Pinecroft: The Powel Crosley Estate

One of the Queen City’s most beloved historic treasures, Pinecroft was the estate of famed inventor, industrialist and entrepreneur Powel Crosley, “Cincinnati’s Thomas Edison.” Crosley lived in the house until his death in 1961. In 1963, the property was sold to the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, who used the house as a convent and sold 40 acres, leaving 73. In 1969 St. Francis Hospital bought the property and two years later built Providence Hospital, which eventually was renamed Mercy Hospitals West. In 2011, Mercy Health donated the house and 17 acres to Cincinnati Preservation Association.

Front Facade and Entrance

Pinecroft was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 for its historic and architectural significance.

Link to: Photo Album of Pinecroft

About the house:

Built in 1928 in the Tudor Revival style, Pinecroft was designed by nationally significant architect James Dwight Baum. Typical of the style are the picturesque, multi-gabled asymmetrical massing, masonry and half-timbered walls, undulating tile shingle roof, crenellated tower, Tudor-arched openings, and grouped diamond-pane casement windows. This grand residence includes 13,500 square feet, stands 145 feet long, and cost approximately $750,000 to build in 1920s dollars.

Well cared for since it was built, the house retains many wonderful interior features including grand fireplaces, paneling and plaster decoration.

The formal rooms and Mr. Crosley’s bedroom feature massive stone fireplaces and carved white oak paneling with linen-fold and other designs, most of the doors throughout the house are six-pane solid oak doors. The walls and ceilings are plaster; some of the ceilings have decorative plaster moldings in the Elizabethan mode. Hardware, such as door handles and hinges, was supplied by Samuel Yellin (1885-1940), America’s master iron craftsman of the twentieth century…. (Beth Sullebarger, Pinecroft National Register of Historic Places nomination, 2008).

The leaded glass casements, many with delicately tinted glass, bear crests of the State of Ohio and the University of Cincinnati. The bathrooms include colorful tile—each in a different color scheme—by the Cincinnati-based Wheatley Tile and Pottery Company, and Crane fixtures chosen to harmonize with the tile.

About the estate:

The Pinecroft estate originally included 113 acres, with a working farm, eight outbuildings, and a second residence. The property retains 17 acres and five historic structures/outbuildings: the entrance gateway (1928), small garage (1928), potting house/craft cottage (1928), service garage (1929) and Martha Page Crosley Kess House (1937). The house overlooks a five-acre pond, with an open lawn and allée of chestnut trees to the west.

 

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About the restoration:

Because Pinecroft was so well cared for by Mercy Heath, the house needed little restoration. Fluorescent hanging light fixtures, installed when the house was converted to offices, have been removed, and replaced with period chandeliers. The carpeting has been taken up, revealing beautiful teak floors, which were cleaned, waxed and polished. Furniture and rugs have been added for period ambiance and for use by guests.

About the architect:

Dwight James Baum (1886-1939) was a talented architect who specialized in residences and worked primarily in modern interpretations of traditional styles. His major works include the Sarasota home of circus magnate John Ringling, the West Side YMCA in New York City, the Federal Building in Flushing, New York, and several buildings on the campus of Syracuse University, his alma mater. He had a strong interest in historic preservation, photographing historic buildings and writing articles on the subject. Baum worked primarily along the eastern seaboard from New England to Florida.

 

Garden Restoration Project

Mercy Health Systems was an excellent steward of the house and is to be commended for their community minded actions such as placing the property on the National Register of Historic Places.  The gardens were beyond the scope of their use or mission and were altered to ease maintenance costs.  With a generous grant from the Carol and Ralph V. Haile/US Bank Foundation, Cincinnati Preservation Association is working to restore the gardens to support the event center financial plan and to reestablish an important cultural landscape.

The Baum garden design at Pinecroft is well documented.  The drawings, planting lists, letters, and on-site features will guide the restoration of the gardens.  The large courtyard layout is based on an Italian garden theme commonly added to Tudor estates.  Hedges form a rectangular border.  Flowing trees, scrubs and bushy plantings added color and mass behind the hedge.  Originally a swimming pool provided the central focus.  Steps of bluestone and brick piers will be reconstructed from plans and photographs.