When John F. Miller was 20, he started working 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 start of the Civil War, he became the head of the Indianapolis and Columbus Division of the Pennsylvania Lines, then became superintendent of the entire southeastern system. west 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 appointed him Colonel in the State Militia so that he would have greater authority.
Miller retained 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 wagon. In 1901, McKinley appointed Miller curator at the St. Louis World’s Fair.
Much of Miller’s work took him between Columbus and Richmond, Indiana, where he had built an elaborate mansion.
Due to his travel between the two locations, he decided to build a second home in Columbus and purchased approximately 4.8 acres in the Arlington Place subdivision. He commissioned Frank Packard to design his house, 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 scrollwork, strong vertical design elements, diamond-paned, pointed and arched windows and heavy baffles protecting the eaves).
Completed in 1895, the house measured 3,500 square feet and had five large rooms on the first floor and five bedrooms on the second. It was reported that Miller used cypress planks from dismantled railroad cars in the construction of the house.
Due to his comings and goings, he sporadically resided in the house.
In 1907 he ceded much of the remaining property to other prominent Colombians, who in turn built their mansions in the village. One of these men, William Lanman, bought the Miller house and used it as a residence for his caretaker.
Miller died in 1916.
Over the following years, the property changed owners several times.
In 1953, Garry and Mary Myers made it their home and office. (Our company records indicate the Myers family lived in the home beginning 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 placing it in public spaces, including doctors’ and dentists’ offices where children could read it in waiting rooms.
In 1960, the founders were in the process of passing management to their son and daughter-in-law when tragedy struck the family. On a cold December morning of 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 crash which killed all 128 passengers and crew and six people on the ground.
After the Myers died, the house was purchased by Virginia and Frederick Stecker.
Stecker served as assistant dean of men at Ohio State University from 1936 to 1940 and served as special assistant to university presidents Howard Bevis and Novice Fawcett. He was director of the Enarson Hall Student Union from 1947 to 1951, during which time he was the principal planner of the Ohio Union built in 1951 on High Street. He served as Director of University Relations until his retirement. He and his wife, Virginia, traveled widely and donated large sums of money to various causes.
Stecker applied to have the house on Roxbury Road listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1984 the house was listed as Miller, JF House (secondary name is Stecker, Frederick House) due of its architectural importance.
It was the only listed house 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 house is on the History Walks app, which can be downloaded from the Historical Society website at tours.grandviewhistorywalks.org.