Monday, March 16, 2015

Antique of the week: A English Victorian Aesthetic Recamier

So beautiful it will make you swoon! Fainting sofas (recamiers) were a part of Victorian Society and were handy in case Women , confined in those corsets , needed to rest.

Today they are a "must have" display piece in most parlors, most antique dealers charge thousands for restored ones and good ones are hard to find.

This one is one of the best we have had. Wonderful Aesthetic Movement "Persian inspired" fabric upholstery, Tassels and fringe complete the exotic effect. Most importantly, its priced affordably!

You can find this Recamier and other items on our Ebay site: Ebay Inventory
This is our annual spring cleaning sale and many items are one week only listings.

Friday, March 13, 2015

OPINION: Urban Inversion, coming to Cincinnati Neighborhoods near you

Communities like Knox Hill may well see their return as upper middle class neighborhoods
The dynamics within Cincinnati are on a pathway of rapid change. "Urban Inversion" , demographic changes are  returning cities to their old socio economic pattern, pre 1960's 'white flight". The inevitability of inner core communities being one of increasing wealth and prosperity and the decline of "old ring" suburbs built in the 1950's which will become more poor and crime ridden is not far in our future.

Some, call this "gentrification" but in reality it's just a change in market forces, fueled by  desire among the middle class and wealthy to live a more "urban lifestyle". There is no denying its happening in Over the Rhine as condos push the 300.00 a square foot build out, and ironically early "urban pioneers" (hipsters) are starting to see them selves 'priced out' of actual downtown and OTR, living and are trying to figure out where to go and their options are getting limited.

Areas like Covington and Newport are getting increasingly more expensive and unaffordable to those on the typical millennial salaries.

Developers want to historic redevelopment before they take the risk on new construction projects
Part of the problem for Cincinnati is it has largely "shot itself in the foot" by exercising  large "Blight Abatement Programs " which have wiped out large quantities of restorable historic housing stock in the city and ignored Historic Preservation as an economic redevelopment tool.  Literally, the city threw out the baby with the bathwater, unable to see the increasing demand for living downtown, the fact it will get only more expensive and being or close to it with a more affordable neighborhood alternatives will be in demand as well. Part of this caused by bad policy of the last administration, but it is compounded by the fact the new administration isn't yet thinking "Big Picture" yet.

I actually had a long time city employee, a building inspector, tell me with a straight face that if we empty out these blighted neighborhoods we can create proper suburban lots that developers will want to build on. This represents a misguided idea that people do not want to live in anything but ranches and do not desire urban density.

As we all know suburban models are the last thing people want these days and one can reasonably make the prediction that older suburbs will look more like the old downtown; poor, high levels of rentals and with high crime. This has already happened in cities like Indianapolis, St Louis and Chicago where the poor have been pushed out to old burbs and those areas are now the "high crime" areas, with gangs, educational challenges, drugs, high crime and must struggle with 'what to do'  with these areas as Shopping Malls die, check cashing stores and pawn shops move in. Ferguson MO is a prime example of a community that went from majority white to majority black and from middle class to poor, from low crime to high crime almost overnight.  Those issue s and problem will happen here as well.
We know new Historically inspired infill is desirable in other cities but it comes AFTER restoration of existing housing stock
As often happens, Cincinnati is not moving fast enough, still clinging to a failed "blight abatement" model and not realizing that before developers come in and build new construction , historic restoration typically has to come first. Developers want to invest in communities that already have invested individuals in them.

 There is also the mistaken belief that we must maintain more low income housing in these neighborhoods, but not realizing that demographic is already moving on. The poor move to where they feel comfortable and to be near family and friends. They have no desire for foodie restaurants and coffee houses on every corner and resent being a small minority in an upscale neighborhood, that is often looked down upon. Also we know developers use low income as "place holder" housing initially and once that federal funded requirement expire they will move that former low income housing  to "market rate".

Who are the winners and losers here? Well, near urban neighborhoods, areas like Incline District, Knox Hill, Camp Washington, West End, Walnut Hills, Mt Auburn and Westwood would seem to be the ultimate beneficiaries  and we are already seeing patterns emerge as restoration takes hold. The losers may well be those once considered 'safe' neighborhoods in the townships which will look more and more like the old urban city did.

The city has to start figuring out new models. For example building bigger roads to get people from suburbia to downtown everyday may not be the best model, long run. There may need to be a look at how do we expand public transit (bus services to service the poor in township areas) who can't afford to drive to downtown or to the far burbs which will be an expanding center of service jobs and commerce.

New methods of car storage need to be embraced now as part of future development

Other cites are embracing more neighborhood friendly car parking solutions and not pretending cars are going away. parking is being incorporated into new development
We also have to understand that the city is about to get more congested. As it becomes more wealthy, more settled, so come cars. While Millennials may not like cars, the rich do not give up there cars and there will be a need for more parking garages, off street parking, increased taxi and Uber services. In short there are going to be more cars downtown in the future, not less, and we need to accept that inevitability and we need to alter our idea of building code and design to accommodate stacked garages, underground parking and condo parking lots and not follow the advice and wants of people who will be priced out of neighborhood that will have this problem.


Corporate owned commuter buses may be the solution for Millennials in near downtown neighborhoods
Millennials (who are not car friendly) may find themselves living in neighborhoods without good public transportation and the city may need to rethink how we will get people from Price Hill, Fairmount and Walnut Hills to the downtown in an efficient manner and its not by building more roads to the far burbs but may involve public private partnerships with local corporation to provide shuttle services for employees from close in neighborhoods.

The challenges are many, and the city need to start focusing on its future and stop looking at its past assumptions of what things would be like. Clearly this effort will require greater cooperation with county agencies and the ability of city leaders to think "out of the box" and "big picture."

Friday, February 20, 2015

Victorian Design: A Neo-Grec Newel Post light Restoration Project

Period Newel Lights are a vanishing breed, either scraped or turned into table lamps
The 'fun ' part of restoration is taking something that most might pass by and bringing it back to something that epitomizes Victorian Decorative arts.
The lamp had a lot going on but the one color paint did nothing to bring out the details

This newel post light didn't have much going for it when we started. Turned into a table lamp it had multiple coats of gold paint a frankly looked tired.

The use of proper placement of color bring out those details and the faux marbling creates a jewel like quality. 
However it was the details that make  a piece and this was in fact a higher end Neo Grec Newel Post "mansion grade" light. We had to carefully strip the layers of paint, repair hairline cracks and then select a period polychrome scheme  that was appropriate for the era of this piece.
Use of color again defines the 'architectural' component of the design

So we turned an ugly ducking back into a swan.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Indiana Landmarks nears deadline on saving Historic Owen Block

Indiana Landmarks needs to raise an additional 110K to save the historic Owens Block in Evansville Indiana.

 Indiana Landmarks took an option on the rare 1882 row house and spent money on an engineering analysis. The discouraging verdict means that to save the place, Indiana Landmarks must raise $440,000 to cover stabilization of the façade and partial rehab, an amount that could not be recouped by a developer.

 “If we can cover the immediate stabilization required by the city to insure public safety and make a start on the rehab, we’ll be filling the financial gap that has caused developers to walk away,” Davis says.  Two Riverside residents offered $10,000 each as a challenge to kick-start the fundraising, and another increased the challenge by a $20,000 contribution. An Indiana philanthropist pledged $100,000. The City of Evansville will invest $50,000 to save the historic corner, an amount less than it would have spent to demolish the structure.

On January 22, the Evansville Building Commission voted to postpone a decision on the Owen Block until its March meeting, giving Indiana Landmarks additional time to raise the $440,000 necessary to allow the project to move forward .With the generous Support of preservationists they hae secured pledges totaling $328,28.

They we are still more than $110,000 short on our goal. We hope to have the full amount by February 18, when Indiana Landmarks’ Executive Committee meets to discuss the project.

People interested in preserving this structure who would like to make a donation, should contact Indiana Landmarks


Monday, February 2, 2015

Just In: February Finds. Great antiques for your home.

Just in! A pair of Renaissance Revival Chairs! Matched sets are very hard to find. These have great upholstery and large larger size and very comfortable. Priced to sell, contact us for details

It doesn't get better than this rare Victorian Giltwood spindle CORNER CHAIR! Lovely red seat with tassels this is perfect for that Turkish Corner!

This is fine Organ or Piano stool with new Upholstery with Fringe detail.

A great wall sconce with two glass globes. One globe has a crack but can be turned to face the wall so its not noticeable. We have lots of great gas globes in as well. Contact us for details.

For info on any of these contact us at

Monday, January 12, 2015

Decorative Arts History for Sale

If you are a regular visitor to Historic properties .com then you already know this.
For only the third time in its history, the Nagele Merz house is offered for sale.

This was a most difficult decision on our part but the increasing demands of our consulting business and the opening of our new Historic Design Center in 2015 and the expansion of our antiques business, we simply do not have the time, and energy, to devote to its continued restoration.
 We have other properties in the neighborhood, under restoration as well and we feel the sale of Nagele Merz will bring more energy into the neighborhood, which has seen a great deal of restoration since we arrived.

The home was near extinction in late 2008 when we bought it and certainly had we not bought it, it would not be standing today and certainly its artistic treasure , the RARE Neo Grec Stenciling, would never have seen the light of day and the neighborhood around it would not be experiencing the rebirth it is enjoying. What restoration work has been done? Well as you can see from the above photo, a LOT! The 1920's siding has been completely removed. The overgrown landscaping has been removed.  Dozens of trees and scrub bushes and truckloads of weeds and honeysuckle were removed. The retaining wall was re-laid, thousands of hours spent to date getting the grounds back.

Excavation  of the sunken garden began with the re-creation of the pond.

Planting thousands of dollars worth of bulbs and plantings. The later addition side porch was removed and a new period appropriate front porch created.

Inside: all the old ductwork has been removed and rerun, Wiring has been carefully fished through existing plaster walls so the home can be upgraded to 200 amp service and be trouble free. New Pex plumbing has been run and is ready for connection to manifolds, The upstairs has been reconfigured to provide for a new master bath and a historic Claw foot tub located for it. The house is largely ready for HVAC installation.

Of course what Nagele-Merz is all about is its Decorative Stenciling. Thousand of hours of work went into removal of old paint layers in the formal parlor and restoration of the stenciled walls in the Parlor and Dining Room. The value of room restorations to date would be well over 20K. The parlor has a new patterned hardwood floor all custom cut and hand laid.  This work has been totally documents in detail on this Blog over the years

This parlor has a beautifully restored cast iron mantle and custom over-mantle.


There is also a matching valance which has custom period drapes included in the sale.

This room also has a 4 light period chandelier with globes and custom hand-painted ceiling medallion.

The Dining room stenciling is well underway and the new owner will be provided with room set stencils to complete the work. There is a gorgeous muraled  sky ceiling with another hand painted medallion and 5 Globe period Chandelier. the Dining room features a one of a kind cast iron custom faux painted mantle as well. Provided with sale is enough wood flooring to put down another period style floor or you can elect to refinish the wide fir floor.

Period stencil sets will be provided for the upstairs front bedroom due to the losses of plaster have required drywall be used.

The house is ready for an exterior paint touch up and some siding will need be done. The Roof is recent and in great condition. The house had replacement windows installed before we bought it but historic sashes are easy to find locally to go back to original 2 over 2's.

Our plan has been to remove part of rear structure added in 1900 and build a larger kitchen wing but one may elect to stay in the original footprint but some restructuring of the room used as the kitchen would be required. The house originally had a separate brick kitchen. The house sits on a double lot and property taxes on house and lot are less than 100.00 a year. There is more than enough room on the double lot for a new garage

The home is eligible for a 275K 10 year tax abatement offset against any work done that improves its value.

The home will have protective deed covenant essentially requiring all exterior work be done to historic preservation standards and that the front parlor stenciling may not be altered. The home is eligible for National Landmark based on its ownership and the rare decorative stenciling. There I extensive documentation of all restoration work done with over 4000 documentary photos taken during restoration to date.

This home restoration has been covered in detail over the years on the this blog and there have been article's in numerous publications including the Cincinnati Enquirer about the restoration. It has been featured in numerous preservation-based forums as well. The home was the centerpiece home of the Knox Hill Preservation Opportunity Home Tour in 2012.

This restoration, to date, has taken thousands of man hours and could not be duplicated for anywhere near our asking price. The home is offered at 47,500.00 to a preservation minded buyer ready to become the new steward of this historic home and continue its preservation and restoration. More info
If you are a preservation minded buyer who appreciates the historical significance of this home and wants to be part of the renaissance going on in the neighborhood Please contact me for complete information on what has been done to date and what remains to be done, and tell me why you want to be the next steward of the Nagele Merz house.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Antique of the Week: Set of Four Victorian Parlor Chairs

Its been a while since we have had a set of four open back Victorian Parlor Side chairs. This is for two reasons. One usually they are broken or have been sold off separately.

Finding FOUR matching chairs like these is a rare event these days. We recently got these end and have reupholstered them in a very elegant looking black upholster with gold paisley pattern. These will sparkle under gas lights or candle light

These have a very sophisticated look as a result and would be at home in your formal parlor or around the dinner table and would pair well with any settee you might already have.

Priced at 300.00 for the set, (special for Blog Readers), this is less than you might expect to pay for one nice Victorian chair these days. Pickup is available at our Indianapolis location and we are happy to work with your blanket shipper.

More information can be obtained by contacting us at

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thanks to our readers for great 2014!

2014 has been one our busiest years! It has been busy on the historic preservation front, working with clients on projects and trying to fit in a little bit of our own work in too. We also launched Rustbelt Preservationist which has far exceeded our expectations.

In 2015 we will be making many changes, some will be improvements to our blogs and we think you will like the changes as they are largely influenced by suggestions you have made.

At the same time we will be launching, finally, our historic design center and also thinning the herd by selling off some of our properties to make our life simpler. On a personal level, I plan on slowing down a bit and staying off ladders etc and delegating more projects. Maybe this year we can even fit in a small vacation, as we are long overdue for one.

Thank you for all your support and your interest in historic preservation and period historic design. Please share you favorite blog posts with your friends on Facebook and Pinterest as with over 1000 blogposts we have become ago to resource on Google for all things Victorian or preservation related.

Please have safe and sane New Years Eve and watch out for the police! Designated drivers insure 2015 will be prosperous year for you too!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Postings

Hey all this is Hannaford the Housecat and the white dude is my personal assistant Snowflake.

Thanks for reading the blog this year, and its the holidays and you know the drill, everyone is busy so don't expect a lot of postings, but I encourage you to explore the blog because there is a ton  of stuff on  here.

Well gotta go , we have important stuff like sleeping to do.

Have a great Holiday

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Last chance looms near for FOUR Historic Cincinnati Properties

Four historic Cincinnati properties  have been offered on Historic,   and if no one comes forward to save them they will be lost along with most of South Fairmount for the MSD "glorified drainage ditch" program.

The MSD project has decimated the South Fairmount basin area and essentially results in one of the largest losses of historic property since Kenyan Barr. Between this project, and the proposed widening of Westwood Blvd an important and essential part of Cincinnati History is being decimated. with the loss of most of S Fairmount with the only remaining being some structures on the North side of Queen City and the Knox Hill neighborhood at the top of the hill . This is just the latest chapter in this city's ongoing attempt to destroy its historic fabric and heritage.

Thanks to efforts of preservationists and the Knox Hill Neighborhood Association, who requested 106 review and threatened action if it was not done, the county could not shirk its section 106 compliancy requirements and these properties have, at least a chance, but time is short and the logistics of moving these properties is complex. Ideally corporate entities could come forward and underwrite the saving of part of history on the larger structures the homes could be reasonably moved although interested individuals should try to contact nationally known movers who will change less than local concerns. These are historically significant structures (eligible for Landmark status) that most cities would consider important historical assets and every effort would be made to save them.

The properties are:

1786 Westwood: This excellent example of the Queen Anne style at 1786 Westwood Avenue was constructed circa 1897. The house is currently clad in replacement siding, but historic wood clapboard is present underneath. The building also retains historic wood windows, including a leaded-glass transom, and decorative wood detailing. The turret on the southeast corner of the house has a slate-tiled, conical roof. Other Queen Anne style features include an irregularly shaped roof, asymmetrical floor plan, and a three-bay oriel window on the first story. Brick chimneystacks are located on the west façade and on the peak of the hipped roof. A metal fire escape has been installed on the west façade.
Listing Link: 1786 Westwood

1806 Westwood Ave: This excellent example of an American Foursquare dwelling with very few changes was constructed circa 1915 and is currently located at 1806 Westwood Avenue. The building exhibits a rock-faced concrete block foundation, two-tone brick veneer walls, and historic, one-over-one wood windows. The front façade features a wood shingled pediment, brown brick quoins, a front window opening with a leaded glass transom, and a wood entry door with sidelights. The full-width porch on the primary façade features blond-brick columns with concrete block piers and concrete balustrades. American Foursquare characteristics of the building include a square floor plan, full-width front porch, overhanging eaves, and a dormer window. Research into the ownership history of this house showed that one family retained the house for 85 years, from 1921 – 2006.
Listing Link: 1806 Westwood

1783 Queen City: This 1892, four-story building is an excellent example of Queen Anne Style as applied to a mixed-use building. It has a stone foundation, brick walls with brick lintel and corbelling details, and historic one-over-one and two-over-two window sash. The front façade storefront retains the original metal supports and sign board. The original cornice is elaborately detailed with decorative brackets, dentil molding, and pediments topped with finials. Ghosting of various advertisements is evident on the west wall. Building is currently located at 1783 Queen City Avenue.
Research shows the upper stories of the building were used as multi-unit rental space with at least four apartments and the storefront area housed various commercial enterprises, including a saloon and grocery store.
Listing Link: 1783 Queen City

1789 Queen City: This three-and-a-half-story, Mission style building was constructed between 1922 and 1923 as the convent for the Sister of St. Francis, who taught in the St. Bonaventure School located across Queen City Avenue. The building is currently located at 1789 Queen City Avenue. The building exhibits poured concrete foundation, blonde brick veneer walls, and an asphalt-shingled hipped roof. A central projection on the front façade features a scrolled parapet and a Palladian-type window. An extant two-story brick porch and roof garden are present at the rear of the building.
The convent was designed by John F. Sheblessy, who was educated at the Chicago Art Institute and the Armour Institute of Technology. He practiced in Chicago and Louisville before moving to Cincinnati in 1907. Sheblessy designed several Roman Catholic churches and other institutional buildings in Cincinnati and its surrounding vicinity. After the St. Bonaventure School closed in 1980, the building was soon divided into 12 apartments by its new owner.
Listing Link: 1789 Queen City

Interested parties should know that: The buildings will likely be sold at auction. Interest in purchasing and moving the building must be expressed no later than May 1, 2015, and the building must be moved from the site no later than August 1, 2015. The buyer will assume all responsibility for the relocation arrangements of the building, and ongoing coordination with the Metropolitan Sewer District will be necessary.

Interested persons should contact: Jennifer Burden, Principal Investigator, Gray & Pape, Inc.
513-287-7700 ext. 152

Time is of the essence