The Walke House is a building locally significant for the period of c1812-1924, and which retains its integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. Because it is a large, early, almost intact house designed in the rare "Early Classical Revival" style, the Walke House is locally significant in architecture under Criterion C as a representative example of a building type and architectural period.
The property is a very important reflection of early nineteenth century Classical Revival style residential architecture in the Virginia Military District settlement area of Ohio. The raised basement, hipped roof, four-columned portico form along with classical details including the Venetian windows, fanlight, fireplace mantles, etc. can be associated with forms and house types from the same time period within the Virginia Military District, and areas of Virginia connected to people associated with this property.
The Walke House, or more accurately the Wallace-James-Walke House, was built as a mansion on the outskirts of the growing young town of Chillicothe, Ohio. The c1812-1924 period of significance for the Walke House begins with the period in which it was probably built, encompasses the time it served as a residence for the significant Walke family and others, and ends when it was renovated for use as an orphanage and public assistance center. This spans more than a century of great change in settlement, technology, and events.
The Walke House retains integrity of location by remaining on its original site. The integrity of design of the house is evident in its unaltered floorplan, and the expression of form and function for most of the rooms. Its integrity of setting is greatly reduced but a small sample remains, with the house located on one acre of open lawn with some specimen trees and shrubs surrounding it as similar plantings did during the period of significance. Its integrity of materials is evident in all but roofing remaining original (and that is historic material). The workmanship is evident in its original materials, and high-style ornament, design, forms, and details. The integrity of feeling is in its surrounding yard, greatly reduced but a small sample remaining, especially contrasting with the surrounding historical development. The integrity of association is in its use that preserves its design as a house.
The Walke House is a modified central-passage Four-Over-Four type house, with Early Classical Revival styling. Although having received additions and modifications - mainly in the early twentieth century - much of its design, styling, and materials remain intact or easily restorable because of intentional conservative treatment of the building.
It represents high-style architecture of the Settlement period and Development period, which respectively in south-central Ohio spans from the opening of settlement in 1795, separated by the War of 1812 (1812-1814), to about 1830 at the coming of the canal system.
The Walke House was built during the popularity of the Federal style in southern Ohio, and it has many elements of the style, including a few from the earlier Georgian style. The form of the house and the portico indicate the house is in the "Early Classical Revival" style (or Jeffersonian Classicism, or Roman Revival), which is interrelated with the Federal Style.
The research for this nomination revealed unanswered questions and gaps in the recorded history of the home. After thorough research in such sideline data as deeds, tax records, and grave marker inscriptions, the below more complete history of the home has been reconstructed. While history states that the Walke House of Chillicothe was built "about 1820" for Anthony Walke, it seems that history has forgotten two other families involved in the creation and completion of the home.
In 1820 Anthony Walke paid $9,600 for 43 acres including the site of the Walke House. Ohio and Ross County tax records do not detail buildings until 1826, when Walke's 43 acres were valued at $756 and the house at $3,000. Judging by these numbers, the 1820 sales figure indicates that the house was already on the site when Walke bought the land.
Other sales figures imply when the house was built. In 1808 Henry Massie paid $5 an acre for 476 acres that included the future site of the Walke House. In 1812 Thomas James bought 223 of those acres for $15 an acre, a price increase that can be attributed to clearing of the land and its increasing value near the growing town of Chillicothe. But in 1819, Cadwallader Wallace bought 43 of those acres for $110 an acre, a jump of 733 percent. This indicates that the house had been built during the ownership of Thomas James. In 1820 when Anthony Walke bought the same 43 acres, he paid $223 an acre, 200 percent of the previous price. Other than land speculation, this (along with some architectural details) implies that the house had been finished, and under different direction.
The "Walke House" is now given a initial construction date of sometime between 1812 and 1815, with completion by 1820. James bought the land on which it stands 1 February 1812, but then bought another house and added to it in 1815, and then lost his wife and delved into building an iron works in 1816. Thus the Walke House was probably begun sometime after he bought the land, but before 1815-1816 when construction may have been suspended. The start of construction was probably close to 1815, as indicated by the styling and the amount of time most of construction would have taken. James probably did not live in the house. Wallace may have begun renting or received undocumented ownership of the house sometime between 1815 and 1819. The unfinished house may have been completed at that time or during the 15 April 1819 to 30 September 1820 documented ownership of Wallace.
Alterations and additions to the house occurred c1850s, c1880s, c1893, 1922-24, and 1935.