If you have ever lived in an apartment at 717 Center Street, you
have lived in one of Ashland’s famous landmarks. When Cincinnati
businessman J.W. Banning built the home in 1873, the Ashland Press
called it “The most costly edifice to be erected.” The home and
landscaping covered two acres and cost $15,000 to build, making it
“the most elegant and valuable residence of our city.”
In all, Banning paid $10,000 for 18 acres of land which
extended on the east to what is now Eastern Avenue, on the south
almost to Ferrell Avenue and on the north to the present Martin House.
An 1874 city map shows a circular tree-lined drive in front of the house.
Banning is said to have chosen Ashland for the building site
because he felt the climate was more beneficial for his ailing wife than
it would be in Cincinnati. The July 15, 1875, Press account stated,
“The front fašade presents the main building, two stories high, the first, twelve fee and the second, ten feet, surmounted with a Mansard roof nine feet high which enclosed the attic.” When the building was completed, Banning invited everyone in the city to climb to the attic and take in the view.
“An octagonal vestibule 8 by 8 opens into a wide hall off which are a parlor 15 by 17 feet, a reception room 15 by 20 feet, a library 12 by 15 feet, and a bedroom 14 by 15 feet. About the center of the hall arises the variegated woodwork and polished mahogany railing of the stairway leading to the second floor and to the attic and roof above.” Various features of each room were described like “highly ornamental by windows,” or “beautiful costly marbleized mantels.”
The rear wing of the home is two stories high, 30 feet by 23 feet, a kitchen 12 by 21 feet the pantry and the back stairway.
Upstairs were three bedrooms and a sitting room in the front part, and tree bedrooms and a bathroom over the back part. The bathroom 7 by 11 feet was “furnished with all the modern conveniences in the way a bath tub etc. and supplied with cold and hot water from the leads.
The architect was T.S. McConnell of Cincinnati and the rough lumber was brought up from the Queen City. In fact, all the contractors were from Cleveland, Cincinnati, or Mansfield except for Kauffman and Burns of Ashland who did the iron and tin work.
Research has failed to turn up how Banning accumulated his wealth, how large a family he had, or how long he lived in the house. In 1902, H.A. Mykrantz, a local attorney bought the entire land and remodeled the home for his residence. Mykrantz was a native of Bryan and came here after graduation from high school. He studied law under leading local attorneys and was admitted to the bar on June 1, 1886. He had served as city solicitor and prosecuting attorney and was considered outstanding in his profession. He was a business partner of Judge Frank Patterson.
In 1926 the home was sold again: this time to Mr. and Mrs. Daniel C. Rybolt. He was a former high school principal and mayor of the city of Akron and had come to Ashland to join his brothers, W.L. and Clarence in the Rybolt Heater Company.
Rybolt had appeared on the Chautauqua circuit as a dynamic speaker and taught a Sunday school class in an Akron Methodist Church for 28 years and the stem class of the local church of 10. He frequently used the slogan, “the world makes way for the determined man,” and gave a great deal of his time to the betterment of fraternal orders. Rybolt died in 1936 and his widow remained in the home for several years.
Eventually, it was converted into apartments. Although a number of structural changes have been made, there still remain evidences of its former grandeur in the woodwork and the tall gothic doors and windows.