Thursday, September 17, 2009

Our House: Photos from "back in the day"

If you own a historic house, there is nothing like obtaining photos taken back in the day when your house was built. All houses "evolve' over the years. Needs change, rooms and porches are added as families grew or fashions change. Seeing your house before all those changes happened is well, " uplifting". It is a glimpse back in time. You can stand in the same place as the photographer who took the pictures and say this is what things looked like 100 years or more ago. As someone who has owned dozens of historic houses over the years, it is rare to find them, unless your house was a landmark example owned by a famous person or an architect designed house. I've only lucked out twice on finding photos. The first time on a 1906 mission Revival mansion I owned in Meridian Park in Indianapolis which was designed by Architects Rubush and Hunter and The Joseph Werne Mansion in Louisville, a Chateauesque 4 story Brick and terra cotta Mansion I owned. Werne was a jeweler and designer who once worked for Tiffany. Finding photos of an "everyday house" is almost impossible, it is the proverbial "needle in a haystack". Had it not been for an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer on our preservation and restoration efforts in Knox Hill, I doubt these photos would have ever reached us. This happened because Al Nagele saw the article . He is the 80 year old grandson on Antone Nagele who owned our home. These photos are around because Cassie Nagele,a family member, collected them as part of genealogy research she was doing on her family history. A Special thanks to them both. Here it is our house "back in the day" with the Nagele family out front. This photo gives us a clear view of just what the stone wall looked like, note the elaborate stone reversed brackets on either side of the entry steps. With this photo we will be able to make duplicates and restore the steps and entry to their original configuration. We know this is a very early photo for a number of reasons. The tree is front of the house is small and probably planted after the house was built. Also we know a full width front porch was on the house at some point ( due to the stone footers we found and downspout tiles we found placed six feet out).We also know that the house eventually had a wrought iron fence in front at some point. This photo probably dates to the late1870's. We also see the original shutters on the house. Based on our paint research we know the house was painted a buttercup yellow with brown trim and green door and based on the value differences in the photo, they confirm it. Also note that off to the left you see no houses going up MacBrayer which were built in the 1880's. It is interesting to see the lack of trees. Today the area is heavily wooded and its easy to forget that it once was meadowed hilltops and farmland.
This photo shows Antone Nagele and his workers (perhaps other family members) at his business on Western Hills Ave. Note the cut stone stacked off to the left. Imagine loading those into a horse drawn wagon for delivery to a construction site. Back breaking work.
The next photo is clearly taken later and is identified as Tony and Bill, I presume Antone's sons. In the background you can see the Free classic house built across the street from ours in the late 1890's(it still has the original metal roof) That house, as well as the other cottages, still stand across the street.

This photo is an early one of the Antone and Anna Nagele's and some of their children. Is appears to be a 'studio piece" done at a photographers studio.
This next one is of Anna (later in life) I am not sure of the location but given the window in the background is different it is not the house. However, it may be the detached summer kitchen that was behind the main house.
This was in the front yard as we can see the wire fence that ran along the west side. (we found remnants of this fence).
The last photo shows the Nagele's in their carriage, clearly they were a family of some means.

This brings me to my point. Historic Preservation matters. It is not just the architect designed mansions that are worthy of keeping, the cottages that make up the bulk of Cincinnati are just as important as they provide a slice of life, hey tell a story. A story about the people who built Cincinnati, who lived here and worked here.

Had we not come along when we did and saved this house, I have no doubt that it would be awaiting a bulldozer or already be gone. When we senselessly tear down houses because at that moment they are on hard times and don't look "pretty" and in that process, we destroy our history. The photographs become just photos, because the PLACE, the home is the connection that makes them relevant. That's the reason we save houses. To preserve a sense of place. So I put to those that continue to demo "blighted' houses in this city, what purpose does it serve? It removes part of our history, it cant be recovered once it is gone. It cost the taxpayers monies and it leaves a vacant lot. Cincinnati's historic legacy should not be a bunch of vacant lots or 20 years from now some ugly tract home. Common sense dictates that our city is more valuable, more interesting by retaining our history not destroying it.


CityKin said...

Well said.

Those are some fantastic old photos. Glad to see them reunited with the house. As you say, too often the photos are passed down in the family, but the locations are forgotten over time.

Dan said...

Very neat!

Karen Anne said...

Another way to find old photos of a house is to ask the neighbors. Sometimes the house will be in the background of photos they've taken in their yard.

p.s. Your comments section comes up as a tiny, not expandable popup in Firefox.

Paul Wilham said...

Karen the small window is a firefox conflict with the program the comments window is written in. I thik they will eventiuallly fix it.

Todd McFarland said...

What a spectacular view they must have had.

Paul Wilham said...

Todd, I know from having been up on our roof (so you can see over the trees) they would have had a great view towards the city and Price Hill.

Our area is so wooded now it's hard to wrap you mind around it "pre trees".

Marilyn said...

Great pictures Paul! But I think you have to revise your date of the first one. Look at the sleeves on her blouse. Those are indicative of the late 1890's/early 1900's. Also the fact that she's wearing a blouse and skirt, which were not "invented yet" in the 1870's.

Quim said...

"p.s. Your comments section comes up as a tiny, not expandable popup in Firefox."
I'm not getting that. That is, the pop up window is expandable on Firefox 3.5.3 (Mac).

nagelecl said...

Hey it's Cassie Nagele. I believe Marilyn is right about the age of the photo at the top, The little girl on the right is my grandpa's Aunt Mayme and she was born in 1888. I also believe the baby on Anna Barbara Nagele's lap is my Great Grandpa, who was born in 1895. So my guess is about 1897ish. I'll keep looking for more pictures you might like/need for your renovation! Thanks again for all you are doing!

Paul Wilham said...

Thanks Cassie for the info. I am almost certain that Antone was the second owner of the house and based on your timeline that makes some sense.

Remember these were esssentially built as weekend cottages, in 1888 the German Social club on the hill burned. Many of the wealthy sold off their cottages and these became year round homes. We know this house was built circa 1870-71 so the timeline fits.

I believe Antone put his own "stamp" on the house with the front wall construction. This retaining wall is unique in its construction as it is totally different than any others in the area with flat caps on top and the drainage tile which tends to indicate a later construction. I believe I know who was the first owner but I have some more research to acertain that and make a definative statement.

FYI we are still finding things in the yard.

Holly said...

Im on a mad hunt to figure out what the name is for that style of wire fence. I live in San Antonio TX, we have a neighborhood here called the King William district. Its full of the most amazing victorians and they all have really awesome wire fence about 2-4 ft tall that kind of humps on top, and it may be little more ornate, maybe, than the wire fence in this picture, but i feel like im getting closer!!! any answers would be great! THANK YOU!!!!