Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018
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Our Town Going Out

Manor House’s walks will have to wait

Former Stranahan estate to get new slate roof, repairs

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Women of Courage Tea at the Manor House that is scheduled for Friday at 11:30 a.m. will go on as scheduled.


The Wildwood Preserve Metropark Manor House in West Toledo will close today for major renovations to its roof and nearly 100 windows. Completion is planned for late November.

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The Manor House in Wildwood Preserve will close today to begin the most extensive renovation project since Metroparks of the Toledo Area acquired the landmark mansion nearly 40 years ago.

Replacement of the roof and detailed repair work on nearly 100 windows means the former home of industrialist Robert Stranahan will be off limits to visitors, events, and wedding receptions for the next three months, with the exception of The Women of Courage Tea. The tea, sponsored by the Manor House volunteers, will be held Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Manor House and is open to the public. The monthly teas for October and November teas are canceled.

The renovations and repairs are the most extensive since the property was acquired in 1975 from the Stranahan family and marks the first time the home will be closed to visitors because of construction.

“Simply put, this is the most single type of renovation work done to the house since the park district took possession,” said Dave Zenk, Metroparks deputy director. “You certainly won’t see this type of closure for a long time.”

The project is on a tight schedule for completion before late November to have the building reopen in time for Holidays in the Manor House, which attracts up to 20,000 people each year.

“We need to have the contractor return the house back over to us for the holiday display. It is our single largest event of the year,” said Scott Carpenter, park district spokesman.

The cost of the window repairs and roof renovation, including labor, materials, and engineering, is $828,800. The Stranahan Foundation has donated $50,000 for the project. The rest of the money will come out of the park district’s capital improvement budget.

The concrete and asbestos-shingled roof, which covers 13,000 square feet, will be removed according to state and federal environmental guidelines and replaced with slate, a stone material that is expected to last for 125 years.

“Part of the expense of the project is the abatement process for the asbestos on the roof,” he said, adding that a licensed vendor is under contract to properly remove and dispose of the material.

The new slate roof will replace the roof the Metroparks put on the house in the early 1980s.

Mr. Zenk said the park district looked at other roofing materials, including conventional asphalt shingles, but settled on slate because of its durability, aesthetics, and the architectural integrity it has to what was on the original roof.

“It’s one of those things. You invest a little bit more and it will last forever,” he said.

The eight chimneys and numerous valleys and peaks will get capped and two flat sections will have surfaces replaced with rubber materials.

The window refurbishing for the project is equally intensive.

The sashes of each of the home’s 97 windows will be removed, repaired, and reglazed and additional work will be done on the outside storm windows.

“This is a big job and one of the biggest the Metorparks has contracted in a long time,” Mr. Zenk said.

The 35-room house, built during the Great Depression for the family of Robert Stranahan, co-founder of the Champion Spark Plug Co., is considered the best architectural example of Georgian Colonial in northwest Ohio.

Lathrop Co. built the house between 1936 and 1938 at a cost of $350,000, which converted into today's dollars would be about $5.6 million.

There were 16 bedrooms, 17 bathrooms, 16 fireplaces, and a shooting gallery in the lower level, and boasted the most modern amenities when the Stranahans moved into it.

The home in Sylvania Township was called “Stranleigh” by Mr. Stranahan and his wife, Page. The couple lived with their children on the estate, which included horse stables, swimming pool, clay tennis court, ornamental gardens, riding arena with attached ballroom, and ornamental gardens.

After their deaths — Mr. Stranahan in 1962 and Mrs. Stranahan in 1968 — the property remained under the ownership of the couple’s late son, Frank Stranahan, who lived in the house until the late 1960s when he moved to Florida.

The Metroparks bought the 465-acre Manor House estate in Sylvania Township, including horse stables, swimming pool, clay tennis court, ornamental gardens, riding arena with attached ballroom, and gardens after Lucas County voters approved a 0.5-mill tax levy in 1974 for property acquisitions.

The Manor House opened to the visitors the next year. Staffed by volunteers, it attracted about 32,000 visitors in 2012 alone.

Detroit Cornice and Slate Inc. of Michigan was hired by the Metroparks board for the entire project.

Among the slate roof projects on the Ferndale company ’s resume are the historic Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church in Detroit, St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church in Pontiac, and the Livingston County Courthouse in Howell, Mich.

The firm has also completed restoration work at William Scripps Estate in Lake Orion, Mich., and the Detroit Zoo Welcoming Center in Royal Oak.

“You will not find a contractor more suited for this job,” Mr. Zenk said. "They are perfect for this type of work."

Contact Mark Reiter at: or 419-724-6199.

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