Edward Drummond Libbey came to Toledo in 1888 from Boston, where he and his family owned the New England Glass Company. Libbey moved his family's business to Toledo to take advantage of Northwest Ohio's abundant natural gas—a critical necessity for making glass. Libbey's decision to move to Toledo was also influenced by the four acres of land and $100,000 offered to him by a local business association as an incentive to move the family business to Toledo. In 1890, Libbey married Florence Scott, daughter of a prominent Toledo real estate developer and granddaughter of Jesup W. Scott, a former editor of the Toledo Blade and founder of the University of Toledo. In 1893, they commissioned architect David L. Stine, considered the "Dean" of Toledo architects and the designer of the Libbey Glass Works building at the Chicago World's Fair, to plan their Toledo home. Some say that Stine used the Henry Augustus Coit Taylor House in Newport, Rhode Island, designed by McKim, Mead & White, and visited by the Libbeys, as a model for their Scottwood Avenue home. Certainly, the designs are similar, clear down to the color scheme of both homes. The property chosen for the residence was part of the Scott family's land holdings. Mrs. Libbey had a few copper beech trees transplanted onto their double lot from the grounds of her father's estate just across Monroe Street, which the Libbeys donated as the site for the Toledo Museum of Art in 1891.
Much thought and energy went into the location and design of this extraordinary place, and it undoubtedly still shows some 125 years later. Completed in 1895, the 9,000 square feet, 18-room home features a granite and shingle exterior with a large wrap-around veranda, a curved two-story bay, and the year "1895" embossed on its south side—which today fittingly overlooks the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion. The home's interior grandeur appears as soon as you enter through the unusually wide front door into a 30-foot long reception hall. The first floor is decorated with hand-carved woodwork, including the oak-paneled dining room, a cherrywood grand staircase, and a mahogany parlor. The dining room includes ten hand-carved lion heads, each with a one-off demeanor endowed by master woodcarvers, and a fireplace accented with Delft tiles painted with Dutch windmills and sailboats, each selected explicitly by Mrs. Libbey.
The grand staircase includes a Tiffany window above the first landing. The second-floor features four bedrooms, one dressing room, two baths, and 14 closets, many of which are walk-in with built-in dressers—several of these closets include windows. The former staff quarters are on the third floor, which is dominated by a large central hall that opens to a sizeable living area, five bedrooms, and a full bath. Showcased throughout the home are egg and dart, dentil, bead and reel moldings, and Doric, ionic, and Corinthian order columns.
After 125 years, the cheerful yellow and white shingle and colonial revival-style mansion still emotes a warm, blissful mood. Nonetheless, it's hard to find much joy in the stories associated with this National Historic Landmark. In short, two powerful and inspired people joined forces and built this brilliantly designed mansion but sadly, after two years of construction, the death of their only child, just weeks before they were scheduled to move in, dulled their attitude toward a lifestyle centered around a family home. While the Libbey house was used to host elegant parties and salon presentations in its initial years, the Libbeys spent little time here. Instead, choosing to travel and focus their energy on their burgeoning glass industry enterprises, nurturing the Toledo Museum of Art, staying in their New York apartment, and by 1908, wintering in Ojai, California, a popular winter destination for wealthy Easterners and Midwesterners. The Libbeys fell in love with Ojai and led a revival of the village by becoming its most generous benefactor.
After Mr. Libbey died in 1925, Mrs. Libbey finally vacated their Scottwood Avenue home altogether, preferring to stay in her private suite of rooms at the Secor Hotel when visiting Toledo. From 1938, the year Mrs. Libbey died, until 1940, the house was vacant. The home had a succession of private owners after Mrs. Libbey passed away. From 1965 to 1977, it was the headquarters of the Toledo Society for Crippled Children (later to become The Ability Center). Today, this remarkable space is owned by the Libbey House Foundation, whose mission is to preserve and maintain the home's historical accuracy and integrity.
As you view the Libbey House today, it's crucial to interpret its story in context with the Libbeys' professional and personal achievements. The New England Glass Company was renamed Libbey Glass Co. and became an industry giant, propelling Toledo to the title of the glass capital of the world. The Toledo Museum of Art, the Libbeys' shared passion, developed into a world-renowned institution and is recognized for its collection of Old Master paintings, decorative arts, and glass. Ojai, California was revitalized into a fashionable tourist destination, nicknamed "Shangri La," and today is known for its boutique hotels, shopping, recreation opportunities, spiritual retreats, and local organic agriculture. When you place the story of this Old West End residence against the framework of these remarkable triumphs, it becomes less a family home and more a monument to the Libbeys' embarrassment of riches. It was one of many beautiful conceptions borne by two icons of Toledo’s past.