Address: 105 Chase Avenue
Architectural Style: Greek Revival; Italianate
Year Built: c. 1855
Architect/Builder: Unknown
Original Owner: Unknown

Robert S. French was a native of New York City, born there in 1827.  He moved to Gambier to attend Kenyon College in 1845, and graduated in 1849.  He studied medicine for three years following his graduation before purchasing 250 acres of land belonging to the college.  He operated a stock farm on this land for an additional three years.  Part of French's claim to fame is that he introduced mowing machines to Knox County, revolutionizing farming in this area for years to come.  On November 13, 1851 he married Mrs. Sarah A. (Hobb) Evans, who was the sister of Professor Alexander Hobb of Kenyon College.  After his initial pursuit of farming, French opened a drug and book store in this building in 1855, which he operated for fifteen years.  French's Store sold many different kinds of drugs, including patent medicines, to heal a wide variety of ailments.  He also sold stationary and other sundry items in his store.  French then began to work for J. H. Gauter & Co., which was based in Jersey City.  He traveled to 26 states and U.S. Territories in four years as an agent for this company.  By 1876 he completely handed the store over to his son, and by 1878 officially retired from life as a merchant.  French was highly active in village affairs, and like many members of the small community, served as a vestryman of Harcourt Parish.

A small restaurant was located in the rear of this store sometime around 1903, and by 1906 a barbershop owned by William Hunter occupied the main portion.  Hunter used the rear of his shop as a billiard hall, and the 2nd floor was used as the official meeting space for a fraternal society known as the Knights of the Maccabees.  By 1913 the building was used as a boarding house, most likely for Kenyon College students and faculty.

The house is heavily influenced by Greek Revival architecture with its large front gable and subtle cornice returns, but the windows were updated at some point in a more Italianate style.  The The full-length front porch was added in 1912 by Kenyon College, but fits well with the overall Greek Revival features of this building.  The porch roof is supported by smooth, round Tuscan columns.



Gambier District

District Properties