Chautauqua Foundation Acquires Historic Lewis Miller Cottage
National Historic Landmark was Home of Chautauqua Co-Founder; Hosted President Ulysses S. Grant, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison
The Chautauqua Foundation has acquired the Lewis Miller Cottage, a National Historic Landmark and the only structure on the Chautauqua Institution grounds to carry that National Park Service designation. Thomas B. Hagen, a longtime Chautauquan, has been working for more than a year with Foundation and Institution leaders and the cottage’s owners, Miller descendants Ted Arnn and Nancy Kim Arnn, to enable Chautauqua to acquire the property.
“When the cottage was put up for sale, I felt that the proper steward of this National Landmark should be Chautauqua itself,” said Hagen. “I’m thrilled that all the parties involved made this acquisition a success for everyone.”
In addition to his gift to allow for the purchase of the cottage, Hagen has committed to match, dollar for dollar, up to $150,000 in donations from the community. These gifts will be used to establish an endowment for the future maintenance and care of the cottage.
“This is a rare and incredible gift to Chautauqua, and I want to express my heartfelt thanks to Tom Hagen, and to Ted and Kim Arnn for making this dream a reality,” said Chautauqua Institution President Tom Becker. “We intend to preserve the Miller Cottage as it stands today. We will be working closely with a highly regarded preservation architect to evaluate the condition of the home, identify possible uses for it, and develop an ongoing preservation plan.”
To undertake the preservation program, the Foundation has hired Jeff Kidder, AIA, a preservation architect and partner at Erie, Pennsylvania-based Kidder Wachter Architecture & Design. Kidder, who has more than 20 years of professional experience, will also work with the Institution to carefully research and document the structural evolution of the cottage from 1875 to present and to identify code improvements needed for possible future uses.
The cottage was built in 1875 for the co-founder and first president of the Institution, Lewis Miller, an inventor and businessman from Akron, Ohio. President Ulysses S. Grant visited the property that year. Miller’s daughter, Mina, also spent summers at the cottage with her husband, Thomas Alva Edison. The Swiss-style structure on lakefront Miller Park is an excellent example of “stick style” architecture popular in the late 1800s. Considered one of the earliest prefabricated structures in America with components produced and assembled in Akron, the cottage has gone through numerous renovations, expansions and systems upgrades over the past 130 years.
Of particular interest to Chautauqua is documenting the extensive gardens that were developed in the 1920s and working toward their restoration. Mina Miller Edison hired a pioneering landscape architect, Ellen Biddle Shipman, to design the Miller Cottage gardens in 1922. Elements of the original design can be seen today, although modifications have been made over the decades.
The Lewis Miller Cottage was designated a National Historic Landmark on July 4, 1966.
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