I get asked all the time, “Which is the oldest house in Akron?”
The answer is, we’re not 100% sure. The Summit County Historical Society’s John Brown House is the No. 1 contender. That house was built sometime around 1830. It has belonged to the Historical Society since 1942 and is no longer a private residence.
According to the records available, Cobble-Cote, also known as the Barton Home, at 2060 White Pond Drive, is the oldest private residence in the city. Cobble-Cote is a Greek Revival cobblestone house, one of only two known houses in this style in the state. The other is the C.R. Howard House in Aurora.
According to the original deed, the property of Cobble-Cote was sold by Nancy Perkins, the wife of General Simon Perkins, to John and Fanny Ayers for $216 in 1827. General Perkins, of course, was one of the founders of Akron.
While it is likely the Ayerses erected a structure, such as a log cabin, on the property, the present cobblestone house was built around 1834. The house was continuously occupied until about World War I. It was then abandoned and fell into disrepair until it was purchased in 1924 by Frederick Albrecht, the founder of the ACME grocery store chain, for his daughter Peg and her new husband, Fred Barton, as a wedding gift.
The Bartons immediately undertook a massive renovation with the help of locally renowned architect Albert Good. Because of Cobble-Cote’s unique style, the Bartons had some difficulty locating a stonemason who knew how to repair the damaged foundation and cobblestone masonry, but they found a man in his 70s who had some expertise. Finding a mason today with such skills is likely even more difficult. Good acquired wood from nearby homes and barns that were being torn down and used it to replace the floors. He installed mantelpieces recovered from a demolished house in Tallmadge. When the project was complete, the 1,415-square-foot house with nine tiny rooms was transformed into a more modern, spacious home.
The Bartons named the house Cobble-Cote. “We feel that Cobble-Cote means a little house but a very large home,” wrote Peg Barton in Akron Topics sometime after the project’s completion in the 1920s.
A dentist bought the house after the Bartons passed away. The current owner, Joyce Marting, purchased the house in 1965. She knew the Bartons and desired to keep the home and its gardens in good condition. She painstakingly cared for the aging home. Her efforts were recognized many times, including by Ohio Magazine and the Smithsonian Institution.
One day while digging in her garden, Marting uncovered a millstone — and then another, and another. A massive collection of ninety-two millstones was eventually found on the property. No one knows how they ended up on the property. Today, they compose a walkway in the backyard garden.
Marting moved into Ohio Living Rockynol in 2016 and the house was rented out until she and her family decided it was time to sell. Cobble-Cote was listed for sale in August 2018.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Bill Marting, Joyce Marting’s son, and Barb Snyder, the listing agent, to learn more about the history of the house and to look inside. A bookcase in the dining area was lined with old photographs and watercolor paintings of the house. A copy of the 1827 deed was also on display.
“When my parents bought the house, I was already living at school. But I remember hitting my head on the bathroom door almost every night when I would come for visits,” Bill says. “My mother is sad, but feels good overall about selling.” Maintenance of a nearly 200-year-old building can be overwhelming, and after all these years, it is a relief to let go of the burden.
Cobble-Cote found a buyer one day after it was listed. According to Bill and Barb, the soon-to-be owner is another appreciator of old houses and they are excited to take on the responsibility. Joyce and Bill are encouraged that a like-minded soul will be caring for the home. I’m sure the Bartons would also be pleased that their “little house” will remain in good hands.
Charlotte Gintert is an archaeologist by day and a photographer by sunrise and sunset. You can check out her photos at www.capturedglimpses.com and follow her on Instagram at @capturedglimpses.