The Walker – Justice House, Poland, Ohio

This magnificent Poland home with its grand entrance and wrap around front porch sits at the corner of Riverside Drive and South Main Street. It was built in 1876 by Robert Long Walker, who was by all reports kindly, honest, and the wealthiest man in Poland, having gained his wealth by prospecting and mining coal. He had chosen the site for his new home because of its close proximity to the Farmer’s Deposit and Saving Bank around the corner at 410 S. Main Street. Besides being the bank’s founder and president, Mr. Walker was once mayor of Poland and in 1870 was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Poland Cemetery Association, serving until 1894.
The house has changed very little in the last 133 years from its Italianate style architecture. It contains four sandstone mantelpieces painted to look like marble and the center hall has a monumental walnut front stairway that raises three stories. Old photographs show a railing around the third floor roof where Walker had a commanding view of Poland and Fowler’s Grist Mill on Yellow Creek. Originally the site was occupied by Jured Kirtland’s Inn and Tavern located at the juncture of two main highways; one from the east and the other from the south. The Inn was torn down to make room for both Walker’s residence and the three-story brick bank building next door.
When William McKinley returned home from the Civil War, he looked up his boyhood friend, Robert Walker, and borrowed enough money to attend law school. Mr. Walker admired his old school chum and took pride in calling him “The Major.” He was only too willing to be of assistance whenever McKinley needed cash and was his chief financial backer. He may have been too generous for in 1895 Mr. Walker fortunes collapsed and he was forced to sell the house to Dr. C. R. Justice. The good doctor lived there for the next 50 years. It is said that McKinley announced his decision to run for President of the United States in Walker’s front parlor.
In 1880 young Ida Tarbell came to Poland to teach at Union Seminary. The Walkers welcomed her into their home and treated her as one of the family for the next two years. Ida became a life-long friend of Clara, the Walker’s daughter and remembers her fondly in her 1939 autobiography entitled “
All In the Day’s Work.” Miss Tarbell became a famous journalist and is known for her biography of Abraham Lincoln.