When John F. Miller was 20 years old, he started work with the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad, which later became the New York Central Lines.
After taking charge of the Cleveland terminals of the Pennsylvania Railroad at the beginning of the Civil War, he became the head of the Indianapolis and Columbus division of the Pennsylvania lines, and later became superintendent of the entire Southwest System of the PRR.
Miller was known within the Pennsylvania Railroad system as the man who could help resolve labor strikes, and as a result, during a strike in 1877, the governor of Ohio made him a colonel in the state militia so that he would have greater authority.
Miller kept the honorary title of colonel for the rest of his life. He was a personal friend of President William McKinley, and after McKinley’s election, he traveled to Washington in Miller’s private rail car. In 1901 McKinley named Miller a commissioner to the World’s Fair in St. Louis.
Much of Miller’s work took him between Columbus and Richmond, Indiana, where he had built an elaborate mansion.
Because of his travel between the two locations, he decided to build a second home in Columbus, and purchased about 4.8 acres in the Arlington Place subdivision. He commissioned Frank Packard to design his home, which was built on part of the property at 1600 Central Ave., now known as Roxbury Road.
Packard designed the house with an eclectic stylistic design that combined Victorian-era Stick wall treatments with irregular massing, Early Gothic Revival and Carpenter Gothic decorative treatments (steeply pitched roofs and gables, gingerbread ornamentation, fancy scroll work, strong vertical design elements, diamond-paned, pointed, and arched windows and heavy bargeboards protecting the eaves).
Completed in 1895, the home was 3,500 square feet and had five large rooms on the first floor and five bedrooms on the second. It was reported that Miller had used cypress boards from dismantled railroad box cars in the construction of the house.
Because of his travel back and forth, he resided in the house sporadically.
In 1907, he deeded a large part of the remaining property to other prominent Columbus people, who in turn built their mansions in the village. One of these men, William Lanman, bought the Miller house and used it as the residence for his property caretaker.
Miller died in 1916.
Over the ensuing years, the property changed owners several times.
In 1953, Garry and Mary Myers made it their home and business office. (Our Society records indicate that the Myers family lived in the house starting in 1953, but the Franklin County Auditor recorded the purchase in 1955.)
Garry Myers’ parents, Garry Sr. and Caroline, were the founders of Highlights for Children and had moved the operation to Columbus from Pennsylvania. Garry Jr. and Mary were instrumental in marketing the magazine by getting it placed in public spaces, most notably doctor and dentist offices where kids could read it in the waiting rooms.
In 1960, the founders were in the process of transitioning leadership to their son and daughter-in-law when tragedy struck the family. On a cold December morning that year, Garry Jr., Mary, and company vice-president Cyril Ewart were traveling from Ohio to New York for a business meeting when the plane they were traveling in collided with another over Staten Island. There were no survivors of the accident that killed all 128 passengers and crew and six people on the ground.
After the Myers’ death, the home was purchased by Virginia and Frederick Stecker.
Stecker was the assistant dean of men at Ohio State University from 1936-40 and served as a special assistant to university presidents Howard Bevis and Novice Fawcett. He was the director of the Enarson Hall Student Union from 1947-51, during which time he was the principal planner for the Ohio Union built in 1951 on High Street. He served as the director of University Relations until he retired. He and his wife, Virginia, traveled extensively and donated large sums of money to various causes.
Stecker submitted a request to list the house on Roxbury Road on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1984 the home was listed as the Miller, J.F. House (the secondary name is the Stecker, Frederick House) because of its architectural significance.
It was the only home listed in Grandview and Marble Cliff until 2021, when the Lanman/Ingram mansion at 2015 West Fifth was recognized. (The Bank Block on Grandview Avenue was listed in 1997). The home can be found on the History Walks app, which can be downloaded from the Historical Society web site at tours.grandviewhistorywalks.org.
This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Grandview Heights Moment in Time