Huntington Reservation, on the shores of Lake Erie, was the former country estate of John Huntington (1832-1893), a prominent Cleveland industrialist and philanthropist.
John Huntington was born in Preston, England. His father was a mathematics teacher in the English school system. He made sure John had a good education. In 1852, John emigrated to the United States and Cleveland, Ohio.
He went into the roofing business with his brother, Hugh, and was successful. He soon became a respected Cleveland businessman.
At the turn of the century, many wealthy Clevelanders had homes in the city and beautiful estates in the country.
Huntington was contracted to roof an early oil refinery by John D. Rockefeller. Mr. Rockefeller offered the brothers payment in cash or stock, and John, daring to adventure a little, accepted part payment in stock. He acquired considerable wealth by this venture and eventually a partnership in the Standard Oil Company.
John Huntington was a creative individual with a lively interest in improving ways of doing things efficiently. In 1863, he took up the business of refining oil and invented many new methods. So great were the advantages from his inventions that the company outstripped all competitors. He patented several improvements in oil refining methods.
He had many commercial, civic, and cultural interests. He was involved in the oil business, a fleet of lake vessels, mining, and quarrying in the Cleveland Stone Co. John was elected to Cleveland City Council where he served for 12 years.
He also helped to initiate the construction of swing bridges on the Cuyahoga River, construct sewer systems throughout the city and build the Superior Street Viaduct. One of Huntington’s biggest contributions to the city was the Art and Polytechnic Trust which he created in 1889 to fund the establishment of the Cleveland Museum of Art. His other major trust, the Huntington Benevolent Trust, supported 19 charitable institutions in the Cleveland area.
The Huntington country house burned down in the 1920s and the Huntington barns in 1970. The tall tower on the bluff of Huntington Reservation is one of the few remaining features of the Huntington’s country estate. Although the structure looks like a lighthouse, it is actually a water tower built between 1880 and 1890. It was used to store the water once needed to irrigate the fields of the estate. Most country estates had fancy vineyards, orchards, and gardens with unusual European botanical specimens. The Huntington estate was no exception.
The tower is made of cypress wood, but today, the outside has been covered with siding. The original water pipes, stairway, and water tub enclosure still exist inside the tower.
John liked to sit on top of the tower and watch the sun set. If you look down the beach below the tower you can see another original Huntington structure, the brick pump house, which contained the steam engine used to pump water from the lake to the tower. The “H” for Huntington is still on the outside of this brick building. Also in the park is the Huntington stepping stone used when stepping in and out of a carriage.
Cleveland Metroparks purchased the 98.76 acres of Huntington Property from the Union Trust Co. in 1925 for $500,000. Today, it is Huntington Reservation.