Sunday, April 15, 2012

The William T. Townsend House

The large stone house at 515 West Washington Street was once home to early Sandusky businessman William T. Townsend and his family. The house was built of native limestone in 1844, with the two story porch added later. William Townsend operated a dry goods store in Sandusky in the early part of the nineteenth century. He and his brother Kneeland Townsend owned several parcels of land in the Firelands. Helen Hansen wrote in At Home in Early Sandusky that William Townsend was the first merchant to advertise in the Sandusky Clarion in 1822. He also served as Sandusky’s first recorder, and he was president of the fist Sandusky bank in 1834. William T. Townsend and his wife, the former Maria Lamson, had six daughters and a son.

Sadly, during the cholera epidemic of 1849, within a period of four days, William Townsend, Mrs. Townsend, their daughter Sarah, and a sister of Mrs. Townsend all died of cholera. At the time of the tragic deaths of the Townsend family members, Mary Townsend had already married. She was the wife of Pitt Cooke, a son of Eleutheros Cooke, and a brother to Jay Cooke, the Civil War financier. Mary and Pitt Cooke took in the orphaned Townsend children, and raised them with their own six children. The Pitt Cooke family lived in Brooklyn, New York from 1866 to 1873, but they kept this home as their summer home. Elmer B. Otto, owner of Esmond Dairy, purchased this house in 1907. Through the years this house has had several other owners, and it was used as apartments during most of the twentieth century. To read more about the William T. Townsend house, see Article 13 in At Home in Early Sandusky, as well as page 20 of Ellie Damm’s book Treasure by the Bay.

William T. Townsend played an important role in the early development of the city of Sandusky. Mr. Townsend and his wife and daughter are buried in Block 9 of Sandusky’s Oakland Cemetery. The Townsend lot at Oakland Cemetery is pictured on a stereographic image by A.C. Platt.

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