Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Knox Hill, Photo tour and some history

Over the weekend we took a walk and took some photos of our neighborhood. Now to many our neighborhood is no different than many in Cincinnati. You will see examples of Second Empire , Italianate and Federal architecture. What sets many of these home apart are the extras. Porch detailing, bays and in some cases highly detailed interiors.

I was invited in to a neighbors house, down the street from us, a rather unassuming brick cottage on the outside, other than its slate rood and bays, however the interior was something else. Grand 8 foot tall fireplace with beveled mirrors columns and elaborate tile work, inlaid floors and a rear porch/solarium with unique designed windows. It was totally unexpected.

There is a reason that many of these homes are highly detailed. They were built by some of the most wealthy in Cincinnati. Not as everyday residences but as weekend homes. Few realize that St Clair Heights Park at the eastern end of the neighborhood was the original home of the world famous hilltop pleasure resort known as the "Schuezenbuckel" which was a resort that was housed in the old baptist seminary built there in 1851. There was a beer garden and shooting contests and the club was popular with the elite of Cincinnati and it was a popular place to get away from the city. The club burned in 1888 and was called Schuetzenbuckel Park.The land was acquired through a donation of 10.661 acres by Louis J. Hauck and George F. Dieterle in 1912. Today the park is 18 acres and is a nature preserve and bird sanctuary and overlooks Mill creek valley and the city beyond.
Many decided to build weekend cottages in the area and hired the same builders and architects that built their "Townhouse" in OTR and West End. Some even build larger homes and you will see them scattered about through the neighborhood many of these homes date back into the 1860's and are Federal in design.

We don't know how many were lost over the years. The city "blight-bulldozer' mentality in recent years have resulted in the loss of many of these fine homes and cottages. Something we plan to STOP. We hope eventually to get the entire neighborhood declared a historic district. So onto our tour.
I just picked some representative styles as well as some eclectic homes as well. You may notice some German influences in a couple of the homes and you might mistake them for craftsman, but they were built by well to do German merchants form downtown and they wanted some reminders of home. As you go further west say along Saturn St, those houses were built around 1900-1920 after the "heyday" of the neighborhood.

Second Empire was a popular style in our neighborhood and can be found in both 1 and 2 story forms. This 3 story house other than a later porch is relatively intact down to some of the 2 over 2 windows. It is one of the few 3 story homes and the house itself is quite deep so it is much larger than it looks.

This style while commonplace in Cincinnati is highly coveted in other cities. A house like this could easily sell for 500K on the east coast and over a million restored.

Eclectic: This brick raised brick shotgun will be gone soon unless someone comes forth to save it! It is set for city demolition. Note the elaborate brick work, chimney. It has an arched top front door. It is a small house but would make a great home for someone wanting a historic house but without a huge upkeep. It sits on a hill and has a fantastic view of the valley to lower Knox and the city beyond. There is NO REASON this house should have been set for demolition. There still may be time to save it. If you are intereted I may be able to help.

Queen Anne: This is an example of a "year round' home this huge turreted Queen Anne has some impressive detailing but needs to have the 40's siding removed and its porch restored. We are in the process of compiling the history of many of these homes and if anyone has any info it is appreciated. There is an 8-9000 square foot brick mansion across the street that I couldn't get photos of due to the trees that is the largest home in the area.

Cottage: This cute frame cottage was bought not to long ago and is undergoing some restoration which will include a nice new preservation paint job. It has a nice square chamfered porch post columns and bracket detailing. It still has the roof gutters also known as "Yankee gutters"

2nd Empire cottage: This was a very popular style in the neighborhood and there is a collection of perhaps a dozen or more of these scattered through the neighborhood. Some simple and some grand. This house still has its full width porch probably added about 1890. Note the patterned slate roof, bracketed box gutter and cresting and double windowed dormer , all done in tin!

Italianate: This little house has a 'twist" an interesting square angled bay, presumably to take advantage of the views down the street and let more light into the front parlor. This would be a charmer with some restoration and a nice preservation paintjob that would bring out some of the details.

Late front gabled Victorian. At first glance this might look like a craftsman, but was actually built around 1890-95. The wide overhangs and huge brackets suggest a german/swiss flair. I understand this house has elaborate builtins and inlaid floors.

Stick cottage: This is just a delightful small cottage, not big at all, looks like something you might find in San Francisco with its square bay projecting bumpout and colorful trim.

Well that's our tour for now, look for another installment soon. If you want to take a look there are about 6 homes in the MLS (under 50K) and some "By owner" opportunities as well. Calling all Urban Pioneers.


Dan said...

Paul: On the 2nd Empire houses and those with a "flat" roof, what would have been the roofing material originally? Some sort of early form of built-up roofing with some sort of asphaltic coating I assume? Anyway, just curious. This little set had a number of those roofs shown.

Paul Wilham said...

It varied depending on the part of the country. In Cincinnati there were three primary types of material used. First of all "flat roofs" arent really flat they always have a pitch which you typically dont see from the front view and only becomes apparent of detatched townhouses.

The most commonly used material was standing seam metal roof. In small roof areas they may have used sheets of thin lead, soldered together. On roofs with little or no pitch a tar based mixture was used and is was "built up' of many applications.

Interestingly this type of roof was used on downtown structures that had roof recreational areas due to the housing density. There is a book called "Cincinnati Over the Rhine"from the Images of America series published by Arcadia publishing that has some early rooftop views where you can see lower roofs.

Today of course EPDM rubberized roofing would be the material of choice(especially if you were doing a rooftop deck). Tar torchdown roofing is also common today as well. You could do metal but you run the risk of hail damage.

Anonymous said...

I think the second to last is an example of Swiss chalet, which I've only ever heard of in Cincinnati. There's a great one on Upland; we live in a less elaborate one in North Avondale.

Bob said...


It sounds like you might've received my "Westwood Manifesto" (as the neighbors have begun calling it). Did you pick up a copy of "Achievement: Cincinnati's Western Hills (1932)" yet? I was going to stop by w/one this coming weekend.

On another note: how sad is it that CPS and Cincinnati cannot grasp how important structures like the school in South/Central Fairmount is (one of 9 up for auction and touring this coming Monday, June 8th, 2009)? Makes me sick. I recently spoke with someone whose dad worked in the South Fairmount school's maintenance department when it was still in operation -- and he told them back then they would rue the day they started being "cheap" with their repairs.

Sometimes I think this city will never get it.

D R E W said...

is anyone trying to get "urban pioneers" and historic preservationists to the city from other parts of the country?

it seems to me that if people knew all this historic architecture were here in the city, they'd flock here in hoards to fix up all these buildings that the city is tearing down. has the city's reputation preceded it and keep people away, or is the general public just unaware?

speaking of tearing down, is anyone trying to let the city know how ridiculous it's being by razing all these buildings?

Paul Wilham said...

DREW, As far as I know little publicity is done on ehe architecture of Cincinnati outside of the area. This blog has a readership of about 80,000 a month, mostly preservationists, Old house lovers from accross the country and local preservation minded people in Cincinnati. There is no local realtor who has realized that these homes could be marketed on websites like and such.

I have featured Cincinnati in postings on Victorian Architectural review a yahoo newsgroup. I am assistant moderator and I try to keep the national trust advised whenever i find a preservation issue.

Locally Ed Cunningham at Inspection services seems to have a good ear on preservation issues his email is

Bob: yes I have read your manifesto and I totally agree. I will be down Sunday ONLY this weekend as we have an annual antiques sale in Indy Fri/Sat. Our 5th, and last year of the sale. It is that much less we have to move, and we have alot to move! I take it you read my recent posts on Westwood and some of my ideas and solutions.

As for the school, I wish I had the time and monies to buy it. I spoke with a developer/friend of mine in Indy about it, but he thought it too big a project for him. If it were up to me, it would be a gated community with about 40 luxury condos with its own rec center and new infill townhouses around it. I doubt it will sell. I don't think in this climate there is a developer out there with deep pockets. I always thought it would make a great Private academy,as well, something alternative to CPS as more people move downtown.

"Chalet" is probably as good description but if you drive around Fairmount and Westwood you will see some other examples. I have seen this style in upstate New York and Northern Michigan and Wisconsin as well. But it is a Very rare style and another reason why our neighborhood is important architecturally.

I think Cincinnati architecture is one of its greatest assets and should be a key selling point for marketing efforts of the city. This city has homes other cities "wish' they had.

Bob said...


Yes, I have read your recent posts regarding Westwood -- they're excellent and provided me with a little education regarding Cincinnati's outdated housing / occupancy regulations.

During the most recent "Good Guy Loitering" event, it was nice to discover that many of us follow your blog. Many in Westwood Civic and Westwood Concern read it on a regular basis, and truly appreciate your knowledge and experience -- especially when it's applied to our neck of the woods. You even had us talking about the Hannaford home in Avondale that is about to be declared a nuisance by City Hall.

I'm going to try & swing by on Sunday w/a copy of that book -- it's an incredible resource and a great look back at some structures that are still standing -- and some that are no longer with us.

D R E W said...

paul, you inspired me to write about this on my blog!

Anonymous said...

There is one of those "Chalet" houses on Hearne in Avondale - a very solid looking house. Unfortunately, the front porch columns and railings were just replaced. The only thing original left are the half columns against the house (at least it is something to go by). The Ham. Co. Aud. site had a picture with the original porch still there until they updated the photos. It's too bad those photographic records are not kept (are they?) as they would be a great resource for what had been.
The house is for sale currently. It's a good location.