If you drive West High Avenue in New Philadelphia, you’ve gone through the intersection known as Franklin Square. There is a brick house that sits prominently on the southwest corner of the intersection. This is a story from that house’s history.
When the city of New Philadelphia was originally laid out, it was created with three public squares. The main square was (and is) at the intersection of Broadway and High, a second square called Washington Square sat at the meeting of East High and Beaver Avenue, and a third square called Franklin Square at the junction of West High and Fourth (then Seventh) Street. It was at this square that the Winspear family built their homes.
The patriarch of the Winspear family was the English-born Jesse Winspear (1819-1891) who operated a successful clothing goods store on the southwest corner of the main square in the building that currently houses the Gavin’s On the Square restaurant. Jesse arrived in New Philadelphia in the 1840s and began his clothing and mercantile business shortly after his arrival and marriage to Mary Winspear (1822-1909). The couple welcomed a large family and the eldest, a son named Robert (1844-1881), ultimately became his father’s business partner.
It was likely Robert who, in the 1870s, built the house that now sits on the southwest corner of Franklin Square. The family business was flourishing and, in 1874, he married Anne Compton (1855-1926). Anne was the daughter of Robert and Mary Compton, a tailor and seamstress who worked in the Winspear store. The house Robert constructed is another fine local example of the Italianate style of architecture, though in a different form than the Fair Street house built around the same time by Simpson Harmount. The Winspear house is a gable-ended brick house with more simplified features than those found on the Harmount house. A unique feature of the Winspear house is its double front door with glass panes in the arched panel tops of the doors. The house boasts other typical Italianate features including decorative brackets along the eaves, slightly arched window openings, and two small arched windows at the attic level.
Robert and Anne had three children in the home on Franklin Square, two daughters and a son, before Robert’s untimely passing in 1881 at the age of 36. Following the death of his son, Jesse Winspear sold his store in 1882 to Gustavus Senhauser (1825-1904) and went into retirement. Anne continued to reside in the home on Franklin Square after her husband’s passing and she hosted a number of church and community related functions at the home. Somehow, perhaps through church or her brother Silas Compton (1845-1935), Anne met metal worker David Forney (1869-1952).
David, fourteen years younger than Anne, was the son of Tuscarawas County farmer David Forney (1833-1921) and Abigail Hensel (1842-1924). He was employed by the American Sheet and Tin-Plate Company in New Philadelphia where he worked as a Heater in the rolling mill section of the plant. Anne and David Forney were married in 1895 and David moved into the house on Franklin Square with Anne and her family. Anne’s son Jesse Winspear (1880-1953) started working in at the American Sheet and Tin-Plate Company alongside his step-father shortly after.
Anne and David continued to host functions for their church at the prominent New Philadelphia intersection, including ice cream socials for children and costume parties. When Anne’s mother died in 1905, the well-attended funeral services were held at the home. David was taken to Union Hospital early in the morning of January 19, 1909 for emergency surgery for a burst appendix. David recovered and the surgery represented the start of a long, generous relationship with Union Hospital.
After his retirement from the American Sheet and Tin-Plate Company in the early 1920s, David Forney took a job at Union Hospital doing general maintenance and cabinetwork. Anna Winpsear Forney took ill during the winter of 1926 and, after six weeks of being unable to leave her bed, she died on February 17, 1926 at the age of 70. Less than a year later David sold the house on Franklin Square and moved into a modest home less than a block away on Allen Lane. David Forney continued to work for the hospital and supported it with donations, including donating a portable x-ray machine in the summer of 1938. He remarried a few years later and died in May 1952.
While the house on Franklin Square may have been built by Robert Winspear, the common thread for nearly fifty-years was its occupation by Mrs. Anne Compton Winspear Forney. Her story, and that of her husbands’, give us a glimpse into the history of a prominent home in New Philadelphia.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.