The man behind the cupola
MEMORIES IN FOCUS: The man behind the cupola years ago
One of Marion’s most experienced early attorneys, later to serve as a judge, Louis Finley Keller Sr. is perhaps better known as the original owner, and with his second wife, “Mollie,” architect of a unique three-story home now owned by Edwin and Cheryl Ochs Wheeler at Denver and Locust Sts.
Born in 1844 near Titusville, Pennsylvania, Keller studied law in Pennsylvania before moving at age 26 to a homestead along French Creek. After his first wife died a year later, he moved to Marion and in 1878 married Mary L. Dickerson. Ten years later, already with four of their seven children, the couple served as their own architects in designing what was at the time the second largest home in the county.
“Their success,” Record editor E.W. Hoch wrote, “may well be envied by professionals in that line.”
Known for what now is called a third-story cupola, the home was famed upon its completion in 1878 for what was called its tower and observatory. The 2,700-square-foot, 10-room house was appointed in cherry, hard maple, butternut, and chestnut wood with marbleized slate mantels, variegated tile hearths, and a flagpole atop the observatory tower.
“It is a splendid structure,” Hoch wrote, “and its worthy owner, who by industry, integrity, and ability has worked his way from comparative obscurity to much prominence and high esteem as a lawyer and a gentleman, might well feel proud (but won’t) of the success this building partially typifies. May he and his excellent family live long to enjoy the comforts of their elegant new home.”
Keller died in in 1918 at age 73 and his wife in 1937 at age 84. Two of the couple’s seven children, Ruth and Sadie Keller, resided in the home for nearly 90 years.
As an attorney, Keller was known for successfully challenging a state lawsuit that attempted to block remodeling of an undersized courthouse in the 1870s and for serving as judge in numerous Prohibition cases in the 1910s, while his wife was county president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
Last modified March 22, 2018