IN THE BEGINNING
Glamorgan, named by its builder and owner the late Col. William Henry Morgan, was built in 1904–1905. Col. Morgan was the president and principal owner of The Morgan Engineering Company which was founded by his father, Thomas Rees Morgan.
Thomas Rees Morgan was born in 1832 in Glamorgan, Wales. He learned the machinist trade in Wales and, In 1865, emigrated to America with his wife, Elizabeth Nicholas Morgan, and their three children, John R., Thomas R., Jr. and Margaret. The family arrived in New York on April 15, 1865 (the day after President Lincoln was shot). Six weeks later, in Pittsburgh, William Henry (Col.) Morgan was born. Two other children, Edwin and Arthur, were born later in Alliance.
Before moving to Alliance, the Morgan family lived in Pittsburgh where, in 1868, Thomas Morgan started his own company to build steam hammers. The company was moved to Alliance in 1871 where it became known as Marchand & Morgan. In 1877, Silas J. Williams bought Marchand’s share of the company, which became the Morgan Engineering Company, incorporated in 1900.
In September, 1897, Thomas Morgan died suddenly and the largest share of the company was willed to his son, William, who became the new president. His brothers, John R., Thomas R., Jr., and Arthur sold their shares and Edwin stayed with the company. Margaret’s husband, Willis H. Ramsey, became the vice president and treasurer.
The original Thomas Morgan home was located at the southwest corner of Liberty Avenue and Oxford Street (present location of the Christopher Columbus Society). Col. William Morgan’s original family home was located at the southeast corner of Liberty Avenue and Oxford Street. At the beginning of the 20th century, he began to think about a new family residence. At about the same time, he was appointed to the staff of Governor George Nash of Ohio and acquired the title of Colonel, a title which stuck with him his entire life.
Col. Morgan was a man of unusual and varied talents–and electrical scientist, engineer, inventor (he invented the overhead traveling crane which made it possible for the steel industry to operate on a large tonnage basis) and a lover of literature, art and music. He was also known as a man who rarely did anything on a small scale and, as plans for his new residence progressed, they became increasingly elaborate.
Glamorgan is not a copy of a castle in Wales or anywhere else. It is the original design of an architect, Willard Hirsh. Other examples of Mr. Hirsh’s work in Alliance include the First Presbyterian Church, the Frank Dussel home (now owned by Mount Union College) and the O.F. Transue home (the first house south of Glamorgan Castle). The castle of feudal days was built for defensive warfare, shelter, safety and retreat. Strength, durability and, at all times, adaptability to military enterprise, were the chief characteristics while comfort, pleasure and entertainment were secondary. Col. Morgan well knew the need of permanence and all that these old structures typified and, with this, he combined utility and art with the aid of science and invention.
The great marble mansion is the product of a keen and versatile mind which combined the baronial castle of old with the most scientific and practical aids of modern life.
A 50-acre tract of land was purchased which had the natural features of good location. The architect was engaged and sent to Europe to study the distinct type of architecture of this class and to work up the complete plans and details of construction. After considering sandstone and limestone, it was decided to use Vermont marble and drawings were sent to the quarry in Barre, Vermont. The stone was cut, numbered and sent (96 train carloads) back to Alliance.
In 1904, the building was located on the most commanding spot of the 50-acre plot–814 feet from the street in front to the north and south axis, and the east and west axis in the approximate center of a 796 foot frontage. The building measures 185 feet overall in front elevation by 115 feet overall in side elevation. There are three floors with a basement under the entire structure.
In all, five years were devoted to completing the building, grading and landscaping of the 50-acre tract. Total cost of the house was approximately $400,000.
The contractor was the firm of Briggs & Jones of Canton. The building rests on a solid concrete foundation with spread footing courses. For the steel framing and reinforced concrete floors, 100 tons of structural steel were required in addition to 40 tons of C.I. columns and bases. The entire wall surfaces are of rock face, blue Vermont marble laid in broken Ashlar pattern and trimmed throughout with tool-finished white Vermont marble, each piece of trim being numbered.
Walls above ground are a minimum of 13 inches thick. The maximum thickness of walls below ground is three and one-half feet. Roofs consist of 16 ounce copper on all flat surfaces; heavy, red, vitrified tile was used on all pitch surfaces. All exterior woodwork is of clear white pine and cypress without knot or blemish. All window openings are glazed with heavy plate glass.
Back of the main parapet walls, the loggia and outside of the main enclosure is a terraced space of 3,300 square feet, not including the porte cochere, admirably adapted to outdoor parties or for rest and recreation. The loggia on the west, of 500 square feet, is glass enclosed and storm protected.
Viewed from different angles, there is the same majestic harmony of detail and assembly. From the east and north, the towers, turrets, parapets, machiolations and battlements tell the story of medieval days. From the west, the view is that of a great mansion of massive and artistic design. Domesticity is in the composition of the south exposure.
The exterior perspectives present a pleasing and harmonious blending of medieval and modern, of art and utility. Unlike the old military stronghold–cold, dark, gloomy and suggestive of war and destruction–this modern castle stands serene with a warmth of color and an elegance of composition…a stately emblem of fidelity, peace and hospitality.
A LOOK INSIDE
Glamorgan Castle, unlike many other large homes, was not built to any one style. While it resembles a castle on the outside, it certainly does not on the inside.
The decorator was Louis Rorimer of Cleveland. the woodwork was furnished by Mathews Brothers of Milwaukee. The interior arrangement and decorative features employ the combination of Italian Renaissance, French Empire, Louis XV, Elizabethan and Japanese styles, each typical and distinct, each a fractional unit in expressing the triple motif–utility, order and harmony.
In the basement are the heating plant, water heaters, pumps, filters, air compressors, electric motors, transformers, elevator (no longer functional) and accessory equipment. Also conveniently housed in the basement were the bowling alleys, billiard room and large tile-finished swimming pool. A work room, storage area and Rathskeller were also in the basement.
The rotunda and floor above feature the fine lines and rich embellishments of Classic Greek architecture. Column, entablature, soffit and frieze were developed in beautiful Circassian walnut and ornamental plastering. From the rotunda, four corridors branch to the main entrance, grand staircase, north entrance and dining room. Midway between corridors are a fireplace and entrances to the reception and drawing rooms. The richly wrought bronze balustrades enclosing the stairs and circular balcony above were done by the Jackson Bronze company of New York, as were the decorative and bronze and glass doors at the main entrance. The company also furnished all the original andirons.
In the large drawing room, the empire style is carried out in all the richness of mahogany trim, ornamental plastering and decorations of green silk tapestry and gold leaf, with a massive fireplace as the principal architectural feature.
The main dining room, finished in solid oak, is a masterpiece of woodcarver’s art. Done in Old English, there is an expression of grandeur in the artistry of carved wood, molded plasters, electrical lighting and mirror effect and suggesting the banquet hall of old baronial castle.
The fine tracery in the ensemble of Renaissance Art features the ladies’ reception room, ornate in richly embellished plaster work, art panels, silk tapestry and expressing the concept of artistic inspiration in the elegance of proportion and harmony of color and detail.
Approached from the main stair corridors was the Japanese breakfast room with teakwood floor, bamboo trim, rattan lattice and grass cloth tapestry. Large window areas add as they carry out the Japanese mode of interior decoration.
Leading from the rotunda balcony on the second floor are the halls and passageways to rooms and enclosures, combining the modern innovations with the classic mode. Approached from the south corridor is the library, octagonal in plan and directly over the dining room on the first floor. Eight cases are built into the overhead framing, elaborate and pleasing in detail and construction. Art windows, bearing the names of English and American authors, are in harmony with the rich, dark shade of time-mellowed chestnut. In this room, devoted to study, thought and meditation, the expression is symbolic, complementary and rational.
Directly across the balcony, a north corridor (no longer in existence) led to the private guest rooms and the son’s private sleeping room and bath. The entire east wing of the second floor, directly opposite the grand staircase, were the private rooms of Col. and Mrs. Morgan. This section included dressing rooms and private baths. The west wing included a playroom, a nanny’s room and a large sewing room.
The plan, arrangement and decorative treatment of the top or third floor expresses the mode of simplicity. A Moorish style is seen in the smoking and card room, alcove and entry, which contrast with the plain walls and ceiling of the ballroom. The main tower room is an adjunct and conveniently a part of the ballroom.
From the tower room and turret, a winding stair furnishes easy access to the observation third floor roof. With the eye level of nearly 60 feet above grade, a magnificent view spreads like a panorama of grounds, landscape, designs and over one-half of the city.
THE GREAT PIPE ORGAN
In 1904, Col. Morgan visited the St. Louis Exposition and, after its closing, purchased a number of furnishings for the new home. Among these items were the four marble statues, representing the four seasons, which stood on the front terrace and the marble table which was repurchased by the Elks and brought back to the house. The axis of the table, now east and west, was originally north and south. The statues have since been placed inside the rotunda for their protection and preservation.
The great pipe organ was finished in 1904 for the Exposition by the Aeolian Company and it represented one of the finest examples of the organ builder’s art. This instrument was also purchased and removed to Glamorgan. the main structure occupied four floors including the echo organ, with its shutters opening into the large dome, and the console which was built into the rotunda. In all, 1,200 speaking pipes and reeds were in harmonious combination with the full gamut of open and closed dispason. The organ was fitted with a player attachment in which rolls could be played.
Unfortunately a flash fire began in the organ one night in 1944, probably due to defective wiring, and roared through the rotunda destroying nearly everything including the woodwork, the original chandelier (which was a carved, gilded lantern) and the dome. The dome was floored over and redone as part of the restoration program. Due to the efficiency of the fire department, there was little damage to the rest of the home.
THE FAMILY MOVES IN
Col. Morgan and his wife, Annette Sharer Morgan, and their 18-month-old son moved into Glamorgan on the day before Thanksgiving in 1905. The son, William H. Morgan, lived in the mansion until his marriage in 1929. William H. Morgan lived at 401 Glamorgan Street (across from the high school) until his death in 1982.
The back of the property was a farm, complete with house, barn, carriage shed and other outbuildings which supplied the family with all their vegetables, fruit, milk, eggs and chickens. The farmhouse was near the site of the present Elks Home. In addition to a large staff which included a butler, upstairs and downstairs maids, all of whom lived in, the family employed a gardener and helper. A garage, which is now the apartment building opposite the northwest driveway, was built in 1910. A chauffeur was then added to the staff.
Lighting of this building, both inside and outside, is magnificent in effect requiring more than 1,200 separate outlets and a combined load of 100 horsepower. Viewed from a distance, the front elevation is a spectacle of radiant energy, unsurpassed by any structure of this class and nature.
The genius of the builder found expression in the employment of electricity in convenient utility and artistic effect. The interior decorations are in pleasing combination of direct and indirect illumination, each an enrichment of the other. The complete steel conduit system forms the protective enclosures of all outlets on each floor. A high voltage step-down transformer system for the total load insures the transmission from generator to switchboard of a high degree of efficiency and economy.
THE ELKS PURCHASE GLAMORGAN
In March, 1928, Col. Morgan died. In 1939, Mrs. Morgan, alone in the house and in the depth of the Depression, sold the home and approximately 50 acres of land to the Elks Lodge for $25,000. Most of the original furnishings were divided between mother and son or sold. After the sale, Mrs. Morgan moved to an apartment in Shaker Heights where she lived until her death in 1960.
In 1964, the Alliance Machine Company purchased the property and completed an extensive restoration program. O. Merrick Lewis, long-time leader of industry and president of the Alliance Machine Company at the time of the purchase, played a unique role in helping preserve the architectural achievement of Glamorgan Castle.
Mr. Lewis’ resourcefulness in implementing a full retoration of the property to its original setting and appearance was essential to the later steps which unfolded, leading to the designation of the property as an Historic Site on the National Register of Historic Places.
Through Mr. Lewis’ leadership and the financial support of the Alliance Machine Company, not only was the building’s structure restored, but a full redecorating process inside insured its dignity in appearance.
The building housed the executive offices, research and engineering drafting rooms of the company. Remodeling of the west wing made it possible for the Alliance Machine Company to conveniently house European clients within Glamorgan Castle.
The crystal chandelier, one of only two of its kind, was purchased and shipped to Alliance from Italy. The second chandelier was presented as a gift to the Shah of Iran by the Alliance Machine Company.
On July 18, 1973, this unique historic complex, Glamorgan Castle, and 20 1/2 acres on which it is located, became the property of the Alliance City School District in what rightfully can be termed a gift.
Acquisition and minimum development necessary to use the regal landmark as an administrative facility was made possible through financial aid from The Legacy of Parks, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The federal funds were awarded on a matching basis. The local matching funds were provided through a public contribution by the Alliance Machine Company, from whom the structure and grounds were purchased.
A total of $774,350 was involved in the preservation grant which was awarded so that the school system could utilize Glamorgan Castle as an administration building only.
Today, Glamorgan Castle serves as the central administration building for the Alliance City School District with all central administrative offices housed within the building.
Each year, thousands of visitors tour Glamorgan Castle and continue to admire the beauty and uniqueness envisioned by Col. William Henry Morgan almost a century ago.
(Portions of the preceding are excerpts from a brochure prepared by the Elks lodge at the time of their dedication. All information concerning family history, original architect, contractor, decorator and interesting family notes was contained in a letter from William H. Morgan. Other interesting information about the family and Glamorgan Castle came from the late Mrs. Mary Louise Morgan Conroy, granddaughter of Col. William Henry Morgan.)
OF SPECIAL INTEREST
•Glamorgan is not a copy of a castle in Wales or anywhere else. It is the original design of an architect, Willard Hirsh.
•Five years were devoted to completing the building, grading and landscaping of the 50-acre tract of land. Total cost of the house was approximately $400,000.
•Construction began in 1904.
•Walls above ground are a minimum of 13 inches think.
•The crystal chandelier which hangs in the rotunda was purchased by the Alliance Machine Co. Reportedly, it is one of only two in the world; the other was presented as a gift, by The Alliance Machine co., to the Shah of Iran.
•On July 18, 1973, this unique historic complex, Glamorgan Castle, and 20 1/2 acres on which it is located, became the property of the Alliance City School District in what rightfully can be termed a gift.
Glamorgan Castle is located at 200 Glamorgan Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. For more information about touring the Castle, please call (330) 821-2100.
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