Old mansion in Ohio

Frank Sebring House, Sebring Ohio
Date added: February 26, 2023 Categories: Ohio House Mansion
Facade looking south (1982)

The Frank Sebring House, built ca. 1901, is significant for its association with Frank A. Sebring (1865-1936), one of the town's founders. Sebring, Ohio, was founded in 1898 by eight Sebring siblings. Together they built an extensive pottery industry and a town to serve it. By 1915, Sebring was a community of 3,500, and the output of its plants made it the state's second most important pottery center. The Frank Sebring House, a large red brick house in the Colonial Revival style, is the last surviving Sebring house.

Sebring has a history so interwoven with that of the Sebring family that a story of one is not complete without a story of the other.

Frank Albert Sebring was born in East Liverpool, Columbiana County, Ohio, in 1865. He was the proprietor of a grocery store in East Liverpool, the pottery center of the state, before joining his five brothers and two sisters in founding the Mahoning County town that bears their name.

Frank's brothers, Oliver H., George E., Ellsworth M., Fred E., and William, were potters by trade. Together they bought a small pottery in East Liverpool in 1887, enlarged it, and added to their holdings by building the Ohio China and East Palestine potteries, both at East Palestine, Ohio.

In the spring of 1898, under the name "Sebring Land Company," the Sebring brothers and their two sisters, Eva and Emma, assembled large tracts of farmland in northwestern Mahoning County on the main trunk of the Pennsylvania Railroad. They laid out a town in a regular grid (numbered streets running north and south, streets with names of the states running east and west) and began construction of the first building, a large boardinghouse, on May 25, 1898. A year later, advertisements by local builders offered houses from $500 to $5,000. F. D. Shewell, who is believed to have built the Frank Sebring House in 1901, is listed in one history among the "master builders...who planned, supervised, and built Sebring."

Construction of the town's potteries proceeded simultaneously. The Oliver China Co. (1899); the Sebring Pottery (1900); the French China Co. (moved from East Liverpool in 1901); and the Limoges China Co. (1903) were built and fired up in rapid succession. All were controlled by Sebring interests. By 1907, 1200 workers were employed in the town's factories, and by 1915 Sebring was a town of 3,500, "the second pottery town of importance and output after East Liverpool in the United States."

Frank Sebring's closest association with any of the Sebring potteries seems to have been with the Limoges China Co., of which he was president. He also served on the board of directors of each of the other potteries. In one biographical portrait, the writer comments on his position as an industry leader:

Mr. Sebring is counted one of the most progressive as well as one of the most successful potters in America. He has devoted much of his time to the development of new processes and machines, and the pottery industry is indebted to him for several radical improvements for the better and cheaper manufacture of dinnerware.

Frank Sebring's early influence in the progress of the town was widespread, as his siblings' must also have been. He served as the first president of the Buckeye Building & Loan Association, chartered in 1899. "Very little of the early construction in the community was completed without the aid of its financing," one local history notes.

But the Sebring family's influence extended beyond Ohio's borders. Frank Sebring's brother George and his son Orvel enjoyed winter vacations in Florida, and by 1912 they had purchased 20,000 acres of land, planted and sold orange groves, and established the town of Sebring on Lake Jackson in what is now Highlands County. Sebring is now the site of the famous Sebring auto races. The Sebring genealogy notes that Frank Sebring, too, was "an early developer" there, and in his biographical sketch Joseph Butler writes that "Mr. Frank Sebring...is applying his energy and ability to making Sebring one of the great winter resorts of Florida."

Frank Sebring lived in the red brick house on West Ohio Avenue with his wife, Emma Louisa Harbison, and their five children. He died in 1936, in the midst of a depression that played havoc with the town's industries. By 1949, of the 11 potteries in operation, not a single one was controlled by Sebring interests. The industries that the Sebring family had begun, however, remained inextricably a part of the town's history and pride: "Sebring's place in national pottery prominence is only surpassed by East Liverpool. Out of its kilns come every imaginable type of dinner, table, refrigerator, art and cooking ware."

Building Description

The Frank Sebring House is a large, two-story house in the Neo-Classic Revival style. It is built of red pressed brick laid in stretcher bond, with stone quoins and string courses. The house has an ashlar stone foundation, a full basement, and a hipped roof with a parapet surrounding a large, oval skylight. There are gabled and round-arch dormer windows.

The central feature of the house is a massive porch surrounding it on three sides. Across the facade, the porch is two stories high and three bays wide; the central bay projects slightly and is crowned by a pediment with a Palladian window in the gable. On the west, the porch projects to form a portico across the driveway, while on the east it flares to a half-circle to accommodate a two-story bow window. Corinthian columns support the porch, which has a spindle railing.

The eaves of the house are detailed as classical cornices. The central entrance features double doors flanked by sidelights (now missing), and a large, elliptical fanlight. The house has rectangular windows with double-hung sash; these have plain stone sills and lintels. While the house has a Neo-Classic appearance overall, it incorporates such late-Victorian features a bay and bow windows, oculus windows, and leaded and stained glass.

In plan, the house is arranged around a great central hallway with an imposing staircase and a secondary entrance from a side driveway. Inside, the house is late-Victorian in style, with numerous Italian Baroque embellishments. Its chief feature is the large central hall, at the center of which an oval well opens to the second-story and attic floors to expose a large and elegant domed skylight made of stained glass. Radiating off the central hall downstairs are living and dining rooms, a music room, a conservatory, a pantry, a kitchen, and a breakfast room. On the second floor, there are six bedrooms and two baths, and in the attic there are seven small rooms and two baths. In all, the house has seven fireplaces.

The house features a variety of woodwork, including mahogany, rosewood, oak, black walnut, and tiger maple. There is also some rather ornate, if not to say bizarre, plaster and tile work, testifying to the day's taste in decoration. The oval light wells on the second floor and in the attic, for example, are embellished with the heads of deities, arranged symmetrically, electric lightbulbs dangling from their mouths.

Unfortunately, the house has been altered over the years and has a rather neglected appearance now. The original clay tile roof has been replaced with asphalt shingles, and the second-story porch railing has been removed on the sides of the house. On the west, a door and fire escape were added above the portico when the attic was made into apartments in the 1950s. At the rear, a small recessed porch with an elliptical-arch opening has been bricked up around a standard rectangular door.

Inside, some of the woodwork has been painted. In the living room, the plaster moldings have been removed. Some decorative fixtures, such as the chandeliers, have also been removed.

The house is situated on a wooded lot on a broad, residential avenue. It is located about one-third of a mile west of the Sebring town center. A carriage house on the property was demolished in 1978.

Frank Sebring House, Sebring Ohio Facade looking south (1982)
Facade looking south (1982)

Frank Sebring House, Sebring Ohio West elevation looking southwest (1982)
West elevation looking southwest (1982)

Frank Sebring House, Sebring Ohio East elevation looking northwest (1982)
East elevation looking northwest (1982)

Frank Sebring House, Sebring Ohio Rear elevation looking north (1982)
Rear elevation looking north (1982)

Frank Sebring House, Sebring Ohio Facade looking southwest (1982)
Facade looking southwest (1982)

Frank Sebring House, Sebring Ohio Central entrance (1982)
Central entrance (1982)

Frank Sebring House, Sebring Ohio Central hall looking down from attic (1982)
Central hall looking down from attic (1982)