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John Mercer Langston Historic Home in Oberlin, Ohio

Some houses hold more than memories. They provide us with a physical remnant that marks a definitive moment in history. Such is the case of the John Mercer Langston House, a modest two-story, colonial wood frame house that is nestled on a quiet tree line street in Oberlin, Ohio. What is unique and exceptional about this particular house is that history indicates (oral and factual) that it was built and initially owned by African Americans before Emancipation. The year was 1856 when O.S. Wall exchanged the house at what would eventually be known as 207 East College Street for the Langston farm in Brownhelm, Ohio. The first owner to purchase and live in this house was John Mercer Langston, an African American man of many “firsts”.

The Langston house though modest in appearance made architectural history in the Village of Oberlin in 1856. Boasting a front porch that was wide and long, the house showcased a wonderful curved entrance that was framed by a pair of tall, narrow windows and doors on the first floor. Supporting wooden columns have long been replaced by iron columns, but a sense of subdued grandeur remains. Inside the house original baseboards, chair rails, doors, windows, and ceiling moldings are observable in both the parlor and sitting rooms. The second floor of the house with its Italian influenced façade has three windows; the middle window has been modified into a bay window. A brick chimney is observable on the eastward side of the house while the westward side of the house still retains original groundswells.

The conventional oblong wooden frame structure of the Langston House with its side gables and clapboard walls shows evidence of multiple alterations and additions. A garage and a side porch serve as reminders of the onslaught of time and expanded residential ownership histories that have included Oberlin College professors, the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association and the current owner and steward, Olivia Cousins.

The historical significance of the Langston House is intricately tied to the freedom struggles and fight of African Americans not only in Oberlin, Ohio but also in the United States as a whole. Prominent abolitionists visited with John Mercer Langston in this house. It is in this house that John Mercer Langston met with John Brown, Jr. to discuss a request for assistance in the Harper’s Ferry incident. It is here also that Oberlin blacks came to celebrate the news of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

It was on May 15, 1975 that the Langston House received its designation as a National Historical Landmark. In that same year, the City of Oberlin listed the Langston House as a Historic Landmark. The Langston House is one of the approximately sixty national Historic Landmarks in the state of Ohio. It a pre-Civil War house that has been prominently featured in many publications of American Historic sites.

For more information about the John Mercer Langston Historic Home, please contact us at Info@johnmercerlangstonhistorichome.org.