A mansion on a hilltop perfectly describes Gross Mansion. The mere mention of its name brings instant recognition. While most know where it is, few know its history, or the history of the only family to call this “home”.
Born in 1868, Charles F. Gross began working at the age of twenty-one in the oil fields of Ohio, West Virginia, and Oklahoma. Charles saved his wages carefully, and began buying shares of The Hill Oil and Gas Company based in Columbus, Ohio.
This company had extensive holdings in Oklahoma and Texas, and Charles Gross of Cambridge had increased his holdings to one-fifth interest. The Cushing Field in Oklahoma consisted of 6,000 acres and produced 20,000 barrels of oil a day. When he sold his one-fifth interest in this field, Charles had money to purchase land and build a house.
Harriett, his wife, had her heart set on having the nicest house in Cambridge, and that is what Charles set out to accomplish. Charles had purchased a city block between Sixth and Seventh Streets in a strictly residential area.
The Gross Mansion, completed in 1921, was situated in a park-like setting. A winding carriage lane wove through a beautiful landscape of flowers and trees. Relaxing while working in the garden became one of Charles’ cherished times.
No cost was spared in the construction of this 12,000 square foot home with twenty-four rooms. Even today the beautiful tile floors, walnut paneling, carved stone fireplaces and beautiful stairway with carved newel posts exemplify the richness intended many years ago.
Stories are still told of the Gross family as many parties and weddings were held at the mansion. Trick or treaters that were brave enough to come to the door of the big house, were rewarded with a fifty cent piece.
Teachers at the 9th Street School, where Harriett was a student, had an annual dinner there served by the Gross family. It was a day the children remembered, not because of the mansion, but because when the teachers went for lunch, school was dismissed for the rest of the day.
Young Harriett also had the pleasure of owning a brown and white pony that she enjoyed riding inside that tall fence around the mansion. That high fence with spiked top is of special interest as it was constructed by the family to protect their only child. This happened right after the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby and the Gross family feared that with their wealth gained from the oil fields, their daughter could be a possible target. They even had a hidden staircase installed in the house for easy escape.
A personal memory takes me back to days as a young child when my mother delivered fresh eggs and chickens, butchered that morning, to the Gross family. Mom let me carry a dozen eggs to the side door while she took the chickens. Dad waited patiently in the car.
While Charles Gross got his start in the oil fields, he became a very prominent member of the Cambridge community. In 1918, he was elected to the board of directors of The National Bank of Cambridge and served until his death in 1942. His funeral was held at the Gross Mansion.
Daughter Harriett was one of those who got married at the mansion when she wed Howell Bates, an ensign in the Navy. Later Harriett and Howell would be the ones to sell the mansion in 1958 to the Cambridge YMCA.
Gross Mansion still catches the eye of visitors to the city and makes them catch their breath as they view this beautiful home from nearly a hundred years ago. Chances are rare of building anything this grand again. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it would be returned to its former richness and impressive beauty?.
Recently, Dickens Victorian Village held a Victorian Funeral Experience in the mansion. Hopefullly, many other community events will take place in this beautiful spot soon.
How nice to see life at the mansion once again!
Gross Mansion is located between 6th and 7th Streets in Cambridge, Ohio. Once in town, head down 6th Street where parking is available in a lot across the street.