Mayfield Apartments hold rich history

Walking up to 230 W. Ninth St., passing by the decorative gargoyles on either side of the entrance and pushing the triangle door open, it’s almost as if time has returned to the beginning of 20th-century America.

As the wooden front door opens, a brick entranceway greets you, with windows that stretch from the floor to the ceiling on the left. Every detail of the entrance way can be seen as the sun pours in. The yellow flower-shaped light dangles delicately from the ceiling. The cracks in the bricks zigzag this way and that, forming mini roads of history through the structure.

Three wide steps are stacked up and at the top of them, two triangle double doors are open. After passing through that doorway, there is a final triangle, wooden door complete with a glass panel on the top and a brown, rounded doorknob with ornate carvings of vines below the knob.

Once the proper key is inserted to unlock the door, it is pushed open and reveals a red carpet and a grand, wooden staircase directly in front. At the top of the winding staircase sits a piano and a fireplace. The last time both were in use is unknown.

Grand houses like 230 W. Ninth St., now called the Mayfield Apartments, were common 100 years ago. Upper-middle class and wealthy Americans wanted to live in houses that not only showed their wealth but celebrated true craftsmanship.

The building is considered a typical Tudor-revival house, which gained popularity around the 20th century. According to Michael DeSanctis, Ph.D., a professor of fine arts at Gannon University, Tudor homes were built across America in an attempt to imitate European style.

Something that DeSanctis always tells his students is that homes such as 230 W. Ninth St. were built in a time when American citizens “actually gave a damn about the built environment.”

A Tudor style house is not only aesthetically pleasing to look at, but has utilitarian features that make it functional. One distinct feature of this flair is the timber frame construction, which can be easily spotted from the outside.

According to DeSanctis, the timber frames are the wooden borders that run along the outside of the building. In the case of the Mayfield Apartments, the timber frames run vertically with white stucco between the pieces. As long as the owner continues to paint the stucco, the house will hold up just fine, DeSanctis said.

Large brick chimneys sit atop the house, two on the front and right side of the house. The chimneys were built quite a bit taller than the roof so that the wind could carry the smoke away.

Siobhan Brown, a senior secondary English education major, currently lives in apartment 15 and said the style of the house was one of the main reasons she decided to live in the Mayfield Apartments.

Brown said she feels like she lives in Hogwarts from the popular “Harry Potter” series and expects to run into historical figures like Edgar Allen Poe when walking through the halls. Brown said she travels back in time whenever she enters her apartment.

“My room is so spacious with plenty of windows, window seats, lamps with glass charms like a chandelier’s and a fireplace,” Brown said. “It makes me think a sophisticated, single woman of the 1950s lived here and threw fabulous parties with loud jazz music playing from the record player.”

While not much was found concerning which rooms were where in the original house, Anita Andrick, director of the Erie Historical Society library and archives, said that on the first floor, much of apartment 2 was the library and apartment 5 was a mix of the dining room and kitchen. In the dining room, there would have been a large, wooden fireplace with detailing on the mantel.

“I used to live in the old library,” Andrick said. “The door to my apartment had the stain-glass above it that were different colors. Then I moved next door to what used to be the dining room, with the big fireplace.”

Mark Henry, owner of Henry Real Estate Management and manager of the Mayfield Apartments, said that since there are 15 apartments and about 40 total rooms, he would guess that the original house had at least 20 rooms altogether.

According to a real property title record, obtained from the Records Office in the Erie County Courthouse, the Mayfield Apartments had multiple owners and before they were apartments, single families occupied the 9,739-square foot house.

The first owner of the building was Oscar Jarecki and his wife, Inez Olive Ormsby Jarecki. According to mundia.com, Oscar Jarecki was born in 1854 in Erie and he married Inez Jarecki in 1875. At the turn of the century, 230 W. Ninth St. was built. Jarecki most likely built this home for his growing family. Oscar Jarecki died in 1927, leaving the house to his wife.

She eventually sold it to Charles Hagenlocher and his wife, Ida May, in 1934. The Hagenlochers lived there until 1943 and sold 230 W. Ninth St. to Robert J. Miller and his wife Loretta in 1944.

Based on the 1969 PA Atkinson Erie City Directory, Miller, who still owned the building, turned it into various apartments. He actually continued to live there, in apartment 1, and rented out the remaining apartments to both men and women.

This continued into the 1970s, with Miller still residing there and many of the original tenants living in the same apartments.

Miller eventually sold the Mayfield Apartments in 1974 to a man named David Wellington.

Although very little was found on David Wellington, including his absence in the Erie County Directory, Henry said that he knew a bit of what happened to him.

Henry said Wellington’s wife was experiencing some health problems, so he sold the Mayfield Apartments, trekked all the way to California and bought an avocado farm.

Court documents do indeed show that Wellington at one point owned the building and he sold it to Richard Wagner in 1974. Although Wagner and his wife, Christine, never lived in one of the apartments, he allowed residents to purchase their apartments if they wanted to. In the County Directory, if a star appeared next to a tenant’s name, it meant that they owned that specific apartment.

Eventually, the Erie Business Center Inc. bought the Mayfield Apartments in 1998 for $405,000. While the center still owns it today, no one there could say why Erie Business Center bought the building in the first place and why it continues to own the building.

One common characteristic of the families who once owned this house was wealth. Just by looking at the pure size of the house, money would seem a key factor in its occupants. Tracing the history of the 230 W. Ninth St., it once housed extremely wealthy people. Charles Hagenlocher was the vice president of the Bank of Erie, Real Estate and Insurance. The 1940 PA Atkinson Erie City Directory also stated the Hagenlochers had a second home, a summer home on Wolf Road, which they eventually made their permanent home.

Robert J. Miller, the third owner of the house, was an attorney at law whose office was located at the Palace Building, 1001 State St.

Another interesting feature was that from the 1960s to the 1980s many of the tenants remained in their apartments, longer than the typical time most stay. Tenants Ada Snyder of apartment 27 and Edna Shea of apartment 21 both resided in the Mayfield Apartments from 1969-1980. Leroy Miller of apartment 5 and Mildred Dundon of apartment 11 stayed from 1969-1975.

Eric Chiesa, a junior secondary education and history major, currently lives in the Mayfield Apartments, all the way up on the third floor in apartment 26. He said the old characteristics of the house that are still present are one reason he was so attracted to the apartments in the first place.

“When I was apartment hunting, this building really stood out to me,” Chiesa said. “It was unique and had a vintage feel, which I loved.”

Chiesa looked at two different apartments in the Mayfield building before deciding on No. 26. He said the first apartment he looked at was on the first floor and the room had an original fireplace and wood paneling throughout.

“I was attracted to the place because it was so cool looking,” Chiesa said. “I loved the fireplace and even though I couldn’t use it, just seeing something original in the room was awesome.”

Eventually he decided on his current apartment because overall it was bigger and apartment 2 didn’t have a separate bedroom. After settling and living in the Mayfield Apartments for more than eight months, he grows fonder of the building each day.

Chiesa said he loves not only how safe the building is but also the atmosphere of living in a house that has so much history.

“The fact that I am hoping to teach history someday is why I love old things like this building,” Chiesa said. “You feel a connection to the past and walking into an old, historical building makes me wonder who else would’ve opened this same door, walked through the same hall. It’s fascinating.”

 

SAMMIE JANIK

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