McDowell Phillips House

On a tree-lined side street just west of the square, a large victorian home quietly resides among its smaller neighbors. Most Medinians do not travel down this side street, and the few that do are able to admire the home's beauty and craftsmanship from a distance. What the onlooker misses, however, is the rich family history that built the home, and in a way, is built into it. Over the past 122 years, the McDowell-Phillips House has withstood a changing community and nation. It has weathered fires and deaths, but it has also witnessed births, holiday gatherings, weddings, and countless other memories. In a society where families are growing farther apart, the McDowell-Phillips House has successfully united a family over an increasingly difficult test of time, and it continues to do so to this day. Although the house is something of grand stature, almost a "mansion" of sorts, the family has affectionately and humbly referred to it as "the big house," and they are proud not for its grandeur, but rather for the proud history they have created within its walls, in Medina, and in the United States. The McDowell-Phillips House does not only represent a rich historical structure, it also represents the story of a family deeply rooted in their community and their values. It should come as no surprise that the McDowell-Phillips House still stands today in the same condition it did in 1890, as the family that built and continues to reside there has put in the same effort and dedication into its maintenance as they have into their work, family, and community. The McDowell-Phillips house is truly a Medina landmark and stands to represent the enduring values of an entire community, as well as a place bearing witness to a family history that is as eccentric as its architecture.

Images

Never Leaving The Family

Never Leaving The Family

In these photos of the McDowell Phillips House taken in 2012 and ca. 1890, it is very difficult to distinguish any differences between the two views. For 122 years, the McDowell Phillips House has remained relatively unchanged despite housing several large families and its use as apartments for 40 years. The excellent state of preservation of the McDowell Phillips house is largely owed to the loving effort put forth by its current owner, Drew Phillips, without whom, the house would be in a very different state. Recognizing the significance of the house to his family history, Mr.Phillips took it over from his grandfather in 1978 and gradually returned it to its original state. He has spent many summers painstakingly restoring nearly every aspect of the home, including the roof, paint, kitchen, furniture, and many more. Even though the house may sound like a museum, it is actually a functional home for the Phillips family today, just as it has been for over a century. The McDowell Phillips house owes its survival to its place in the Phillips family, and with no plans to change that, this view will likely remain unchanged for another 122 years and beyond. Images courtesy of Jessika Turner and Andrew Phillips respectively. View File Details Page

Scorched Stained Glass Window

Scorched Stained Glass Window

Away on a family vacation in the year 1900, the McDowell family had to experience a tragedy they weren't even there to prevent. The hired painter for the interior left highly flammable turpentine soaked rags on the porch which ignited and severely damaged the house. The shown stained glass window fell victim to the fire and still bears the blackened panes of its wrath. Courtesy of Jessika Turner. View File Details Page

Grievance Letter from Secretary of War

Grievance Letter from Secretary of War

As the Confederate troops were about to surrender in the Civil war, quartermaster Lieutenant R.M. McDowell received a grievance letter from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (shown above). The letter personally scolded R.M. McDowell and threatened him with legal action for he was in violation with the law. Quartermasters received public money that they had to document monthly instead of quarterly to prevent money laundering. Stanton was later involved in the scandal that resulted in the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Courtesy of Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Quartermaster Report

Quartermaster Report

Dated May 4, 1864, this meticulous form filled out by Lieutenant R.M. McDowell requests goods for his troops during the Civil War. As a quartermaster, it was Lt.McDowell's responsibility to supply troops with goods ranging from canteens to carriages to knapsacks, all to keep the soldiers well supplied for battle. As evident by the numbers, Lt.McDowell was responsible for the lives of hundreds of young soldiers who depended on the supplies ordered in this invoice. However many soldiers lived and died by the hand of this letter is lost to history, but the military service of R.M. McDowell is proudly remembered by his ancestors to this day. Courtesy of Medina County Historical Society. View File Details Page

McDowell Brother Holiday Goods

McDowell Brother Holiday Goods

A ca. 1870 advertisement by the McDowell brothers claims 'The Greatest Line of Holiday Goods Ever Brought to Medina.' A man of many occupations in his lifetime, R.M. McDowell gained valuable experience during his time as a Civil War quartermaster, experience that would greatly influence his success as a storekeeper. After the war, R.M. opened a prosperous book and drug store with his brother, O.H. McDowell, on the Medina Square. Their good fortune was cut short however, as the store was tragically devastated by the fire of 1870. Rising out of the ashes along with the rest of the square, R.M. McDowell rebuilt his store, only to leave it in 1873 to become a cashier at the Old Phoenix Bank, and eventually a very successful (and wealthy) president in 1893. Courtesy of Medina County Historical Society. View File Details Page

Elevator Tumble

Elevator Tumble

A dusty mess of crumbled wood and a splinted stool marks the landing place of the three story plummet of Elizabeth McDowell. The whole story can be experienced from the audio file as told by Mr.Drew Phillips. Image courtesy of Jessika Turner. View File Details Page

Cub Cadet Ad

Cub Cadet Ad

A Cub Cadet lawn mower finds a perfect home on the lawn of the McDowell-Phillips House in this mid 1990s advertisement. The Cub Cadet company, which recognized the distinct nature of the home and its immaculate upkeep, approached the homeowners with the proposal of an advertisement that few other locations were worthy of. True to the advertisement, the McDowell-Phillips House is certainly a 'work over time,' and maintaining its vast expanse of lawn is no easy task. The homeowners accepted the offer to showcase their hard-won yard, and not only did Cub Cadet gain an exceptional advertising location, but the green lawn and exterior of the McDowell-Phillips House also became immortalized in a unique piece of Americana. Courtesy of Andrew Phillips. View File Details Page

Keeping a Careful Watch

Keeping a Careful Watch

Sorrow engulfed the Union upon the assassination of President Lincoln in April 1865. While the nation was mourning the loss of an extravagant military leader, R.M. McDowell (pictured here) was called to action. George Atzercodt, an accomplice to John Wilkes Booth, had been captured on account of conspiring with Booth to assassinate Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Although Atzercodt backed out of the assassination and Johnson lived to be the seventeenth president, he was apprehended as a prisoner of war and was supervised by Lieutenant R.M. McDowell. Courtesy of Drew Phillips. View File Details Page

Audio

Christmas Memories of Betsy Phillips

View File Details Page

Elevator Tumble Story

As told by Drew Phillips. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Jessika Turner, Nathan Libertowski, and Kenny Turscak, “McDowell Phillips House,” Discover Medina, accessed June 22, 2017, http://discovermedina.org/items/show/38.
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