Ridgewood is a 2.5-square-mile area comprised of 290 houses and located fewer than two miles north of downtown Canton. The entire neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places — the only Stark County neighborhood with that distinction.
To earn the honor, a neighborhood has to prove it is worthy.
“We are indebted to our predecessors for their record keeping,” said Ridgewood’s current historian, Deborah Thomas, who keeps meticulous records of everything newsworthy happening in the area. “We were deemed meritorious because of our link to industry here in Stark County.”
Executives from the Hoover Co., Diebold, Union Metal and the many local steel facilities built homes in Ridgewood.
It also was home to respected doctors such as Loyal Leavenworth, Stark County’s first obstetrician, and Joseph Toot, an ophthalmologist. Store owners Harry S. Mann of Stern & Mann’s and William Erlanger, owner of Stark Dry Goods, lived there, as did educator Jessie Mason, just to name a few.
The original frame farmhouse at 140 19th St. NW was built by noted Canton schools superintendent John Lehman. It was the only property constructed on the land prior to a residential development project begun in 1919 and was in the Belden family for many years.
Renowned architects such as Herman Albrecht, John Sherwood Kelly, Charles Firestone, and Louis Hoicowitz were commissioned to create highly individualized and detailed homes for these important
men and their families.
Between 1919 and 1930, 185 homes were constructed by the Leonard Development Agency.
George A. Leonard founded the Leonard Insurance Agency that still exists today. His wife was Louise Leonard, formerly Louise Brothers of the family that owned Canton Hardware. Her brother, Arthur Brothers, became one of the neighborhood’s prominent builders with his partner, architect John Sherwood Kelly.
When you talk to residents of Ridgewood, they often will refer to their house by the person who built it.
Fred Gibbs grew up in the Leonard house.
His parents moved to Ridgewood with his three older siblings in 1935. As he grew up, the entire neighborhood became his playground.
“My parents didn’t allow me to have a bicycle because of the traffic,” he remembers, but he was permitted to pull his wagon and ride his scooter everywhere. “It was perfectly safe.”
At the time, his 19th Street home had a backyard that went all the way to 21st Street. A house now sits in between.
Gibbs guesses that at some point real estate taxes caused some owners to sell off the extra lots. The brick streets and old-fashioned street lights make it easy to be nostalgic. Gibbs said he can close his eyes and be a kid in Ridgewood again by just the scent of lilacs.
“I remember we had a lot of fruit trees in our backyards — pears, sour cherries, apple trees — it was a wonderful place to play tag,” he said.
Upon moving back to Ridgewood in 2009, Gibbs said, one of his first tasks was to plant forsythia, a plant from his childhood.
And, said Gibbs, every child who grew up in the neighborhood remembers that 23rd Street would close in the winter for the kids to sled-ride.
While most homes had maid’s quarters, live-in help and even chauffeurs, Gibbs said he does not remember thinking of himself as overprivileged.
“All were welcomed in our house. There was no social strata. We didn’t stay indoors, we went out and played ball all day,” he said, and besides, “You had Avondale, and that was pretty swanky.”
Just like the people who live in her neighborhood, Thomas said, the houses, too, have different personalities.
That is because the homeowners employed master craftsmen to create detail that would be hard to replicate today.
As the historian, Thomas has a book that was painstakingly assembled by Ridgewood residents beginning in 1977. Each page has a photo and detailed description of a home. It was a necessary task to achieve historical status, and was precipitated by the city’s plan to pave over the last remaining brick street.
Thomas credits Ridgewood resident Sherry Carpenter and her committee for rallying the neighborhood.
“I’m so personally grateful to those residents who worked so diligently and researched every house,” Thomas said. “It was true diligence, dedication and belief. They respected the people who went before them.”
Homeowners association President Christine Peterson said the historical status means residents are committed to the upkeep of their homes and that property values are not seeing the drastic decline seen in other areas.
“It’s definitely a destination,” she said. “It’s a place where there is history and a community of people who share the same vision.”
245 23RD ST. NW
WILL AND GLENNA FRIESEN
YEAR BUILT: 1929
HOMEOWNERS SINCE: 2008
When Will and Glenna Friesen moved to Canton from California in 2008, they left behind their 1917 Arts and Crafts-style home. So with Will’s job at Malone University just around the corner from Ridgewood, the neighborhood was a natural fit.
“We love old houses. We were looking for an old house,” said Will Friesen, now interim president of the school. “They need so much work, but you fall hard for them.”
The couple’s 1929 English Tudor, designed by Herman J. Albrecht, was updated by the family that lived there for three years before them.
“We love all the amazing woodwork and doors. It has a nice entrance and spacious dining room that comfortably seats 12,” he said, adding that having room to entertain is very important in his job.
“It’s a gracious entertaining area, yet very practical.”
Upstairs, the couple has three bedrooms and three full baths. Two other rooms that once served as maid’s quarters are used as a small television room and an office area.
The Friesens have refurbished the slate and have had some copper work done on the front of the home.
They have also added some new landscaping.
Friesen said he enjoys living so close to his job and walks to work whenever possible.
311 21ST ST. NW
YEAR BUILT: 1936
HOMEOWNER SINCE: 2005
“I keep trying to move away, but then I’m back,” he said with a laugh. “These homes are a great value. They are great houses with a lot of quality details. They’re hard to reproduce.”
Jadick said the 2,200-square-foot home is modest and medium-size compared to others there.
He has forged relationships with his neighbors, who can relate to the challenges of living in an older home. They often share ideas and names of contractors who can help.
“We have a common bond. You have to love your house to survive it,” he said. “They (the houses) need constant attention.”
One of his favorite details in the home is the family room, added by the original owner in 1953. It has 19 windows, which inspire him to maintain his gardens and add a stone patio. The three-bedroom home has wrought-iron hardware throughout, which includes thumb latches instead of knobs.
“They give it a real authentic, colonial feel,” Jadick said.
He also loves the unique crystal wall sconces throughout the lower level that were made from a disassembled French two-tiered chandelier. His fireplace, he said, has beautiful wood bookcases on each side.
“I like that the home only had two previous owners,” he said, “because the houses tend to not change much. You find things still have (their) original integrity.”
901 22ND ST. NE
ANN AND GARY BRADWAY
YEAR BUILT: 1945
HOMEOWNERS SINCE: 1981
Built in 1945, the Bradway home, on the east side of Market Avenue N, is one of the newer homes in the neighborhood. The two-story, French Normandy-style home was designed by local architect Harry Frank for Morris Wilkof, then president of Morris Steel & Supply.
For Ann, it was the large backyard that attracted her to the property. On their side of Ridgewood, 23rd Street doesn’t interrupt 22nd and 24th streets, so the yards are very deep, she said.
“We have a pergola and a pond,” she said. “It’s a little paradise back there.”
Inside the house, Ann said, she loves her leaded glass windows, unusual because they are clear and diamond-shaped.
She also loves the hardwood floors throughout the house, a perfect canvas for her collection of Oriental rugs, one of her passions. She earned her master’s degree in fine arts, focusing on Oriental rugs and textiles.
An admirer of old homes in general, Ann said she and her husband have worked hard to protect the integrity of the home, often rebuilding and refurbishing instead of replacing.
Most of all, the couple, who raised two children there, love the oldfashioned neighborhood atmosphere of Ridgewood.
“It’s a very cool thing,” she said. “All our neighbors had kids the same age. Our yards were connected. It really is a neighborhood. We look out for each other.”
211 23RD ST. NW
STELIO AND KATHLEEN FLAMOS
YEAR BUILT: 1931
HOMEOWNERS SINCE: 1997
The five-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath home sits on just more than an acre and has one of the biggest lots in Ridgewood, with the yard spanning from 23rd to 25th streets.
The home has 4,900 square feet, not including the third floor, which once was a ballroom and now serves as a studio area.
“We completely renovated it back to its period,” said Stelio, who spent six months working on the house before they moved in.
They did open up the small kitchen area and add some modern conveniences. Kitchens were much smaller back when the home was built, because a staff would prepare meals and bring them to the dining room for the family.
“There is a maid’s quarters off the rear upstairs staircase,” said Stelio.
They use that area as a guest suite now.
Another major renovation was adding central air conditioning and two high-efficiency furnaces. Those additions required them to take up the hardwood floors to lay the ductwork.
“We use the steam heat also,” said Stelio, describing the steam radiators on the second floor and the beautiful, ornate grates on the first floor. “The goal was to upgrade it to today’s standards, but the decor is in line with what it was like back in the day.”
Of the neighborhood, he said, “I love the historical aspect of it, but more importantly, the construction, craftsmanship and detail of the homes.”
345 22ND ST. NW
CHRISTINE AND DONALD PETERSON III
YEAR BUILT: 1927
HOMEOWNERS SINCE: 1996
The couple grew up in similar old houses in Alliance about a block apart and both were excited to find a 1920s Center Hall Colonial in a neighborhood of like-minded people who care about preservation.
Although the couple had no children at the time, the double city lot with a large side yard was another feature they loved.
The home has three floors, plus a finished basement. The top floor was at one time the maid’s quarters and now serves as guest rooms.
Christine said her pine wood floors are like an English armoire and are one of her favorite details. The couple completely remodeled the kitchen when they moved in but, she said, “It fits the house.”
“People who love old houses but want new conveniences can do that here,” she said. “It can be done because these houses have great bones.”
But the real draw for Christine is the neighborhood itself.
“There is definitely a sense of community here,” she said. “We feel like we are being looked after.”
347 19TH ST. NW
BILL AND MOLLY SHEARROW
YEAR BUILT: 1921
HOMEOWNERS SINCE: 2005
When they purchased the home six years ago, the ballroom had been divided into two bedrooms by a previous owner. The rooms had drop ceilings and wood paneling.
The Shearrows removed both, refinished the oak floors, and made the space into a multimedia room, now decorated in midcentury modern style.
The 2,900-square-foot, now three-bedroom home has a beautiful wood banister visible all the way to the third floor.
Besides the floor plan, Bill said, “we love the sunken living room. It’s eight inches lower than the rest of the first floor. And the formal dining room with its built-in hutches.”
Following a hailstorm three years ago, they stripped the white aluminum siding off the house to find the original 9-inch redwood siding.
“We bought 900 board feet of clapboards and restored it to what it looked like originally,” he said, adding, “We painted it historically appropriate light sage green with buttercream trim.”
The drip caps and crown molding on the windows also were restored after the aluminum wrap came off.
“I believe we are stewards of the property, and we want to maintain the architectural integrity and what his intentions were,” Bill said. “We update but keep the aesthetic of the ’20s going on.”
244 23RD ST. NW
DEBORAH AND TERRY THOMAS
YEAR BUILT: 1928
HOMEOWNERS SINCE: 1985
The Center Hall Colonial owned by Deborah and Terry Thomas is a Herman Albrecht-designed home built for Dr. Joseph Toot, an ophthalmologist whose son Joseph Jr. grew up to become president of the Timken Co.
“I loved the style, the center hall,” said Deborah, Ridgewood’s historian. “I liked the fact that it was a brick/shingle combination and the wrought-iron balcony over the entryway.”
The home’s formal living room and dining room bracket the front hall. Both rooms have wood-burning fireplaces and built-in bookshelves. It has four bedrooms, four-and-ahalf baths and a third-floor maid’s quarters.
When the couple moved in, they started a renovation project that included reglazing the windows and replacing wood shingles. They restored bricks and window frames and added a brick driveway.
“We kept it exactly the same inside,” said Deborah, who cherishes the blueprints and specifications of the home given to her by the Toot family.
The kitchen’s radiator is used as a shelf, and in the hallway is the original phone niche.
“The fireplace is a modest fireplace,” she pointed out, “but that’s what Albrecht designed for our home.”
2134 UNIVERSITY AVE. NW
FREDERICK AND JUDITH GIBBS
YEAR BUILT: 1927
HOMEOWNERS SINCE: 2009
When the Gibbses moved back to Canton after living in several other cities the past 46 years, there really was no doubt about which neighborhood they would choose. Fred was born in the Ridgewood neighborhood, and Judith lived there for a time as well.
The St. Haralambos church bells nearby are “music to my ears,” said the retired minister.
Their Georgian Revival three-story home was just the style they were looking for after living in Williamsburg, Va.
“We were living with a lot of American Colonial. We grew tired of that,” Fred said. “And we weren’t particularly looking for a Tudor. They are too dark for me.”
The Georgian, he said, reminded him of the homes he had seen in Great Britain.
They fell in love with the beautiful front entrance and the brick facade. After they purchased the property, they discovered it came with an extra lot.
The basement has a finished room, perfect for displaying his model trains.
They gutted the kitchen upon moving in to make it modern and eliminated the breakfast room to make the area bigger and brighter. They maintained the butler’s pantry, which is original to the house. But it was the familiarity and comfort of the area that was most important.
“We wanted to be close to the city of Canton. It didn’t bother me to be in the city limits,” Fred said. “If we are going to be involved in civic things, we wanted to be near them.”