The Fairview Area Historical Society
Posted June 17, 2015
The Other Sturgeon House
At one time in Fairview four or five houses could claim to be "the Sturgeon House." They were owned and occupied by one member or another of the families. One that stands out, however, is the oldest of them. Yes! Older then the "Sturgeon House." And it is the largest of them, with additions over the years adding to the square footage. But even when built, it was a large home. The deed work refers to it as "the Sturgeon Mansion."
The mansion was built by Samuel Sturgeon who later built a home for his brother Robert (our historical house). Samuel was the oldest child of the six childrren of the pioneer Jeremiah Sturgeon. Robert was the second youngest. Their father died when Samuel was just 17 and he remained with their mother in the homestead until he was 32. He married in January of 1833 and the story goes that the first house he built was for his bride. It was on the main thoroughfare for the stage line, which became Main Street when this part of the township organized as a borough. Another story has it that he (or someone) carved the year 1832 into one of the basement timbers. That, after close examination, is not true.
Samuel also built the Fairview Hotel, known in its various stages as the Monitor Hotel, the Heuer House and lastly, Treasure Island. Samuel was well regarded in the community; after the borough organized he served on the first council. He also was active in the Presbyterian Church. His home and property remained intact after his death in 1878 until 1901 when his descendants sought their share of his estate. T. Wood Sterrett, another influential man in the borough, bought the mansion, not because he wanted it for his own residence, but because his wife Serena was Samuel's granddaughter. In 1903 he sold it to Sameul B. Bayle.
Bayle was a teacher from Waterford who the year before had been elected Erie County Superintendent of Schools. The large home suited a man of such importance. The Bayles became quite active in the Fairview community and in 1908 he was asked to run as a Republican for the state assembly from District 3. He was elected, reelected in 1910 and again in 1912. While in office he was an active legislator whom the Girard Cosmopolite called "a valuable man to send to Harrisburg." He was often referred to as "Senator Bayle."
After these six years he wearied of politics and chose to return to his first career, teaching. He and his wife moved to Maryland and sold the mansion in 1916 to Charles C. Hayes. Hayes was a businessman who for a few years owned the hardware store on Garwood Street (now Avonia Road). He lived in the house until April 1927 when he sold it to George and Nina Munroe of Southern Pines, North Carolina. These "southerners" lasted one winter then sold the house the next June to Neil and Helen McCray.
Neil was one of Fairview's heroes. He had served in World War I, volunteering at 17 years of age. He returned home, co-owned and operated an auto sales and service station, learned to fly and the same year he bought the mansion, he and Henry Herbolshimer (Herbol) developed an airport, just at the western edge of the borough on the south side of Route 20. He operated it for 11 years during which time the community was in the spotlight again and again because of the wildly successful activities at the airport. He sponsored air shows, competitions, offered instruction, sold planes, and won various aerial trophies on his own, even winning one of the prestigious races at the Cleveland Air Races in 1932. These were exciting years for Fairview.
But the field was never paved and in late 1939 he received an offer to manage the Jamestown (NY) Municipal Airfield, which was paved. So he took his love of flying and his fun there then rented out the mansion and the airport through World War II. Some remember that the house became an inn during this period, with folks stopping for a night or two. Then, in 1946 Neil sold the airport to the Kudlak brothers who were back from the war, as was Neil. He sold the mansion to Paul Preedit who turned it into a tourist home.
By 1956 Preedit was anxious to retire to Florida. He was out in the lawn putting up a "for sale" sign when a young couple, both veterans of World War II, stopped by to ask about it. They were Jim and Laura Evans. Jim was called back into service during the Koean Conflict and after that had trained to become a mortician. The couple saw potential in the building (often the largest home in a community becomes a funeral home), but only had $2 in their pockets. Preedit was impressed with them and before the Evans' left town they had a mortgage agreement with him. Their introduction to the community, once they were back and moving in, was a huge snowstorm during that Thanksgiving holiday. Roads were impassable and they opened their home to folks who were standed. Laura remembered that there were "people everywhere throughout the house that weekend."
They soon realized the mansion was quite sugnificant to the community, so they did very little to change it. As they began to furnish it townspeople brought them small items to display, mementos that were particular to Fairview. During their first winter the couple added a gathering room on the first floor off the west side. They and their daughter Carol were quite comfortable on the first floor, so they rented the second floor, which included a living room, bedroom, bath and kitchen facilities. The first rentor was a Fairview teacher, Jerry Cederlof, who lived there from 1960 to 1963. Carol attended Fairview schools and graduated from there.
Jim and Laura were both committed to service in their commuity and their names can be found as members and/or officers of most local organizations. They were both members of the Fairview Area Historical Society once it formed. In 1988 Laura was honored by the community as a "Citizen of the Year."
In 1978 Jim took on Brugger & Sons as business partners and at that point the second floor was no longer rented out. Four years later the Burton Family bought the mansion and Jim and Laura retired. The Burtons remodeled the rear entry and added a vestbule. Peter Burton, a fifth generation of the family, lived there with his family and managed the facility. He too became deeply involved with the commuity, having grown up in Fairview and graduating from the school system here.
In 2001 the building was sold again, this time to the Fairview Evergreen Nurseries for use as their headquarters. The business was begun in 1910 in Fairview by Frank Hetz, and his descendants continue to own and operate it. Like all the other families and individuals who have lived in this great home, the Hetz family members have "given back" to the community. Through their plants their name and Fairview's name are known throughout the nation and as far away as Europe.
Prospects for the future of the other Sturgeon house - the Sturgeon Mansion - seem excellent.
Tradition: the handing down of information, beliefs, or customs from one generation to another.
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The Fairview Area Historical Society is one of 26 members of Erie Yesterday, a county-wide consortium of historically-oriented organizations and individuals. Together these organizations are saving history for the future. For more information, see erieyesterday.org
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