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Northside House Tour

Details on the Properties of the 17th Edition Tour - 2018

4314 Hamilton Avenue
When longtime Northside residents shopped for a new home for their growing family, aiming for a residence with a parents' bedroom on a separate floor from those of the three children, they kept finding the same configuration: a third-floor master suite. “We knew that we didn't have to move house for that,” says Naomi, the mom. “We could have renovated our own attic and achieved the same thing. But we didn't want to climbs stairs all the time.”

What they really desired—a zero-step entry into the house, a ground-floor master suite, an open-plan gathering area--would have to be built. The result is “Wishful Thinking,” created by the Blue Ash firm SMP Design and Construction, with plenty of input from Naomi. It was finished in 2017.

A lot large enough to build on—in fact, it took two lots—was hard to come by. So when Naomi and her husband, Lou, found a large enough footprint for sale, they wasted no time in acquiring it. The site's relationship to neighboring buildings significantly informed the design of the house, which came in at 2,390 square feet. There are no windows on the south side of the structure, which faces an apartment building. Clerestory windows facing Hamilton Avenue offer plentiful light, but privacy, too. The north and back side of the house, on the other hand, have large windows--some floor-to-ceiling--with views of a greenery-filled backyard. The overall design is modern with nods to mid-century (polished concrete floor; angled back wall) and industrial (exposed ducts, shelving units make of pipes).

The accessible first floor makes home life efficient for the busy parents, and will allow them to age in place. It also makes the home easier to visit by elderly relatives. Creating something from scratch meant not only benefiting from a tax abatement for the home's LEED Gold status and visitability, but also to enjoying the comforts that modern building code can result in, such as a wide staircase to the second floor with steps that are deep but not steep. That stairwell is not just a means of getting to the kids' lair, but a space to spend time in; it is a sun-bathed respite with a huge white chandelier and a seating area built into  the landing. For the kitchen, the family resisted the prevailing trend of situating it without walls as the focal point of the ground floor. “Kitchens are dirty!” says Naomi. This is the enclave of Lou, the father, with a professional-size gas range, a gigantic granite-topped island (Sans stools! Keep out!) .

One of the biggest surprises in the clever configuration of the house is that it is significantly smaller than the house that the family moved out of! The lack of a basement or attic obligated the family to de-clutter for the move—yet another way that architecture can inspire a more modern, sustainable way of life. “There are no unused rooms, like a dining room that you only use once a year,” Naomi says. “It actually feels bigger than our old house!”


1603 Westmoreland Avenue
The owner of this unique cottage is from a family that has called Northside home for six generations. When her elderly mother could no longer manage to live entirely on her own, there was no question of shipping her off to an old folks' home; she would stay in Northside! And yet it was not just filial duty that led the owner, Sandy, to build a “kinda tiny house” on her own property, located just down the street from mom. It is rated LEED Gold as well as “Visitable” by the City of Cincinnati.

“Custom-building a place actually cost less than what one or two years in a nursing home would have,” Sandy says. The cottage was completed in 2015, yet there is nothing jarring about its juxtaposition to the 1907 American Foursquare (on the historic register) just a few feet away. “I wanted it to look like an artist's studio,” says Sandy, pointing to the front and back pergolas, one of which is attached to the bigger house, and the garden brimming with grapes, raspberries and peas.

Inside, the atrium design makes the ground floor feel larger than its 480 square feet. It is a mini-loft, with a door-less open closet and stacked washer-dryer in the kitchen, all easily accessible to the nonagenarian resident. A large wet room (like a bathroom where everything can get wet) facilitates bathing with the help of a caregiver. Should the caregiver need to spend the night, or eventually live in, there's a second-floor bedroom available upstairs. A delightful detail: the staircase risers feature hand-painted, Delft-like floral tiles—a box of which the thrift-shopping owner found for $5.


4222 Fergus Street
When the owner of this house, Jon, moved to Cincinnati for work, he sought out an area that reminded him of the South Park neighborhood of Dayton, Ohio, where he had been living. In Northside, he found that desired sense of diversity, community and local entrepreneurship. But he didn't have the kind of budget that many move-in-ready Northside houses haved started to command. So when this petite and relatively affordable Italianate shotgun house came on the market last year, his interest was piqued. He would be moving in solo, so the 900-square-foot size didn't faze him. And since the non-profit NEST (Northsiders Engaged in Sustainable Transformation) had modernized the house while preserving some of the original construction, it felt like the perfect mix of old and new. 

“It stands out with a strong mix of historical character while having fully updated utilities and HVAC,” Jon says. “The bold red color in contrast to the bright white historic details of the Italianate corbels gives this house a ton of curb appeal. One of my favorite aspects is that the original wood floors were preserved, and 9-inch baseboard was used during the restoration. That attention to detail really made me fall in love with this home.”

The residence was designed to be accessible for people with mobility challenges, so there's a ground-floor bedroom (which Jon uses as a dining room) and a bathroom with a roll-in shower. “I didn't need it to be visitable,” Jon says, “but my friends who come over with their kids in strollers love the ramp entrance!” 

The living room, into which the front door of the house opens, envelops you with its deep blue wall colors. A floor-to-ceiling shelving feature, made of reclaimed wood and galvanized pipe, and decorated with art and objets, draws the eyes upward and adds drama to the deceptively small space. From the exterior, the house does not appear to have a second floor, but in fact there is one, plus another full bath. 

The basement is also a revelation: Its ceiling is 8 feet high! “I have heard that when NEST started work on this, a tree was growing in a corner of the basement,” Jon laughs. Now, instead of a maple in the unexpectedly roomy basement, you will find a loom on which Jon spends his spare time weaving. 


1422 Chase Avenue
When David, a math teacher, was ready to make the jump from being a renter to a homeowner, he looked at houses in Clifton, Pleasant Ridge and Northside. He quickly found that his modest budget would buy a lot more space in the latter neighborhood. In fact, he was able to afford not only this roomy, fully refurbished house (think: 12-foot ceilings) but also the empty lot next to it—for his Black Lab mix dog, Bowzer, to play in.

This is the oldest house on the Northside House Tour this year, built in 1865. Time had not been kind to the brick Italianate, which had been abandoned for years. Returned to habitable state by CNCURC (Cincinnati Northside Community Redevelopment Corporation; now known as NEST, Northsiders Engaged in Sustainable Transformation), the house features the original curved staircase, enamel door knobs, and transoms, but got a renovated kitchen and bathroom, and a finished attic. The exterior red brick was painted olive green, with tomato red and mustard yellow accents--which make the cornice brackets and lintels pop.

A humongous window on the ground floor serves as a sentry for Bowser to stand guard.

David removed the carpeting in the attic and put down a wood floor. The large room, suffused in natural light, serves as the showcase for his impressive collection of Star Wars toys and collectibles. His contemporary décor elsewhere is punctuated by old-school touches, such as bright yellow mid-century stools at the kitchen island, and a Lester upright piano, on which he took lessons on as a child, in the living room.


1708 Chase Avenue
Named after Salmon P. Chase, who served as Governor of Ohio, U.S. Senator, Treasury Secretary under Lincoln, and later head of the U.S. Supreme Court, Chase Avenue stands as a tribute to a man who wielded incredible influence on our city and country.  

Built in 1900, this vernacular Victorian home at is part of a cohesive and tightly complete turn-of-the-century block, that, like the historic Hamilton Avenue Business District, connects us to a bygone era. The porch exemplifies what it meant to live in a tight-knit community. Neither underdone nor overdone, the façade’s level of decoration and adornment work in harmony with the scale and stature of the home to imbue a sense of respect and fine craftsmanship that was enjoyed by the middle class of the time.

K’ehleyr and Micheal, two young engineers, fell in love with the house when they relocated from separate cities to The Queen City  in 2017. One hundred and eighteen years after the home was built, this young couple was drawn to the same beauty that its original residents were. In more recent history, a previous owner and architect adjoined the kitchen and living area to create an open feel to the middle half of the first floor. It needed an update, though, so the new owners refaced the cabinets, replaced the countertops and hardware, and laid new flooring, all of which produced a stunning modern look. Upstairs they continued this concept, dividing an oversized second-floor master bath into a better-proportioned master alongside a second full bath. The second-floor plan can now accommodate a wide variety of needs.


1751 Chase Avenue
This abandoned two-family was recently demo'd down to the studs and rebuilt. Some of its original character was preserved: fireplaces with tile hearths; rope-and-pulley windows; dark wood floors. Angelique and Kaoru, the couple that bought the rehabbed home earlier this year, liked the mix of those old-school Northside standards with the blank-slate possibilities of “new.”

To make it their own, they swapped out light fixtures—adding a diminutive, elegant crystal chandelier in a guest bedroom—and chose bold colors for the walls, such as wine red, ocean blue, and olive green.

While the ground- floor décor could be described as “contemporary minimalist,” offering ample room for family and friends to congregate, the second floor takes you back in time, outfitted in antique furniture passed down in Angelique's family. One guest bedroom has an Anglophile theme, with Harry Potter and Union Jack motifs, while the other features 19th- century lamps and wood furniture, with walls painted a warm rust color to match a hue of the hearth tile. Between the bedrooms is an office with a French door.

The third floor envelops you in yet another atmosphere. It's a retreat made cozy by its diagonal ceiling, small horizontal windows, and king bed with tufted headboard. Angelique placed her grandfather's reading chair and matching ottoman, in blue leather, up here, for days when weather doesn't permit her to read in her other favorite spot—the front porch.


4114 Fergus Street
Northside Christian Church was built on land donated by a daughter of Israel Ludlow (one of the founders of Cincinnati). The build was completed in 1870, but the congregation of the church, which had used different names and locations over the years, goes back to at least 1832.

With the completion of the Gothic Revival church on Fergus Street, according to a member’s handwritten history, the congregants “now had a baptismal instead of using nearby garden ponds.” (A real boon, since this church did, and continues to do, full-immersion baptisms.) Improvements were made over the years, with electric lights replacing oil lamps, a gas furnace replacing pot-bellied stoves, and modern plumbing replacing outhouses.

The architectural style of the church is Gothic Revival, easily indentified by the narrow, pointed windows. Inside, a Mughal style of rounded, pointed portals, commonly associated with Indo-Islamic architecture, is repeated in doorways and wood trim. The sanctuary, which can hold more than 200 people, is soaring yet simple, with exposed timber beams. A large but simple cross hangs above the altar. The pews are worn from use by worshippers over the past century, and the walls are mostly unadorned.

The pipe organ, which dominates the altar’s left side, was donated by the wife of John Pitts, a Civil War veteran for whom Pitts Avenue is named. The instrument was recently been restored and is regularly played along with a smaller upright organ, piano, and other instruments in a full band set-up.


1546 Pullan Avenue
When Louise and John bought this 1907 American Foursquare, it suffered dingy walls, alligatored trim and the less fabulous aspects of mid-century and '70s decor. They spent years restoring it themselves, room by room. It now boasts vintage-looking wallpaper by Bradbury and Bradbury (the hanging of which was the only work the owners didn’t do personally), tin ceilings, and a kitchen that was featured in Victorian Homes magazine. And – a fairly rare feature in Northside homes – all the fireplaces are functional.

The first floor is decorated in the Eastlake Victorian style, while the second features Arts & Crafts motifs; both are furnished with 19th- century antiques and light fixtures, and a goodly collection of original artwork. Stepping inside is like stepping back in time--but with modern conveniences, such as air-conditioning and a ground-floor powder room.

The couple bought the home almost 40 years ago because it was convenient to Louise's work location. Affordability was another factor, and while the interior of the house was rough, the construction was solid. The exterior has since been restored, a two-bay garage was added, and the backyard has become an urban oasis.


1551 Donaldson Place
This home was first inhabited by a family who manufactured laxatives (you heard that right!) in an oversized carriage house built atop a stone foundation at the back of the property. Though the enterprise was shut down by the FDA, the carriage house still stands with its original sliding door as the magical centerpiece of the woodsy-feeling back yard. The main house was converted to a two-family, sometime around the 1930s, and remained that way for close to a century. Then two long-time Northside residents saw only possibility and undertook the challenge of returning the house to a single-family residence.

Built in 1904 in the American Foursquare style (typically four rooms in a square floor plan; circa late 1890s though the 1930s), the home’s well proportioned façade and generous original porch welcome guests with gracious personality.  Inside, visitors are treated to a wealth of historical detail that tell the story of a era transitioning away from the heavier adornment associated with Victorian architecture, but not fully: Look closely and you will find Victorian elements (curves, layers, carving) in the stained glass, mantels, door hardware, and even the fireplace covers. Each clue beckons us closer to a specific moment in time.

Much of this architectural detail had lost it prominence when the home was converted into a two-family; two front doors and a wall divided the foyer space and obscured key sightlines. The original newel post (stairway central pillar) and balustrade were also lost in the 1930s conversion. In the restoration process, they were replaced with period-accurate oak parts. A second-floor closet was removed to reclaim the sightlines of the central stained glass stairwell window from nearly anywhere in the foyer.

After passing through the front parlor, guests will find a surprise in the scale of the first-floor layout, reconfigured by its current owners, in partnership with Northside-based architect Tim Jeckering. It is an open plan centered on a kitchen that seamlessly blends new materials into a light-filled space. An upstairs bedroom and bathroom were converted into a modern master suite that again brings in abundant natural light and pulls in nature that much closer.


1549 Pullan Avenue
So much history can be illustrated by the Northside homes that date back more than 100 years. This is a prime example. Its sizable carriage house, complete with hayloft and gable door, evidence the horse-and-buggy mode of transportation at the time. But the man who built this house worked in an industry that pointed to the future: machinery.

James and Ellen Mills built this early Foursquare in 1896. Mills was vice-president of the Smith & Mills Co., one of many Cincinnati businesses that made machinery (specifically, metal-working machinery), in the the Second Industrial Revolution.

Mills was born in Oldham, England, and came to America in 1861 (according to the Cincinnati Enquirer). He settled in New York and later served in the Civil War. He moved to Cincinnati in 1868 and co-founded the machine-tool company, based on Spring Grove Avenue, in 1888.

Business must have been good, as he was able to have this stately house built on the corner of Pullan and Brookside avenues. It is reported that Mills died in 1913, leaving the stately property to his widow. Records suggest their daughter eventually inherited the property.

At some point after 1940 the house was converted into a boarding house. Subsequent owners made considerable improvements to the property, returning it to its single-family glory, and turning the back porch into an interior gourmet kitchen. Its current owners are a couple who relocated here in 2016 from another Northside home.

Northside House Tour poster by Alan Hopfensperger

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