Historic Home in Thompson Gets a Facelift
September 3, 2021 by Kathy McClure

A long-standing eyesore on Thompson Township square is getting much needed renovation. 

A long-standing eyesore on Thompson Township square is getting much needed renovation.

The historic Charles Martin Hall home, built in the early 1850s, was the childhood home of the inventor and developer of aluminum. Hall was born in 1863 and his inquisitive youthful nature led him to pour over scientific textbooks and experiment in his backyard shed. The shed is no longer standing, but the home next to the Robison tractor garage has been saved from demolition.

Slated to be razed despite its historic signature, Dave and Deanna Francis, of Perry Township, bought the home in 2019 with no immediate plan other than to salvage history.

Its condition had decayed, standing without attention since 1986. It had been used as a rental and a commercial antique store, but no maintenance had been performed.

“It was horrible and the people of Thompson had to look at it that way. Initially, we had no plan other than to save it from demolition,” said Dave.

Francis’ labor of love began by restoring the original foundation, which had shifted and sagged. All original timbers and beams were salvaged and kept intact, as well as the original footprint of the rooms.

“We had to gently jack up the house by one-half inch every week for five weeks to keep walls from cracking,” Dave said, adding even the kitchen cabinets had to be removed to reduce pressure on the foundation.

While the outside is nearly complete, the inside remains a work in progress and the Francises plan to enlarge the bathroom to bring it up to today’s standards, though all other work has been performed according to today’s building codes.

In 2014, Yoshi Miyagi, from Japan, visited Thompson Township to conduct research on the life and inventions of Hall, including his tenure at Oberlin College. Miyagi was researching the history of aluminum, which began with Hall’s processing.

Hall received his degree in chemistry from Oberlin College in 1885 and a re-created shed patterned after the original stands at the Oberlin Heritage Center, housing exhibits of the experiments he performed in Thompson, according to the center’s website. Hall received his first patent in 1886 and is credited with the process that made aluminum easy to manufacture and feasible for commercial use.

Hall formed the Reduction Company of Pittsburgh, which later became the Aluminum Company of America. Since aluminum became useful in the construction of automobiles and airplanes, Hall became a very wealthy man and filed for 22 patents during his life, as well as received numerous awards. Hall served on the Board of Oberlin College until his death in 1914. Much of his vast fortune was bequeathed to the college since he never married nor had children, according to invent.org.

In 1953, representing the 90th anniversary of Hall’s birth, Thompson erected a monument on the square opposite his homestead.

Thompson Township Trustee Erwin Leffel is encouraged to see the landmark home restored.

“This renovation was long overdue and I’m proud to see it is again a feature of pride on our town square,” he said.

The Francises are working to complete the inside, change the walkway to the house and improve the yard. Dave is exploring the possibility of moving the tribute monument from the other side of the square, or applying for an historic brass plaque to mark the home and outline its history.

Dave said the township has been helpful, even offering to apply for a grant to make the improvements, but he bore the cost alone. He plans to rent the home once complete.

The couple also own the house immediately to the north of the Hall house and is busy at work on that one, as well.