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Dunham Tavern
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Dunham Tavern
Courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, photo by Jeff Winstel

Dunham Tavern was a stagecoach stop on the old Buffalo-Cleveland-Detroit post road and now is the oldest building standing on its original site in the city of Cleveland. The building is one of the few remaining places reflecting the early settlement of Cleveland and Euclid Avenue's original function as a frontier post road. The house was built by Rufus and Jane Pratt Dunham, who immigrated to Ohio from Massachusetts in 1819. They purchased a 13.75-acre farm, and constructed their home in several sections beginning in 1824. Capitalizing on their roadside location, Rufus also became a tavern keeper. The Dunham Tavern became a social and political center facilitating parties, turkey shoots and meetings of the Whig party. The Dunhams sold the establishment in 1853, but the house continued to function as a tavern until it was acquired in 1857 by a banker and became his residence.

[photo] Historic photo of Dunham Tavern, c. 1920
Courtesy of the Cleveland Press Collection, Cleveland State University Library

The Dunham Tavern is a significant example of early wood frame mortise and tenon construction. The framework is of heavy hewn timbers connected with wooden pins and hand-wrought spikes. The first floor joists are also of hewn logs and the rooms are separated by partitions of chestnut planks under split lath and plaster. Influenced by the Federal style, the simple frame building is faced with clapboard and has a symmetrical façade dominated by 12 over 12 windows. A dentil row runs under the front eave of the low slope gable roof, which is pierced by two interior end chimney stacks. The entry in the central bay has four-pane sidelights flanked by Doric pilasters. A tap room was added to the side of the house with an eave orientation and front porch.

The tavern remained a private residence until the 1930s, when it served as studio space for WPA artists and printmakers. The Society of Collectors, organized in the early 1930s, became interested in the historic site and eventually took responsibility for it, opening the tavern as a museum in 1941. The museum is furnished with authentic 19th-century antiques that depict life in early Cleveland. In contrast to the cityscape that surrounds it, the museum and its gardens offer a glimpse of history and insight into the lifestyles of early Ohio settlers and travelers.

Dunham Tavern is located at 6709 Euclid Ave. in Cleveland. It is open from 1:00pm to 4:00pm on Wednesday and Sunday. There is a fee for admission. Call 216-431-1060 or visit the museum's website for further information. Dunham Tavern has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.

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