409 East Front Street

The Cook House

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The Cook House:

 

One of the more pretentious Victorian-period homes gracing East Front Street is quite in keeping with the prominence of its builder. He was Asher Cook, lawyer, judge, former mayor, state and national politician. It's one of our architectural jewels.

Asher Cook came to Perrysburg from Pennsylvania as a youngster in the 1820s. His family stayed here a few years then sought greener pastures in Chicago. Not liking the place, they returned here -- young Asher driving a few cattle on foot which, with a team of horses, represented his father's possessions.

house

409 East Front Street

He followed his father's trade as a stone mason and plasterer for a short time, also working as a laborer on the railroad east of here and as a common sailor on the lakes. But he thirsted for higher learning. Having a unique talent for languages, he learned to speak and read Latin, French, German and Spanish without having a college education. His private library would eventually contain some 275 volumes of those languages. He finally studied law under local attorney Willard V. Way, gaining admittance to the Ohio bar in 1849. Immediately thereafter he was elected Wood County Prosecuting Attorney and began his long professional career. Three years later he was elected Probate Judge.

During the cholera epidemic of 1854, Cook's wife was among the 120+ local victims. Thereafter  he went to Europe, studying for a year in Paris and Heidelberg. In 1858 he married Sophia Hitchcock, the daughter of a prominent Perrysburg merchant.

Cook began his political life as a Democrat but switched parties over the issue of slavery. At the Pittsburgh convention he took a leading role in the organization of what was to become the national Republican Party.

At the outbreak of the Civil War he raised and commanded a volunteer infantry company which took part in several engagements. He later commanded another company in the 144th Ohio Infantry. From 1862 until 1864 he represented Wood and Ottawa Counties in the Ohio General Assembly and was a delegate to the convention which nominated General U.S. Grant for President in 1868. From 1868 until 1870 he served as mayor of Perrysburg and in 1873 he was elected to the convention that revised the State Constitution, in which he played a prominent role.

This was the year he built his house at 409 East Front. Its style is Italianate which dominated American houses built in the Midwest between 1850 and 1880. It is brick with wood and stone trim and its noteworthy characteristics include tall, narrow windows with decorative wooden headers, broad eaves supported by massive single brackets, a comparatively shallow hipped roof, a large hexagonal two-story bay on the west side (square on the east side), and double front entry doors.

To fully appreciate the house as it originally stood, one must visualize a wooden porch running across the entire front. Telltale markings remaining on the brick indicate that the porch also turned the corner and ran along the west of the house as far as the window bay.

A masonry terrace on the Maple Street side and a frame extension to the rear on the east side are additions.

Homes of this character are said to be a peculiarly American development in that they would commonly have round-headed or hooded windows and either a tower or a rooftop cupola. This one does not. However, the still preserved carriage house in the rear more nearly represents the Italinate style with several of these features including a cupola.

Asher Cook was recognized as one of the best constitutional lawyers in the state and was active in all areas of Perrysburg community life. In his later years he traveled widely throughout the world. He died on January 1, 1892 at the age of 68 and his funeral was held in the house.

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