a steam grist and saw mill and established a dry goods store at the town center.

Sylvanus was elected a member of the Ohio House in 1845, frequently walking to and from Columbus when the General Assembly was in session. He lobbied for the creation of "Ellsworth County" -- taking portions of Ashland, Lorain, Medina and Huron counties -- with Sullivan as its seat. When that fell through, he terminated his legislative efforts

He and Lois had 10 children. He died Jan. 23, 1874, and was buried at the Sullivan Cemetery along State Route 58.

Eventually, the couple would like to replace the original wood paneling with siding, install new windows and refurbish the upstairs bathroom. "Ginny wants to keep the house looking as original as possible and I want it to be as efficient as possible," Ray said. "I'm sure we'll find a happy line in the middle, but when this house was made, they didn't know how much fuel cost."

To restore some of the authentic feel to the home, Ginny said she would like to hire some Amish workers to repair woodwork in the home that has been damaged over the years.

Though the Dilleys want to preserve the home, they had to make a few major modifications to the structure for the move and for the safety of the family. For heating and cooking purposes, the builders in the 19th century put a large brick chimney in the middle of the home. But it since has begun to disintegrate. The family recently had to remove the chimney, which in turn destroyed several walls that had been plastered to the chimney. "The workers offered to brace the chimney, but it would have eventually had to come down anyway because it was in danger of falling in on itself," Ginny said. "That will give us closets, though, and we've never had closets in the house."

The Dilleys also had to remove the old garage and barn attached to the rear of the home, which was more difficult than anticipated.

Over the course of the house-moving process, the Dilleys had to deal with several unexpected events. Just a few days before relocating the home, workers hit a gas line while the family was inside packing and securing breakable items in boxes. "We had to do an immediate evacuation of our parrot, two dogs and cat," Ginny said.

Until the house settles on its new foundation, the Dilleys will live in a trailer they acquired for the project. The family may be living in it anywhere from six to 30 days. During the move, the family lost all gas, cable and telephone lines to their home. Ginny said her daughter, 6-year-old Libby Dilley, was a little concerned about having to stay in the camper, but was excited for the whole process to be finished.

Workers had to clear several trees to create a path for the house to travel to its new foundation. The house first moved 100 feet away from its final destination to preserve some of the old trees that have been on the property for decades.

Overall the Dilleys cannot project the exact cost of the project, but they have received several estimates. They also are receiving some help from family to cover the cost of all the services.

"I love the new basement, but I'm so nervous because I don't want the house to fall," said 13-year-old Joseph Dilley..

Sacramone of Nova, however, didn't seem so concerned about hoisting and transporting the 90-ton load. "There's no difference between moving this home from any other old timber-frame," he said. "You have to look out for rot, but it's in decent shape." Sacramone works for Klier Structural Movings of Wellington.

Lifetime Sullivan resident and Sullivan Township zoning inspector Janice Steele took off work to watch the move.

"I've been in the home during the 1950s and '60s," Steele said. "I just think it's absolutely the neatest thing they're moving and restoring the house -- it's too bad more people won't be here to see it."

Steele had been at the Dilley home since 8 a.m. with her grandson, 4-year-old Shacoy Steele, taking photos with her phone. She can claim five generations of her family as Sullivan natives.

Original owner of the home, Sylvanus Parmely, had the house built in 1840 and was one of the founding members of Sullivan Township. The Parmelys were known to be a well-off family with several generations of the family serving in county positions in churches, schools and government.

The home passed through many hands over the past 170 years, however, and much of the history splintered with time, leaving the Dilleys without as much information as they would like. According to Ginny, an elderly friend from church used to work on the farm and had information for her, but was unavailable for comment.

The Dilleys bought the dairy farm and house after just one visit to Sullivan. "We were looking for a dairy farm and my husband loved the land," Ginny said. "I was lucky because most farm houses aren't so pretty."

Former owners JoAnn and the late Jim Richards had the house in their family for years. The farm had been in JoAnn's family since 1922. The Richards, however, never lived in the Parmely House. They lived in the farmhouse next to it on the property and rented the Parmely House to various residents. "They actually lived on the farm for the first three months," Ginny said. "They set us up with all things around here and kind of parented us when we were new in Sullivan."

While workers prepared for the move, Joseph and his best friend, Trustin Downs, anxiously searched for any treasures from the past. In the search, they found several objects, including a penny from 1913 and a silver dollar from the 1940s.

"It's been an adventure," Ginny said. "Everyone who has worked for us or helped us has done a great job and has been patient with us when we're always doing other things with keeping the dairy farm going."

Down to the moment Klier workers began moving the home Thursday, Ray and Ginny continued to feed and milk their cows.

Ginny also found things for the first time in the old basement because there never had been electricity installed in that part of the home. She hopes to find a cornerstone of the township in the foundation with engraved information about Sullivan. To commemorate the history of the home, Ginny plans to eventually create an antique-style wall with memorabilia from Sullivan and former owners hung on the walls.

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