94-year-old Builder Explains How He Began Construction on the Sears Magnolia in Ohio
In September 2002, I was invited to appear on a brand new show called PBS History Detectives. It was my first appearance on national television and it was a very exciting time. One of the houses featured in that show was the Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio. I’d be appearing on their second episode (first season), to do a story on the alleged Sears Homes in Firestone Park. The filming started at the Sears Magnolia in Canton. Filming the 15-minute segment took eight days.
Sometime around 1990, Canton writer T. E. Prather wrote a short piece about the building of the Sears Magnolia there in Canton, Ohio. The title was “Magnolia: Neo Classic Revival Revived!”
What’s remarkable about this article is that it quotes the 94-year-old builder who helped build the Magnolia in 1923.
Clarence Swallow was the builder of nearly 300 homes in this area, and in 1923, he was a 27-year-old carpenter. He was hired by Canton Attorney Leroy Contie, Sr., to supervise the total construction of Contie’s Magnolia.
The catalog price of this pre-cut house was $5,140. With the price of the Ridgewood lot, plastering, electrical work, plumbing, plus other extras, te total cost of the home was approximately $18,000.
Swallow explains how the crates of numbered, top-quality, pre-cut lumber and supplies were brought to the building site by horse-drawn wagons. Swallow and his two-man crew sorted through the giant jig-saw puzzle of packages and began construction in the summer of 1923. The framing went up on the pre-formed concrete foundation through the summer and autumn. By the first snowfall, the Magnolia was under roof. Then Ennon Plumbing, Eclipse Electric, and several plasterers worked through the winter as Swallow and crew completed the interior trim work.
The six fluted yellow poplar Corinthian porch columns were precisely set in place to support the two-story front portico. The side lights [flanking] the front entrance and an elliptical fanlight under a second floor balcony were the center focus of the main entry.
The original elegance of this early 1920s Magnolia has yielded a small bit to being unoccupied over the past couple years. Yet it has been featured in the Smithsonian (November 1985) and was the featured home of Ohio Historical Society’s publication , Timeline in early 1989.
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