Porch replacement unearths unexpected discovery at historic Twinsburg home

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TWINSBURG – What was supposed to be a straightforward porch replacement for a local Twinsburg business turned into a historical discovery.

Christine and Steve Gotch, who have operated Greenbridge Teahouse since 2015, wanted to replace the porch at the business, which is run out a 1890s home off Twinsburg’s historic town square.

“The boards were rotting out,” Christine said.

When they removed the old porch, they discovered a cistern underneath, Christine said. A cistern is generally a large underground chamber used to store water, as opposed to a well, which taps into an underground water source.

Steve Gotch, left, the co-owner of Greenbridge Teahouse, and Mike Smith, who was hired to help replace the porch, stand near the cistern that was recently discovered under the old porch.

The cistern was likely installed in the 1890s, although there is a chance it could be even older, she said. There has been speculation that there was a dwelling  – “a small shack” – built in the 1870s on or very close to the 1890s house, but that has not been verified.

Since the discovery, several members of the Twinsburg Historical Society have stopped by to see the old cistern. Currently, the Gotches are trying to figure out how to keep it safely in view to the public while they rebuild the porch. 

Mike Smith of Hudson, who runs Michael J. Smith Home Renovations, was hired to help replace the porch. He helped uncover the cistern.

“It acts like a big tank to hold water,” Smith said of the cistern. “It was probably a well beforehand, which would have gone 20 to 25 feet down. They lined the cistern with bricks, then they lined it to make it waterproof. It’s got to be one of the original buildings in the area. I assume it was probably a working farm.”

The water could have come from several sources, including an underground spring or rain.

“There are a lot of underground springs in that area,” Smith said.

Those wishing to draw water from the cistern would have put in a metal plate, then mounted a hand pump on the other side of the cistern, Smith said. Later, the pump was moved to the kitchen sink. Smith said the cistern could have been pumped to help supply water to the barn and the animals.

“As utilities became available, it would have been wired for electric,” Smith said. 

When the porch was initially constructed, the cistern “was chopped in half, which ruined it,” Smith said.

Christine and Steve Gotch stand at the front entrance of Greenbridge Teahouse in Twinsburg, where they discovered a cistern under the front porch during a recent renovation.

A piece of Twinsburg history

The home was constructed for Dr. Collins and his wife sometime around 1890, Christine said. He was a medical doctor, but little else is known about him.

The property is believed to have served as a dentist’s office in the 1940s. In the 1950s, Thomas Roseberry purchased the house to use for his insurance and real estate buiness. 

In fact, Tom Roseberry was their realtor when the Gotches decided to buy their first home in Aurora in 1972. They later moved to Twinsburg in 2005. 

“We’ve come full circle,” Steve said.

This photo, believed taken in the 1890s, shows Dr. and Mrs. Collins in front of the house built for them. The house, on the corner of Route 82 and Church Street in downtown Twinsburg, is now the location for Greenbridge Teahouse B&B.

The property was sold to Lynn Roseberry and Pete Holman in 2003, according to property tax records from the Summit County Fiscal office. The Gotches purchased the property in 2013.

One interesting feature of the home is that there are no fireplaces, Christine said. The home was built with a coal furnace, rendering fireplaces unnecessary. In addition, guests to the house can see a fixture in the foyer that the Gotches believe was originally designed to hold a whale oil lamp.

The foundation stones most likely came from one of the several local quarries in the Twinsburg area. The heavy stones would likely have been brought over in carts using animals.

If visitors look closely from the outside, they can see one of the house’s three stained glass windows on the second floor just above the foyer, Christine said. 

Ken and Gis Roddie, left, of the Twinsburg Historical Society and Twinsburg Mayor Ted Yates look down into the cistern that Christine and Steve Gotch, the owners of  Greenbridge Teahouse Bed and Breakfast found during a recent renovation Friday, June 25, 2021 in Twinsburg, Ohio.

Lisa Rupple, who was hired by the Gotches to write a narrative about the stained glass windows, stated in her written report that the stained glass “was likely made of cylinder glass, named for blowing the molten glass into an oblong balloon shape before it is cut and flattened into sheets.” 

“The bubble-like texture in the glass is known as English Muffle, a popular style used in Victorian Era homes and buildings and was applied as ornamentation during fabrication,” Rupple stated. “Historic stained glass is a true treasure to find in any historic building today, no two are completely alike and are a link to a time when skilled artisans crafted each window by hand.”

Christine said the front door is original to the house and includes a turn doorbell, which the Gotches plan to repair. The antique bell features a turning key on the door’s exterior, which rings a bell mounted on the door’s interior side.

“It’s a great little house,” Christine said. “It’s full of history.”

Christine Gotch, owner of the Greenbridge Teahouse Bed and Breakfast welcomes members of the Twinsburg Historical Society Friday, June 25, 2021 in Twinsburg, Ohio.

Greenbridge Teahouse reopening tea rooms for private parties

Greenbridge Teahouse is at 9036 Church St., next to the Moses Roach House. 

Because of the pandemic, Greenbridge Teahouse has suspended its cafe hours. However, starting July 8, the facility’s tea rooms will open for private parties of four to 10 people. 

For details, visit https://www.greenbridgeteahouse.com or email greenbridge44087@gmail.com. 

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com

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