The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

October 23, 2013

Historic Park Haven and its contents go up for auction today

ASHTABULA — Another chapter in the historic Park Haven Nursing Home will be added today when auctioneers begin taking bids on the property.

The home, in its heyday, was a hotel with 25 rooms with a high-class reputation.

James L. Smith and his family bought the property in 1889, when it was just a house. They built an addition and turned it into a first-rate hotel known as the James Hotel.

They lived in an apartment on the second floor of this new wing and hired S.M. McCreary and his son, Thomas, to manage the hotel. The house now was expanded to 25 hotel rooms. Hot and cold water was distributed throughout the house and washstands were in many of the rooms.

The local newspaper reported the hotel, “a valuable addition to Ashtabula.”

Smith remained a bachelor, and after his father died, he and his mother continued to live in the hotel apartment. He maintained an office on Main Avenue to carry on his father’s real estate interests, which included land and businesses throughout Ashtabula County.

In 1902, Smith gave nearly 5 acres to the Ashtabula General Hospital Association for a building site. After the Ashtabula Railroad Bridge Disaster of 1876, people wanted a hospital in Ashtabula. Smith’s land donation helped open a hospital in 1904.

In 1904, Smith and his mother donated two lots behind Hotel James to the Methodist Episcopal Church and Society for a new church. The stone church was dedicated in 1906 and the name was eventually changed to First United Methodist Church.

One of Smith’s lasting gifts to Ashtabula is the monument erected in memory of the soldiers and sailors of the Civil War, their mothers and wives. The $1,380 monument was shipped from Woodbury Granite Co., Hardwick, Vt., by Ashtabula’s William Smith and Son Monument Co. for an additional $300.

His mother died in 1913 at the age of 91. Smith moved into the house south of the hotel after she died, mourning her loss, he sent her friend, Helen Keller, a ring and a letter. In return, Keller sent a letter, calling Smith mother “a beloved friend.”

When he died, he was a wealthy man and his will stated he wanted the hotel to become a home for aged women, in honor of his mother. When she died, there wasn’t a place for the homeless elderly except the County Infirmary in Kingsville.

The Smith Home for Aged Women was established in 1922 and continued until 1988. Smith’s  $500,000 estate was used for the continued operation of the home. It was sold in 1992, and 70 years of management by the Smith Estate Board of Trustees came to an end.

Today, Park Haven will be auctioned off to the highest bidder at 1 p.m. at 4533 Park Ave.

Dutton Auctions of Massillon is handling the auction of the former 50-bed nursing home/rehabilitation facility, which includes

office, restaurant and medical equipment, as well as furniture, pictures, holiday decorations and more. The facility also comes with a sprinkler and security system.

Items will be outside the facility, and items will be sold room-by-room, Blake Dutton said.

The building would make a great bed and breakfast or hotel and includes a $1 million addition on the backside, auctioneer Joel Dutton said.

There is no minimum bid set for today’s auction. Serious bidders need to have a check for $15,500 for a down payment and the recommended starting bid is $75,000.

A fire in a second floor room closed the long-term nursing home in March 2012.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Ann Stranman, who has taken quite an interest in the history of the facility, toured Park Haven Oct. 8. She sees a lot of potential for the building.

“I even went down in the basement, which appeared to be pretty dry, and found the tombstone I had heard was down there, which was pretty exciting for me,” she said. “With a little hard work, vision and financial means, I believe it could easily be converted into a hotel again or apartments, though it could be an assisted living facility, as well.”

The tombstone appears to belong to a Civil War soldier named T.J. Jackson. The Duttons don’t know how it got down there, but plan to return it to its proper owner and resting place, Dutton said.

— Some historical facts used in this article were taken from a booklet, “Smith Estate History,” written by Noreen Sippola Fairburn of Ashtabula, who gave permission to have the facts reprinted.

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