439 East Liberty

Serene and tree-shaded East Liberty is one of the oldest streets in the village of Medina. It is a supremely walkable neighborhood, and it is looking its best on this late summer morning. A lush canopy of leaves creates a cool tunnel over the narrow sidewalks,  and a sense of history seems to linger in Greek Revival doorways, and in the old-fashioned gardens riotous with color.

The 1855 Greek Revival home above  is typical of the lovingly restored and maintained dwellings on the street.

Every old house and every plot of land has a story.  Here are a few of them:

We begin with the ” Old Town Graveyard” on the north side of the street, a few steps east of Public Square. In the early days of the village, East Liberty Street was called “The Graveyard Road”  because the village burying ground was located there. One early resident recalled that “the bodies of the dead were taken to their final resting place upon a bier with four legs carried by four men and covered with a black pall, while a bell solemnly tolled.”

Some of the earliest settlers of Medina are buried in this sun-dappled space, including Captain Austin Badger who laid out the Square and constructed the first log cabin in the village of Medina.  Also at rest in this spot are two Revolutionary War veterans, as well as a young casualty of the Battle of Gettysburg.

A few steps away stands St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  The first St Paul’s Church was  small log cabin erected in 1817 in Medina Township. By 1832 a white, wooden structure was built on this location and was replaced in 1884 by this splendid, late-Gothic Revival church which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

St. Paul’s possesses several exquisite stained glass windows donated by early Medina families.

403 East Liberty Street

A few houses east of the church stands this beautifully restored Italianate Victorian structure, built in 1885 by H.H. Northrop for Mr. and Mrs. Dwight Clark. It was the home of a Medina County Treasurer in the nineteenth century. It is only one of a few Victorian dwellings  on this street where many homes predate the Civil War.

603 East Liberty

Walk to the end of the block.  On the corner of East Liberty and North Spring Grove stands an 1841 home that was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.  It was built by an English immigrant, Thomas Miller and stands on what was once a 90 acre farm.

Miller, an ardent abolitionist, created hiding places to conceal fugitive slaves in his home. These hiding places — a secret nook behind the fireplace as well as a covert space behind a bookcase — are still in existence today.

Near the fireplace, under the rug,  is a trap door leading to a walk-out cellar.  When it came time to move the slaves, the fugitives were led from the basement to the barn which once stood behind the house — then on to their next destination.

Cross East Liberty Street and walk back toward the Square.  Stop before 502 East Liberty.

502 East Liberty

This is the second oldest structure on the street.  Built in 1837, it served as a one-room school house and was called the East School.  Before the  Civil War, Medina had three such one-room schoolhouses.  In 1872, a large central school was constructed and the  little schoolhouses were sold and used as residences.  This is the only one of the three structures to survive.

Proceed to 440 East Liberty on the next block. The facade of this home was modernized sometime in the mid-twentieth century, but it is actually an 1854 Western Reserve structure with hand-hewn, bark-covered beams in the cellar.

440 East Liberty

The carriage step, to the right of the door, is a noted feature of this home. Carved on the side is the name “F. Hudson” — the name of a local physician who attained great notoriety for attempting to rob a grave.

In the nineteenth century it was difficult for doctors to obtain cadavers for medical research.  Therefore, medical experiments were performed on the unclaimed poor or upon bodies robbed from graves at night.

In 1875, in Montville Township, an indigent man named Tom King died and was buried in Potter’s Field.  His emaciated condition was of great interest to Dr. Hudson.  The following night, Hudson, accompanied by two assistants, went to the grave and proceeded to disinter Tom King’s remains.  Suddenly, someone shot at the group and hit Dr. Hudson in the eye.  Hudson lost the eye and it became his very public badge of shame.

One Response to “Historic East Liberty Street: A Virtual Walking Tour”

  1. w. swantek Says:

    I really am enjoying reading your blog. It’s wonderful to learn more about the rich history of our city. With respect to this post however, I would encourage you to also explore the history of the Congregational church that is also located on East Liberty street; it’s also just a few steps west of the Old Town Graveyard.

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