Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Will ANYONE in Cincinnati step Forward to save a national landmark?

This imposing 13 bedroom, 7 bathroom home, once the grandest of all Cincinnati mansions sits quietly hoping for a new owner to rescue it from oblivion.
The Mary A Wolfe House, on the National Register of Historic Places as a landmark is deteriorating and unless someone steps forward soon, could be lost forever.

The Richardson Romanesque Mansion was designed by Samuel Hannaford and Sons. The local Cincinnati firm was known world wide as one of the finest architectural firms of its day. Hannaford's architectural genius is showcased throughout the Queen City. From City Hall, , the Music Hall to Old St George, over 50 Hannaford and Sons buildings are listed on the National Register.

But the Wolfe Mansion is one of Hannaford Landmarks that everyone has forgotten about, perhaps because it isn't in the 'nicest' part of Avondale, perhaps because if suffered the indignity of being turned into a nursing home? Maybe because its not one of his better known commissions? No one knows and little has been written about this once grand mansion.
The home has been off and on the market for a few years now, since it closed after years of use as The Elite Nursing Home. It was always listed at a price that was "really" just out of reach considering all the work it will take to bring it back. But now the house is on the market at a more 'realistic' price of 99K. Still a lot to pay, but for a National Landmark?

The house is a visual tour de force of the Romanesque Style, its grand arched veranda to its tower, the house screams English Castle. The house is a testament to a time when Cincinnati knew only its grand future was ahead of it and only looked towards the future.
The Wolfe Mansion is still standing, while Cincinnati went through two World Wars , the Great Depression, white flight and riots, It's solid stone foundation and massive stone walls still stand. A fading testament to the "Gilded Age" of Cincinnati.
Whomever steps forth to buy it will have monumental task ahead of them. Time has not been kind to this once grand mansion, but the effort would be worth it. Hopefully some one or some organization will step forward to save it. Given increasing values in the areas the numbers could work again as a grand single family residence. Otherwise its just a matter of time until its gone and houses like that will never be built again.

One would think that someone, somewhere, would want to save it and have the financial means to do so?


Anonymous said...

It's amazing how these once exclusive areas have fallen into such disrepair. I can just imagine what this house looked like when it was built.I am constantly amazed at Cincinnati's amazing inventory of gorgeous architecture! I am in the process of searching for a modest victorian to restore and have really enjoyed reading about your process.

Dan said...

It's beautiful! Thank you so much for highlighting it.

Paul Wilham said...

Thanks Dan. Maybe you need a project?

I restored a 10,000 square foot mansion in Louisvile in the early 1990's. When you get to a house this size, it is a major undertaking. I spent 3 years on the Louisville house and I mean EVERY moment of my spare time! If I were a few years younger I'd tackle it but common sense dictates otherwise. It would take me 3-5 years to do a house like that, but I'm a perfectionist and would want to do most of the work myself.

To me if an organization wanted to do a fundraiser, this would be a great "decorator show house'. If you could spread the work among enough people this is doable project and people would certainly pay to see it. I know I'd be willing to donate some time to somthing like that if it would save this landmark.

That neighborhood is getting better and I think you could find a buyer for it done.

John said...

Are there any more detailed interior/exterior photos out there on the web somewhere?

Paul Wilham said...

I spoke with a local authority on the work of Samuel Hannaford and she indiacted that she had not fouund any detailing the interior but I would suspect there has to be some out there. We did a restoration in Indianapolis of a 1915 Craftsman that every piece of woodwork has been taken out of and it is possible to recreate what was missing.

Lisa said...

My husband & I viewed this wonderful house on Good Friday. How appropriate. I would not be able to convey to you the destruction on the interior of this Grand Dame. The realtor & my husband both agreed that the interior would have to be gutted. Rain water was readily flowing through the roof in places. Floors looking as if they will cave.
It breaks my heart to see something like this. & black mold. -enough said.

Paul Wilham said...

Lisa I knew if was bad, but it does have its construction going for it. A lesser house would have been gone years ago. It will take a special kind of preservation hero to step forth and save this house, with some deep pockets who is willing to committ to a neighborhood that can come back with some effort.

I have restored far, far worse homes than this, but this will take someone witha vision and a love of old architecture,

As for the mold, it can be effectively remediated, I have to think that there is someone out there who will buy and save it.

Anonymous said...

Paul, I think the longer you are here the more you will find out about the "grand" houses of Cincinnati - there are/were many - like the McDonald Mansion (gone), Oakwood, Scarlet Oaks, and the "palatial" VanAntwerp place (gone). Don't over look the Burkhart house also in Avondale in a more visible location. This one of a kind house was also designed by Hannaford - with amazing details. It, like the Wolfe house needs help and a new owner - it is currently empty and I believe the owner would sell. Thanks for the info. on the Wolfe house. I had never seen it before.

Anonymous said...

Why has this neighborhood gone down? Too many drugs, shootings ect...It is a shame that this home might not be saved. Who would want to live in a crime-ridden neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

My friends father lives in this neighborhood,is black,and does not venture outside without a sidearm. Sometimes these mansions become drug houses,no matter how nice the home could be,the neighborhood dictates what the house becomes. The house is a writeoff. Do not venture into this neighborhood unless you are part of a swat team or a seal team and rebuilding this home is not worth your life.

Paul Wilham said...

The FACTS are that there are several full blown restorations going on in the immediate area. Recently some houses are selling in the 100-150 range. Not a turnaround but a sign. You go a few blocks away and property is 4-500K.

The people who are so down on this area will be the most surprised when they wake up and see the change. That is typically what happens, the people closest to a neighborhood don't see it coming.

Gina said...

I'm way behind, but I just stumbled across your blog in a Google search for 965 Burton. I'm hoping for a showing today at the house. It is impossible to find interior pictures. Has anyone been in it more recently than last April? The price has dropped to $84K, but if the house has been sitting with water pouring through it for a year, it may be beyond us. We are looking for a house upwards of 100 years to rehab, but only livable during rehab. I'm guessing this one may not be, but I will take pictures if I get a showing and update the condition of the home. Here's hoping it's doable for us!

Meghan said...

I have toured the home with my town's Historical Society as well as the director of the Cincinnati Preservation Association. It does needs a complete overhaul and some of the floor plan reconfigured to bring it back to the original floorplan (the kitchen was moved to the basement and made into a commercial grade kitchen when the house was a nursing home. The 4 story home was sound--a year ago. There is a carriage "tunnel" on one side--where guests would be dropped off. There is a 3 story turret--and window seats. The house is on the National Register. It is worth saving--but I hate to ask--could it be moved? I have an inquiry into This Old House Magazine for the home to be featured in the "Save This Old House" feature. The owner of 865 Burton has been in contact with me--and has given me consent to have the house published. He does not live in the home. The listing now states "zoned 2-3 family"--and I fear it will be razed.

angie2825 said...

I viewed this home today. The floor is falling through on the second floor and everything of value on the interior is gone. I have tried to find the original floorplans for this house but have had no luck. My husband and I would love to turn it into a B&B and upscale wedding venue. We are looking for financial backers or possible grants. Please email me if you are interested or have any more info. This location does not scare me in the least. angie2825@yahoo.com