Sheriff's sale looms for Porthouse mansion in Sugar Bush Knolls

By Kyle McDonald | Staff Writer Published:

The mansion Cyril and

Roberta Porthouse built more than 50 years ago in Sugar Bush Knolls will be on the Portage County sheriff's auction block Monday.

The 8,000-square-foot home, built for the industrialist and his wife, sits tucked away on 13.5 acres of waterfront property at 1243 Lake Roger Drive in the village located north of Twin Lakes. It features four bedrooms, five full baths, multiple bars, an indoor barbeque grill, an in-ground pool, marble and hardwood floors.

Cyril Porthouse was president of Pyramid Rubber Co. in Ravenna and head of Dunhill International as well as the first mayor of Sugar Bush Knolls, which was the smallest village in Ohio when it was incorporated in the early 1960s. He and his wife, Roberta, were philanthropists whose $60,000 "challenge gift" made possible the Porthouse Theatre at Blossom Music Center.

Their home was a showplace when it was built in 1960. Now it is in foreclosure.

Daryl Yane bought the home for $1.2 million in 1995 from Roberta Porthouse, who relocated to the St. Louis area to be with her family. She died in 2000; her husband died in 1990.

Yane, a former investor, is the only person to own the house since the Porthouses. He was unsuccessful when trying to sell it in 2010, after the housing and stock markets crashed, causing him to lose his fortune and eventually leading to the home's foreclosure.

The mansion is now appraised at $417,100 by Portage County Auditor. The opening bid on Monday's sale starts at $283,334.

Some of the features of the Porthouse residence were "way ahead of their time," said Yane, who said he is amazed by the craftsmanship of the ranch-style brick residence.

"Every time I look through this place, I think, 'Wow,'" he said, during a walkthrough of the house Friday. "I lived here for years before I noticed some of the minute details."

Yane said the soundproof walls, outdoor shuffleboard, rooms wired for speakers, pocket doors, walk-in cooler's automatic light and light fixtures are just a few of the features that impress.

A hidden bell under the dining room table once existed to signal for kitchen help before Yane replaced the carpet for marble.

"I didn't know about it and always stepped on it," Yane said. "I would always go to the door thinking that somebody rang the doorbell."

David Porthouse, the son of Cyril and Roberta, said his grandfather, David R. Porthouse, a contractor and mason by trade, supervised the construction of the house. His father and the family lent their hands to the labor, he recalled.

The house was built to the finest commercial standards of its time, he said.

Yane said nearly everything was built on site. "All the woodworks, moldings, cupboards, drawers -- everything was made on the spot."

The mansion has almost been maintained to its original condition. "It's like new," he said.

A sprawling furnace system in the basement requires more expertise than usual, though, Yane said.

"It looks like a submarine," Yane said. "The furnace isn't made to be replaced, it's made to be maintained."

A Ravenna native, Cyril Porthouse became very wealthy after taking over Pyramid Rubber, which later became Evenflo Rubber Co. The firm manufactured baby bottle nipples and other products in Ravenna after World War II and into the 1950s.

"Feeding of babies was very much en vogue at that time and they made money hand over first," David Porthouse recalled.

Roberta Porthouse, who grew up in Kent, worked at Polsky's department store in Akron for $13 per week while her husband went back to school at Ohio State University to earn a master's degree in chemistry. While rearing their four children, she became involved in volunteer activities and philanthropy. She was especially active with Robinson Memorial Hospital and, in later years, was a stalwart supporter of the Kent State University Museum.

The Porthouses became closely associated with Kent State University through their philanthropic gifts. A $60,000 matching donation to KSU led to the establishment of the Porthouse Theatre in 1971.

"My mother was very interested in the fashion museum and became quite close friends with the people who ran that," David Porthouse said. "That was part of their big connection (to KSU)."

The Porthouses lived in the University Heights neighborhood near KSU until building their home in Sugar Bush Knolls. Mrs. Porthouse lived there for 34 years until she relocated.

"What I did, I did with love," Mrs. Porthouse recalled in a 1995 Record-Courier story as she prepared to leave the Kent area.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or kmcdonald@recordpub.com

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