The Manor House5100 W Central Ave
Toledo, OH 43615-2106
419-407-9844 | https://metroparkstoledo.com/features-and-rentals/the-manor-house/
The Manor House
Situated within Wildwood Preserve Metro Park, the Manor House was once home to Robert A. Stranahan, the co-founder of Champion Spark Plug. Robert and his wife Page Seldon Stranahan employed over 100 workers in the construction of the home beginning in 1936. Built over two years using 12-inch steel I-beams, brick, and concrete, the 32,000 square foot Georgian Colonial home is a marvel of depression era construction.
The Stranahan family’s fortunes rose in the early twentieth century when Robert A. Stranahan and Frank D. Stranahan founded Champion Spark Plug. The brothers and their company had their roots in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1905 Albert Champion, a French cyclist, incorporated the Albert Champion Company and partnered with the Stranahan brothers to produce the reliable porcelain spark plugs that made Robert and his brother automotive royalty. The partnership was short-lived, however. Within five years, Albert left the company for reasons that remain a mystery to this day.
Holding the Champion patent, the Stranahans relocated the company to Toledo, Ohio, in 1910. The brothers were thousands of dollars in debt when they secured an exclusive contract to supply spark plugs to the Toledo-based Willys-Overland, the automotive giant behind the Jeep. The agreement required Robert to relocate the company to within five miles of Willys-Overland’s manufacturing center in Toledo. The partnership made Champion a key player in the automotive industry, and within two years the brothers secured a deal with another renowned car manufacturer, the Ford Motor Company. Champion would go on to become the world’s largest spark plug manufacturer making Toledo one of the centers of the worldwide automotive industry.
With newfound wealth, Robert decided to build a family estate in the early 1930s. He purchased 493 acres of woodlands northwest of Toledo. After the purchase, Robert and his wife Page Seldon Stranahan employed over 100 workers in the construction of the home beginning in 1936. Built over two years using 12-inch steel I-beams, brick and concrete, the 32,000 square foot Georgian Colonial home is a marvel of depression era construction. Once completed, the mansion contained 15 bedrooms, 17 bathrooms, 16 fireplaces, a study, and a basement game room equipped with a shooting gallery.
The grounds around the home rivaled the mansion’s interior. A formal English garden designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman, a female pioneer in landscape architecture, rests on the northeast end of the home. In front of the mansion was a nine-hole putting green used by Robert’s son Frank Stranahan, a prolific golfer with two major’s championships to his name. Surrounding the mansion were miles of riding trails, which entertained family and guest until Mrs. Stranahan’s death in 1968.
The estate was purchased by the city for 4.1 million dollars in 1975 following a successful grassroots citizen’s campaign to save the home. The city has worked to restore the mansion and the grounds to their former glory. The Ellen Biddle Shipman Formal Garden is one of the last remaining examples of her architecture in existence. The forest and prairie land riding trails that surround the home are now open to the public free of charge. Visitors that elect to take the private tour can expect to learn about the home, the Stranahan family and their place in the history of the city of Toledo.
Notes for Travelers
The house is closed the first week of each month, April through November, except for July for Tea in the Manor House.
The first floor of the Manor House can be toured independently, or guests can opt for a guided tour of the entire home, which lasts roughly one hour. Guides are provided as guests arrive, though groups larger than ten may need to call ahead. Parking for the Manor House is located approximately five hundred feet from the mansion and is shared by the guest of the Wildwood Preserve Metro Park. Large groups with busses can be accommodated via the driveway directly in front of the home. The home and the immediate grounds are handicap accessible, but some areas of the park grounds may not be. The home is also decorated during the holiday season. Visitors interested in touring the house at this time should consider visiting during the first two weeks of December.