Once again Chris Zurbuchen has provided a window exhibit in the front vestibule of the Yellow Springs Community Library for the Yellow Springs Historical Society.
This month’s exhibit features the history of Fess House (now occupied by New World Expeditions).
The Yellow Springs Historical Society
~ Weston House ~
~ Fess House ~
~ Vie Design Studios, Inc. ~
~ New World Expeditions ~
1869 John Burns Weston
1887 John H. Mellinger
1896 Florela B. & Morgan Adams
1904 Thomas M. McWhinney
1917 Simeon Davidson Fess
1936 Lowell Thomas Fess
1951 Earl N. & Martha L. Yoder
1954 Fred & Myrl G Boyd
1959 Mary Allott & James W. Agna
1970 Read & Beverly L. Viemeister
1996 Milton & Phyllis Cox
2016 Arati & William Cacciolfi
The Cacciolfi family graciously agreed the Historical Society could host an open house tour of their home in May 2020. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic shut down all activities. Perhaps 2022 will be an opportunity to visit this historic home?
This exhibit is from the “Fess House ~ Vie Design Studios” scrapbook given to the Historical Society by Beverly Viemeister. Additional information from YS News, IDSA.org, Antiochiana, and YSHistory.org.
1869 – 1874 (1st tax record) – 1887
In 1869 Antioch Professor John Burns Weston decided to build a house. After all, as one of the founders of Antioch College in 1850, as a member of the first graduating class under Horace Mann in 1857, and as Acting President during the Civil War, a fine home would be fitting.
To help with the project he imported twin teenage nephews from New England, Stephen F. and Samual B. Weston. They made thousands of bricks and assisted in the construction. Stephen and his son S. Burns Weston continued the Weston-Antioch connection as professor, administrator, student, trustee, and benefactor. John Burns Weston left Antioch in the 1880’s to head Defiance College.
1917 – 1936
Simeon D. Fess and his wife purchased the house in 1917, as it was befitting a house for a Congressman. Fess was a staunch prohibitionist, an ardent supporter for woman’s suffrage and a past president of Antioch College.
The 1912 Ohio convention started the political career of The Honorable Simeon D. Fess. He became President of Antioch College in 1907. In 1911 he ran for the state Constitutional Convention. That paid a $1000 stipend which he needed as he was usually paid less than half his $2500 salary at Antioch.
In 1881 he entered Ohio Normal University (Ohio Northern U) He graduated in 1889 with highest honors and selected VP and secretary of university. 1890 he married Eva Thomas, a fellow faculty member. 1902 he became graduate student for doctorate of philosophy of history and law at University of Chicago. Due to financial problems, with 3 children, he assumed presidency of Antioch College 1907.
He was President of Antioch College from 1906 to 1917, and also elected to the US House of Representative in 1912. He was re-elected 4 times.
He and his wife remodeled the house interior and added the front porch. They planted flower gardens. He was elected US Senator, 1922. He received many people in his home as he was one of the Republican wheel-horses during the Coolidge and Hoover Administrations.
Fess teamed with Andrew Volstead to get the 18th amendment, The National Prohibition Act, ratified 1919. Fess was known as the “Driest of the Drys.”
Tragically, his wife was killed in a car accident, 1925.
1934, having lost re-election to the Senate, he retired to Yellow Springs to write 4 volume history of Ohio. He died in 1936 at age of 75. He is buried in Glen Forest Cemetery, Yellow Springs.
In 2020, Gov. DeWine recognized the 100 year anniversary of the Smith-Fess Act of 1920, renamed the Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act. This began the rehabilitation program for all Americans with disabilities patterned after the Soldiers Rehabilitation Act.
1951 – 1970
The house was sold to Mr. Yoder, and later to Mr. Boyd, both deciding the house perfect for the funeral home business and letting rooms for rent.
In 1959, when Dr. James Agna was looking for a home for his large family, he kept this one at the top of the list. He had rent a room from Mr. Boyd. The size, location, fuzzy-feeling wallpaper and other attractions were compelling. However, after purchase, befitting the image of a healing physician, he and his family decided the viewing room would make a better ping pong room and the embalming room would be better as a kitchen. Those changes, along with others, were made.
1970 – 1995
The house was home to Vie Design Studios, Inc. Read Viemeister (1923-1993) graduated from Pratt Institute in 1943 along with Budd Steinhilber. Viemeister married Beverly Lipsett in 1946, moved to Yellow Springs, Ohio and founded Vie Design Studios. Budd Steinhilber became his partner in 1949. Both were on the team assembled by Preston Tucker that designed the ill-fated Tucker automobile.
In 1949, they worked together to establish a Department of Industrial Design at the Dayton Art Institute, where they both taught and lectured, with Read as the department head.
Creating designs for print media, packaging, products and architecture, Vie Design Studios earned regional and national recognition for its work for such companies and organizations as NCR, GE, Standard Register, Mead, Huffy, LeBlond, and many others. He designed Yellow Springs landmarks such as the Glen Helen Building, Trailside Museum and many homes. The studio designed many corporate identities including the classic circle/square/triangle Antioch College logo. Like much of his work, the logo designed for Dap caulking products 40 years ago is still used today.
The achievement which gave Viemeister the most satisfaction was the prize-winning “First Flight” computerized mosaic mural which dominated the original lobby of the Convention Center in Dayton, Ohio. (The mural is now located in Kettering Hall at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force). Crafted in Casalbuttano, Italy, in the early 1970s, the 20-by-60 foot digitized image was composed of 163,296 one-inch-square ceramic tiles, each a tiny aviation-related picture on its own. He used existing computer techniques for its creation in 1970. First, he converted the photograph into a grid pattern and isolated 20 basic shapes, or values, from the grid. Next he designed 20 symbols to match the isolated values. The symbols were applied to ceramic tiles, which were then assembled to make the mosaic mural as seen at the museum.
April 1982, the Yellow Springs Historic District (roughly bounded by the RR tracks, YS-Fairfield Rd., High and Herman Sts.) was approved for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
Beverly Viemiester made several proposals for the property after her husband’s death. One was to convert the property to a Bed and Breakfast, The Village Inn.
The sale of the house in 1996 includes a Tecumseh Land Trust easement. The sale was different from other house sales as it includes a protective easement designed to preserve the historic aspects of the building as well as the open space surrounding it.