You might not notice this house as you drive south on West 44th Street, first crossing the bridge over I-90 and then approaching the bridge over the Big Four railroad tracks near Train Avenue. But just before you get to that second bridge, take a glance to your right because that two-story brick home at 4403 Fenwick Avenue, currently painted green, is special. Not only is it one of the oldest houses in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood and an unusual example of Italianate architecture for the Cleveland area, but it was also built by one of the pioneer founders of Ohio City.
Benjamin F. Tyler was born in Jefferson County, New York, in 1802. He came to Cleveland in 1832 as the principal representative of an investment group from Buffalo, which included New York state judge Philander Bennett, his wife Sarah's uncle. The out-of-state group had entered into an agreement with two Cleveland merchants, Charles M. Giddings and Norman C. Baldwin, to purchase and redevelop Lorenzo Carter's 80-acre farm on the west bank of the Cuyahoga River in what was then Brooklyn Township. At the time, the Ohio and Erie Canal was nearing completion and people everywhere were flush with land speculation fever.
The investors, who became known as the Buffalo Land Company, surveyed the land they had purchased and began draining the marsh lands that lay near the Old River Bed and the shores of Lake Erie. The group developed plans for a ship channel (which was eventually built) that was intended to divert lake and river traffic away from Cleveland to their lands. They laid out the streets for commercial and residential buildings. And, along with Josiah Barber and other large land owners to the south, they organized Ohio City (technically, "the City of Ohio"), achieving city status in 1836 several days ahead of Cleveland. Tyler's partner, Norman Baldwin, became a mayor of Ohio City, while another local partner, Charles Winslow, served as President of Ohio City Council. (Winslow was also father-in-law to C.L. Russell who later famously led the Ohio City forces in the 1836 Battle of the Bridge against Cleveland.)
Tyler, unlike the other investors who were living in Buffalo--then a city eight times the size of Cleveland, decided to settle down and become a permanent resident of Ohio City. He built a home on Detroit Avenue just to the southeast of where St. Malachi church stands today. He and his wife Sarah raised their children there. He built commercial buildings, dealt extensively in real estate, and became a director of the Bank of Cleveland. He served a term on the Ohio City Council and was a vestryman at St. John Episcopal Church. In the 1850s, as sentiment against the Kansas- Nebraska Act led to the creation of the national Republican Party, Tyler became an early convention delegate of that political party in Cleveland.
In 1856, two years after Ohio City was annexed to the City of Cleveland, Tyler purchased the farm land upon which the house at 4403 Fenwick now sits, as a gift to his wife Sarah. Construction of the house was completed in or about 1859. With an all brick facade, simple box style, and almost commercial appearance, it is different than the usual Italianate style of design built in this era in Cleveland.
Six years after building the house on Fenwick Avenue, Benjamin F. Tyler succumbed to cancer at age 63. He was buried at Monroe Street Cemetery. After his death, Sarah sold the farmhouse to German immigrants and moved into a house on Franklin Avenue. While the house at 4403 Fenwick has had a number of different owners over the past century and a half, since 1963 it has been owned by one Cleveland family.