A.E. Harding’s Legacy
There is yet another residential property listed for sale that is also on the National Register of Historic Places. This time, it is the historic A. E. Harding Estate, located at 3551 S. Main Street in Excello, Lemon Township–just outside Middletown, Ohio’s city limits. The 3.49-acre property consists of the main residence–a late 19th century masterpiece designed in the elegant Italianate Style–and original carriage house. Italianate was one of the most popular housing styles from 1850 to the 1880s. Homes ranged from modest 2-story townhouses, like the “Covington Townhouse” described in an earlier post, to ornate mansions built by wealthy entrepreneurs, like our Mr. Harding. Inspired by Italian villas, these homes were usually 2 to 3 stories in height, with flat or hip roofs, bay windows with inset wooden panels, corner boards and 2 over 2 double-hung windows.
The Harding home has over 4,500 square feet of living space with 6 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms,a formal dining room and living room, front and rear staircases, walk-up attic, and a spacious kitchen. Original interior details include 7 fireplaces, beautiful woodwork, pegged wooden floors, and built-in storage closets. The home was built circa 1875 by Abraham Ebenezer Harding, whose descendents lived there until the late 1980s. The carriage house contains an apartment, 6-car garage, 3 barn stalls, and a full loft.
A.E. Harding was born in England in 1829 and relocated to the United States in 1850. In 1865, he co-founded Harding, Erwin & Company and built the paper mill that still stands across the street from the property. As the mill grew, Excello—named after a brand of paper the company produced—was formed as a company town. Excello remains an unincorporated community to this day. The partnership between Harding and Erwin ended in 1872, and the Harding Paper Company was founded. A.E. Harding died in 1885 and the mill was sold to the American Writing Paper Company in Massachusetts, with one of Harding’s son-in-laws, Thomas Jones, remaining as manager. Jones purchased the mill himself in 1925 to found the Harding-Jones Paper Company, known for its fine, custom-made, watermarked writing paper. The plant was acquired by the Simpson Paper Company in 1983 and closed its doors on April 30, 1990.
The paper mill and Harding’s residence and carriage house are all contributing buildings to the Harding-Jones Paper Company Historic District. The district was listed on the National Register in 1975 (NRHP # 75001330) due to its “association with events that made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of history”–otherwise known as Criterion A of the National Register–or, more specifically, the role it played in the development of the late 19th/early 20th century paper industry.
I have mentioned it before (maybe just 2 or 3 times!) that one of the more important points for the private owner of a National Register listing to understand is that the owner still has the freedom to maintain, modify, remodel, renovate, or dispose of the property provided that no Federal monies are involved. A National Register listing does NOT lead to public acquisition of the property, does NOT require public access, and does NOT automatically trigger local historic district zoning or local landmark designation.
The perks to owning a National Register listing–and I know I’ve also said them before–include: 1) consideration in planning for Federal, Federally-licensed, and Federally-assisted projects; 2) eligibility for special tax provisions; 3) and qualification for Federal grants for historic preservation. There is also a certain degree of prestige that goes along with owning a National Register property (a/k/a “bragging rights”). After all, one has to admit that being the steward of a property recognized as significant to the history of a nation should not be taken lightly…and that, I think, is a very fine legacy for Mr. A.E. Harding.