The Sells Mansion was built in 1895 for Peter Sells (of the Sells Brother Circus) and his family. The house was designed by architect Frank Packard, who also designed other notable buildings in the Columbus area. Since then, the house has passed through several owners and even sat vacant for years at a time. Today, the Sells Mansion (also called the Circus House) is once again a private residence.
Backstory and Context
Four of the Sells brothers, Ephraim, Allen, Lewis, and Peter, began the Sells Brothers Circus in 1871. They purchased the act of Cannonball George Richards as well as nine cages of animals, two camels, and other circus-related equipment. The brothers then reinvested their profits into the business and bought their first of many elephants. When the circus reached its height, becoming the second most popular circus in the country, it featured sixty-four performers, fifty cages of wild animals, thirteen elephants, and seven camels.
Peter Sells worked as the “front man” of the group, traveling ahead of the circus to secure reservations and advertise. In 1895, he used his financial success from the circus to build the Sells Mansion. The mansion was designed by Frank Packard, who also designed the old Governor’s Mansion and the Columbus Country Club. Construction of the Romanesque-style home cost a total of $40,000. The nearby carriage house featured Spanish-Moorish arched windows and a tile roof, similar to the main house.
The house remained in the hands of private owners until 1925 when it was used as a meeting facility for the United Commercial Travelers Columbus Chapter and other local organizations. From 1938 to1956, the carriage house was owned by the Wm. E. Cooper Food Company; its owner also lived there in the early 1940s. The Fraternal Order of Police met in the main house until 1956. Then, the house sat vacant until being used shortly as the House of Hope for Alcoholics from 1960 to 1961. Both houses were then vacant until a nursery school moved into the main house from 1963 to 1996. Since then, the main house has been a private residence.
Having passed through several
hands over the years, the Sells Mansion has undergone as many changes. The
first floor only retains its original oak wood floors and tile fireplaces. The
upstairs has fared better, with its ornamental plaster arches, stained glass
windows, and grand stairways intact. Furthermore, an addition was built in the
1930s, and three dormers on the roof were removed in the 1970s.
Nancy, Patzer. Sells Mansion. Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff Historical Society. Accessed September 21, 2018. http://www.ghmchs.org/PackardFiles/Sells.html. Information and photo source.