July 25, 2014

Elyria
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Painting on loan to Elyria Woman’s Club provides portrait of history

Ada Gates Patton stands Wednesday next to a 1918 painting of her grandmother Ada Cook Gates and Gates’ family at the Elyria Woman’s Club’s Monteith Hall. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Ada Gates Patton stands Wednesday next to a 1918 painting of her grandmother Ada Cook Gates and Gates’ family at the Elyria Woman’s Club’s Monteith Hall. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — One of the oldest homes in Elyria just got a little more historic.

Monteith Hall, home of the Elyria Woman’s Club, received Wednesday a large oil American Impressionist painting that is more than appropriate to hang in the almost two-century-old home.

The painting — a wall-sized 8-foot-by-7-foot piece — depicts Ada Cook Gates with her children a few years after her husband, William Gates, died.

It came to the Elyria club by way of Ada Gates Patton, whose family built Monteith Hall. Her grandparents, Ada Cook and William Gates, were descendants of prominent figures from Elyria’s early days.

“It has always been in our family, and for the past two years, I have been trying to find a place for it, but I think now is the time for it to come home,” said Patton, of Pasadena, Calif. “The family is very happy that the painting is here. Just look at it. It fits right in.”

The painting, on loan to the club, was painted by Karl Anderson in 1918.

Janet Bird, the club board of trustees’ chairwoman, said the club is honored to have it.

“It belongs here. We really feel that way,” Bird said. “The history of this family is so dear to this home and the Elyria community. You can’t talk about Lorain County history without talking about John Monteith.”

Wednesday’s lunch with the Elyria Woman’s Club was just the second time Patton has been at Monteith. Her first visit was long after her grandmother moved out. Patton was 11 when her “Da” died — so she never got to see it as her family home.

But she said she feels a certain connection to it and the city.

“I feel very at home here,” she said.

Patton relished the work to preserve the historic features of the home — right down to its signature white pillars, which will be restored this summer after a long fundraising campaign.

“This is a heavy lift, because not everyone thinks we can save houses like this,” Patton said. “If it had not been for the Elyria Woman’s Club, this house would be gone.”

Few people can trace their lineage back decades, let alone centuries. But Patton can easily do so because her history is entwined with Elyria’s history.

Patton’s great-great grandfather was the Rev. John Monteith, who came to Elyria in 1832 to serve as Elyria High School’s first superintendent. He was a Presbyterian minister credited also with being the founder of the college that became the University of Michigan and an avid abolitionist.

What later became known as Montieth Hall was the home he and his wife, Abigail, built on East Avenue in 1835. It was a stop on the Underground Railroad and a tour of the building takes guests to a tunnel in the basement that leads to the riverbank at the east end of the property.

The Monteiths’ oldest daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Nahum Gates — Patton’s great-grandparents — bought the house from the Monteiths in 1845. Nahum Gates was mayor of Elyria for about 20 years, the county sheriff, a well-respected businessman and an Elyria school board member.

Nahum and Sarah’s son, William, inherited the house in 1893, and he and his wife, Ada Cook Gates, made extensive renovations to it and named it Monteith Hall. When William died, Ada Cook Gates donated a large sum of money for the construction of the Gates Hospital for Crippled Children.

The work that this hospital did led to the development of the Easter Seal Society and Elyria Memorial Hospital, now University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center. Gates Medical Center on the UH Elyria campus still bears the family’s name.

William and Ada Cook Gates had five children.

Their middle son, John, was the head of the design department at the Steuben Division of Corning Glass for many years. John was Patton’s father.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.