Norwich Township's Old Red House is rooted in history dating back to the earliest settlers of Columbus' suburbs.
For decades, it's been known by residents of Hilliard and neighboring Norwich Township as the Old Red House, and it's easy to see why. The farmhouse-style home at 3636 Cemetery Rd. sure is red. On a warm, sunny day, the vibrant paint contrasts stunningly against the bright blue sky and the nearly 2 acres of lush green grass. Now roughly 5,700 square feet with seven bedrooms, two post-and-beam garages and two courtyards, the estate's cluster of seemingly mini-houses topped with sloping shake rooftops weaves through the property like a maze.
It's old, too-at least a portion of it is. The house has grown from the core of a four-room cottage built on site in the 1860s by a member of the well-known Sells family-father and sons who came to Ohio from Pennsylvania and are credited with founding the city of Dublin. Those four rooms-two upstairs, two downstairs-still maintain much of their original form, with low ceilings, small closets and narrows stairs. Glass transom windows above doorways and wide-panel hardwood floors provide an authentic dose of 19th-century charm. A camelback extension in the 1920s added a master bedroom downstairs and an additional bedroom upstairs.
In 2000, when current owners Chip and Annie Weiant moved in with their three children, a second addition had already been made. They refer to it now as the East Wing, as it was built as an in-law suite and includes its own master bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. (Annie's parents lived there for nine years.) In 2006, they constructed the West Wing, yet another in-law suite with a great room, guest bedroom, two-and-a-half bathrooms and a full kitchen and dining room, for Chip's parents. Each section of the home is adjoining, yet they each have private entrances. It's been a multigenerational home for the Weiant family but could serve as a full-service bed and breakfast-and has been so approved by the county.
A Williamsburg color palette-blackish reds and brownish blues and greens-coupled with wide-panel hardwood floors and period-style windows used throughout the additions seamlessly connect new with old.
A plaque styled after those that mark national historic places stands in the front yard and reads: "This private residence served as a Sells family farm homestead." But which Sells family member first built the home some 150 years ago remains unknown.
The Northwest Franklin County Historical Society library has in its collection a 5-inch binder on the Sells family. Inside, there's record of Ludwick (Ludwig) Sells from Pennsylvania, whose sons Peter and Benjamin purchased 400 acres of land west of the Scioto River as a gift for their brother John, the man who is mostly credited with founding Dublin in 1810. There's reference to Peter, Ephraim and Lewis Sells, the brothers behind the legendary Sells Brothers Circus that opened in 1872, and Ephraim's son Allen. There's even mention of Abraham Sells, who in 1830 won Norwich Township's Grand Squirrel Hunt with a total of 150 squirrels, and Orange Sells, who served as justice of the peace and then mayor of Norwich Township in 1872. But there's no record of who first lived in the house on Cemetery Road.
Nonetheless, whoever built the Lincoln-era home generations ago left behind a historic treasure to be enjoyed for generations to come.
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