Address: 102 West Wiggin Street
Architectural Style: Gothic Revival - Carpenter Gothic
Year Built: c. 1856; 2008
Architect/Builder: Robert Wright
Original Owner: Unknown

This fine house has received national attention for its stunning architecture.  It was built for a Captain Brown in 1859 by Gambier carpenter Robert Wright.  Brown maintained a "Billiard Parlor and Oyster Palace" here until 1860, when the home was sold to Peter Neff, and inventor and businessman who helped develop, among other things, the tintype.  Neff was born in Coshocton County, Ohio in 1828.  After graduating from Kenyon College in 1849, Neff worked closely with Kenyon's Chemistry professor Hamilton L. Smith to develop an improved process to create the type of early photography known as tintypes.  The team worked on this process for three years before patenting their method in 1856, which became the first successful tintype process in utilized in the United States.  Neff opened a tintype plate manufactory in Cincinnati once that patent was obtained.  When the factory burned the following year, he moved the business to Middletown, Connecticut.  Neff bought this house when he returned to Gambier in 1860.  He was influential in developing the oil and natural gas industry in Knox County, founding the Neff Petroleum Company, and also in the manufacture of Diamond Black.  Diamond Black was the name that Neff used to describe the substance commonly known as lamp black.  Lamp black was a special pigment derived from carbon-rich soot, often the type that was left over from oil lamps.  This substance, especially Neff's Diamond Black, which was finer and less oily than standard lamp black, was a highly effective pigment that was used in paints and printing and lithographic inks.  Neff later employed this substance to tint photographic film.  He was also an amateur archaeologist, and had one of the largest collections of prehistoric American Indian artifacts in the state, most of which he collected from Knox County and the central Ohio region.  His daughter, named Elizabeth Clifford Neff, lived in this house after her father moved out in 1888, giving this house its name of "Clifford Place."


Master carpenter Robert Wright's design for this house was likely adapted from an architectural pattern book similar to those produced by professional architects like Andrew Jackson Downing.  It is one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the carpenter style to be found in Ohio.  The overall composition of the house is fairly symmetrical in a T-shape pattern with a cross-gable roof, and is distinguished by numerous forms of Gothic ornamentation such as elaborate tracery bargeboard in the eaves, lancet windows, and spires.  A large central porch extends from the front of the building.  The porch roof is supported by delicate Gothic Revival columns, with Tudor arch spandrels.  The porch also serves as a small balcony for the second floor, with quatrefoil balustrades and spire-like posts.  Two large bay windows, one in the west bay of the main facade and the other extending from the west elevation, also serve as small balconies.  The windows in these bays are defined by a Tudor arch that compliments the porch.  Additions to the rear (north) of the house were tastefully done so as not to detract from the home's grand architecture.  It currently serves as home of The Kenyon Review, Kenyon College's student-produced literary journal.  The large northern addition is known as the Cheever Room, and was added during the 2008 renovations, and hosts a number of lectures, seminars, and readings throughout the year.



Gambier District

District Properties