665 N. Bever St., Wooster, Ohio

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The large wood frame building once located at 665 N. Bever St. was erected during the Summer of 1869 by Dr. Joseph M. Irwin, a 66-year-old retiring physician from Mansfield, Ohio, who came to Wooster to start a new business with his wife and daughter. He wanted to open a boarding house to shelter all the incoming college students whom he was convinced would be flooding the Wooster landscape when the new school opened in the Fall of 1870. What Dr. Irwin had not anticipated was competition. Competition from local towns people who cheerfully opened their homes and took in University students or offered cheap rooms for rent. Of the 61 University of Wooster students in 1870 only 7 opted to board at Dr. Irwin's Boarding House: William A. Ervin, Andrew E. Creighton, Perley M. Cartmill, James Connell, Joseph R. Miller, Horace L. Smith, and James Brady. Photograph by S. Zimmerman

Also Known As

  • The Barracks
  • Culbertson Eating Club
  • Old Music Hall

History of Property

Original land owners Enos and Lucretia Foreman sold Lot #160 for $1,200 (in the 1870 renumbering of Wooster it became Lot #1340 which it still is to this day) to Joseph M. Irwin.

Summer of 1869 Dr. Irwin built a large wood frame boarding house on the land.

On November 5, 1870 Joseph M. Irwin sold the property to his son John C. Irwin for a reported $6,000. John Irwin turned around and sold the property back to his father on November 10, 1870 for an estimated $500 according to the 50-cent revenue stamp on the deed. Then December 1, 1870 the Wooster Daily Republican reported that: Dr. Irvin's (Irwin) boarding house came very near being destroyed by fire last Tuesday evening.

After the suspicious fire, the true nature of Dr. Irwin’s financial troubles came to light during a November court session. It seems contractor Joseph Caldwell had procured all the lumber used in construction of the boarding house from Curry Lumber. James Curry, John Curry, David Curry and Wellington Curry, partners under the firm name D.C. Curry & Co., took Joseph M. Irwin to court to obtain judgement against him to recover the $525.04 he owed them. They won, and Irwin was ordered to make the payment by February 20, 1871.

Irwin could not make the payment and the Wayne County Sheriff, George Steele, ordered that the property be sold at public auction on March 25, 1871 to pay off the debt.

The real estate investment partnership of Captain G.P. Emerich and partner Curtis V. Hard bought the property for $4,000 at public auction.

In 1872 Emerich, Hard, and their wives decided to dissolve their partnership and William T. Culbertson and his wife partnered with Curtis Hard on the house for $5,000.

By 1873 William T. Culbertson and his wife Sara owned and ran the boarding house and the "Culbertson Eating Club" was known for providing good meals.

In 1875 the Culbertson's no longer wanted the white elephant on the hill and sold it to the real estate company, Emrich, Barrett & Co., made up of Captain G.P. Emerich, Bethel Barret, Perry Miller, and Jacob Derr for $5,750.

After nine years the big boarding house again hit the skids. Emerich and company had over extended themselves and owed the Creston banker, W.P. Stebbins & Sons, $1,782. To settle the account the house was again sold by the Wayne County Sheriff at public auction on September 15, 1884. The deed records show the highest bid was $2,778 from Mr. A.E. Taylor, whose full name was Archibold Alexander Edward Taylor, better known as President A.A.E. Taylor of the University of Wooster.

Mr. Taylor being an astute businessman, or taking advantage of the situation, turned around and sold the property to the University of Wooster on November 18, 1884 for $5,000.

After the property became part of the University of Wooster it entered what might be called it's glory days: it became a useful building and came to life within the Wooster community. It became a destination place for townspeople on most Saturday afternoons.

The college turned the boarding house into it's new Conservatory of Music and eventually came to be known by it's next nickname: the Old Music Hall.

They installed their first Director of Music, professor Karl Merz in the house. Dr. Merz and his family gave the old boarding house a new vitality and purpose. Merz and his family lived on the upper floors and gave lectures and music lessons on the lower floors.

Alvin Rich reported in his August 4, 1949 Daily Record news article about the house that at some time during Professor Merz's association with the college, he made some changes in the building to provide better living quarters for himself and to create a small hall or assembly room for concerts and lectures. This room was reported to have the capacity for about 300 people and was the only "bright spot" in the building's history. In this assembly room there were free lectures and concerts every Saturday afternoon that were always well attended.

By 1889, Karl Merz had so successfully grown the music department that he needed to hire extra assistants to help teach all the students he had attracted and the house became cramped for space. During the Summer of 1889 practice rooms were added onto the house. Which explains the original purpose of the large addition that extends eastward on the back of the house.

However, Professor Merz did not get to enjoy the extra space for very long. At the beginning of January 1890 Karl Merz developed a heavy cold but continued to teach as long as he was able to go downstairs and meet with his classes. As the month wore on, the cold grew worse. It developed into pneumonia and he became bed-ridden two days before his death. On January 30, 1890 at 4:30PM Karl Merz died in his bed on the upper floor of the big house. After his death the body lay in state in his beloved assembly hall on the lower level and for two hours a steady stream of people came to the house to express their condolences.

The University continued to operate the Music department out of this building until 1912 when it no longer met the needs of the college and it was sold to David J. Thomas and Glen H. Raymond and their wives for $5,000. The two families being related as David Thomas's daughter Florence E. Thomas married Glenn Hyde Raymond in 1903 and were well-known in the Akron, Ohio area. David Thomas and Glen Raymond, were both grocers working for other firms in 1912, but after purchasing the big house on N. Bever street in Wooster they decided to go into business for themselves. Sometime between 1912 and 1914 they built the storefront addition onto the southern front side of the building and by 1915 the "Thomas & Raymond Grocery" was running at this location.

Then in 1920 David Thomas, Glen Raymond, and their wives sold the property to Zenas W. Zimmerman and his wife for about $7,272. They immediately turned around and sold the property a day later to Meyer Shapiro, who ran the Wooster Iron & Metal Co., for $8,000. Meyer Shapiro never lived in the house and only owned it as an investment property in which he collected rent for rooms and the grocery store business.

During the time Meyer Shapiro owned the property the following businesses operated out of the storefront addition to the house:

  • Kirk & Dalby Grocery 1919-1922 a partnership between Spring St. residents Earl W. Dalby and Dwight H. Kirk.
  • Dalby Grocery 1923-1927 Earl Dalby ran the business by himself.
  • Lerch & Conrad 1928-1932 a partnership between John W. Lerch, a Sterling resident at the time, and Harvey W. Conrad living on College Ave. in Wooster.
  • Conrad's Food Store 1933-early 1940s when John Lerch left the business in 1932 to start Lerch Pastry Co. that developed the locally infamous Lerch's Donuts, Harvey Conrad continued to run the store himself. However, it was no longer in business by the time the 1946 Wooster City Directory was printed.
  • Doty Upholstery Co. 1949 the last business to operate out of the old grocery store addition was run by Donald L. Doty but he was out of business by the time the 1952 Wooster City Directory was printed.

Meyer Shapiro held onto the property until 1946 when he transferred ownership to Samuel Shapiro, Ida Guttman, and Rosabelle Caplan for one dollar. They held onto the property for ten years and Alvin Rich in his 1949 Daily Record article, noted that it sat empty for a number of years between 1946 and 1951 but had started renting "apartments" by 1952.

In 1956 Samuel Shapiro, Ida Guttman, and Rosabelle Caplan sold the property to Thomas R. Long and Beryl M. Long for about $10,000 according to the $11 conveyance fee stamps on the deed. They continued to rent apartments in the three different sections of the building: main house, back addition, and storefront addition.

The Long's sold the big house in 1969 to Paul H. Snyder and Paul Haston and their wives for an estimated $29,500 who also utilized it as a rental property. In 1972, Paul Snyder and his wife sold the property to John R. Sanderson and his wife Reba for roughly $25,500 who took over landlord duties.

Reba Sanderson sold the house for $60,000 to Jeffrey and Kathleen Slusser in 1987 and they have owned the property ever since that time renting apartments.

By 2012 the 143-year-old house at 665 N. Bever street had deteriorated to the point that according to the Wooster City Building Inspector, Tim Monea, the house was unfit for human habitation due to unsanitary conditions, dilapidation, and questionable structural integrity. It had so many problems that it was unreasonable to even try to repair the structure. Therefore, the house was condemned by the City and demolished with Mr. Slusser's consent using money from the Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Grant Program. These Grant funds come from a state and federal settlement with the nation's five largest mortgage services — Bank of America Corporation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Company, Citigroup, Inc., and Ally Financial, Inc. (formerly GMAC) — over foreclosure abuses and fraud, and unacceptable mortgage practices. The money was distributed to each of the counties in the state based on foreclosure figures and Wayne County was awarded $426,204 for demolition purposes. How much of that money was used in demolishing 665 N. Bever St. was unknown.

In 2013, after 143 years of service, the old house at 665 N. Bever St. was bulldozed into oblivion.

Newspaper articles




  • August 04, 1949: "This Structure Was Built Around 1870 as Girl' Dorm" by Alvin Rich, The Daily Record, p. 13.