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Ben Dombar House and Studio: A Story of a National Register Listing

by Beth Johnson

“A large 4-story yellow hexagon on the side of a hill on a wooded lot overlooking a creek” is how I provide a quick description of my house when I first describe it to someone. After I get a look marked with confusion and intrigue, I often explain that this was the house and studio of Benjamin Dombar, a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright. He designed the home in the organic architecture style that he was taught from his time with Wright.

exterior of the Ben Dombar House and Studio

Throughout the house there are elements and influences from the midcentury modern style that was the prominent style of his practice. Buildings such as the Runnels House, Leiter House, and the Specklin House embody Dombar’s grasp of the mid-century Modern ideal, while remaining true to his foundations in organic architecture. (Modernnati has more examples of Ben Dombar’s work.) However, his own personal house was a celebration and an experiment in the values that Frank Lloyd Wright instilled in him during his apprenticeship.

When I first set eyes on the Dombar House and Studio and walked through the threshold, I didn’t yet know the history of the house, or of Ben Dombar, but I knew there was something amazingly special about this house. Upon deciding to pursue purchasing and rehabbing the house, I did what any good architectural historian and preservationist would do: I researched everything I could about Ben, his work and the house. I quickly discovered how important the house was to the Dombar legacy, and also to the community. The house embodied Dombar’s creativity, his devotion to his education under Wright, his inventive spirit, and his dedication to making his buildings functionally beautiful. While just looking at the house, I knew that it was architecturally unique, once the history behind the house was revealed to me, I also knew that the entirety of the house needed to be celebrated and honored.

The National Register of Historic Places was largely created for this exact purpose. The National Register is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. It was authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources.

Ben Dombar House and Studio drawing

I knew as soon as I began planning for the rehabilitation of the property, that I would want to list this on the National Register of Historic Places and wanted to do as sympathetic of a rehabilitation as possible to maintain the integrity of the building, in order to help facilitate this listing.

The rehabilitation was completed in early 2018, the year the building turned 50 years old and could finally qualify for the designation. (You can see some interior photos in a story about the home in Cincinnati Magazine.) I started the process by sending in a National Register Questionnaire, a 2-page form that asks some basic and preliminary questions about the building to vet its potential eligibility for listing, to the Ohio History Connection, the State of Ohio’s Historic Preservation Office, to get a determination on the potential eligibility of the house.

After the review and confirmation that the Benjamin Dombar House and Studio was eligible, I began my deep dive into research. Using the National Register Bulletins and examples of other recently nominated modern era buildings, I built a framework for discussing and analyzing the history and significance of the house.

As each nomination is tailored to the history and significance of the individual building, each nomination needs to be tailored to the topics that support the significance of the building. For the Benjamin Dombar House and Studio, that included writing a detailed architectural description of the house, the history of the development of the Organic Architectural style and the style specifically in Cincinnati, as well as a discussion of Benjamin Dombar, his practice and specifically how this house fits into the context of the Organic Style and his overall practice.

Ben Dombar House and Studio blueprint

As this was a personal project, I worked on it over weekends and evenings outside of my job as a historic preservationist. It took me about 3 months to fully research and write the nomination. Once I had the nomination submitted to the SHPO, it took approximately a year for it to go through the process to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There is no fee to submit the nomination, but costs that may be incurred would be to contract with a consultant to write the nomination, as well as mapping and photography. These fees can vary depending on the site size, number of resources (buildings, structures, objects, etc.), the available research existing on the house and topics of significance, and location.

For example, with the Benjamin Dombar House and Studio, one of the main elements of significance were its association with Ben Dombar and its unique organic architecture. As there are no other organic architecture buildings listed in Cincinnati and no other Ben Dombar Houses listed in the National Register of Historic Places to reference, I was tasked with researching and writing the context and history of both of those topics to provide a basis to evaluate the significance.

This burden of research would not be required for someone who owns a house by Samuel Hannaford, for example, as his practice has been well studied and documented within the National Register, so a new nomination for a building designed by Samuel Hannaford would have the privilege of using the extant research for a justification of significance.

Ben Dombar in his studio

As the Benjamin Dombar House and Studio nomination involved a building in a style that is not common and by an architect whose work is just coming of age for eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places, the need for a greater basis of justification, research and documentation made the nomination open for more detailed evaluation. Luckily, as there had been very few alterations to the property except for some interior material changes, and the floor plans had remained unchanged, the property retained the high level of architectural and material integrity that is often needed for a building being nominated under the “architecture” category. Again, as each nomination focuses on the specifics of why that property or district is significant, the level of integrity is evaluated with a balance of other considerations, including its history, sense of place, and rarity.

As a professional Historic Preservationist, my life has been about saving and honoring historic buildings. With this particular building, I was able to save it from vacancy and foreclosure, and to rehabilitate and restore it to the intentions and designs of the architect and homeowner, Ben Dombar. While this building doesn’t have any local protections or designation on it, being able to list it in the National Register was a step I could take to recognize and celebrate the history of the building and its architect once it was saved from the immediate threat that vacancy and foreclosure had put on the house.

As this was also the first building by Ben Dombar to be listed, this specific nomination also helps to provide a basis and context for other Ben Dombar-designed buildings to be apply to be listed. Another important aspect of the property being listed is its protection, and the consideration of any future projects or expansions of the transportation network that surrounds this property. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires that, anytime Federal funds are used, that the effect of historic resources is taken into account, and that there should be an attempt to avoid adverse impacts on those historic resources. As the Ben Dombar House and Studio is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the building has been established to be historic. This review is referred to as the Section 106 review process.

The documentation, celebration, recognition and protection through the Section 106 process are all important aspects and reasons to list a property in the National Register of Historic Places. However, through this whole process, I have realized that perhaps the most important reason has been the greater appreciation, pride and connection with my house and with the work of Ben Dombar that has rooted me in calling this house my home.

interior of the Ben Dombar House and Studio

Beth Johnson is the incoming Executive Director of the Cincinnati Preservation Association. Read more about her appointment here.

Cincinnati Preservation Announces New Executive Director: Beth Johnson to Start in Early May

Cincinnati Preservation Association is pleased to announce Beth Johnson will be CPA’s new executive director. Johnson will replace Paul Muller who is stepping down in May after 12 years to return to his architectural practice.

Johnson comes to CPA from her position as the urban conservator for the City of Cincinnati, a position she held for more than six years. She has also worked in preservation and planning for the City of Covington, KY as well the cities of San Antonio and Austin, TX.

For Johnson historic preservation is not just a career, but her passion in and out of the office. Having rehabbed her own houses, Johnson is a hands-on preservationist who has experience in municipal preservation and planning, preservation education, and even some executive producer video experience with Nick Clooney as the talent.
“With a passion to shine the light on the history and stories of everyone that makes up the beautiful quilt that is Cincinnati, I am excited to join Cincinnati Preservation Association to ensure that our historic buildings are part of the fabric of that quilt,” says Johnson. “I am excited, honored, and energized to continue the amazing work CPA has done in advocacy and education for the historic resources and fabric
of the Cincinnati region.” 

The transition in leadership occurs at a time when CPA is expanding its work in a number of ways. New initiatives include the creation of an Endangered Building Revolving Fund and the launch of a project to preserve sites of Black history in Cincinnati. 

“It was great to hear that Beth Johnson will be the Executive Director of CPA,” notes Muller.  “Her skill in the professional aspects of preservation is matched by her passion and by her delight in working with communities.  I am looking forward to seeing the great things CPA will accomplish through her leadership.”

“We are delighted to have selected Beth Johnson to lead CPA into the future from a slate of outstanding applicants, each of whom would have served CPA well,” says CPA Board Member and Search Committee Chair Arthur Sturbaum.  “We look forward to Beth’s leadership to expand the reach of CPA to new heights.”

Johnson is a graduate of Ball State University where she received a degree in urban planning and history with a minor in historic preservation. She received her master’s degree in historic preservation planning from Cornell.
When Johnson isn’t working on a preservation project, you can find her hiking with her dog, raising monarch butterflies, drinking lots of coffee from Cincinnati roasters, or traveling near and far to spend time with her friends and family.


Spring Grove: A Museum Without Walls

by Karli Wood
photos courtesy of Spring Grove Cemetery image archive

When you’re hosting an out-of-town visitor and want to impress them, where do you go? A Reds game? Union Terminal? The Cincinnati Art Museum?

The first place that always comes to my mind is Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum. The most common reaction I get is a raised eyebrow with the response, “A cemetery?!”

But Spring Grove is so much more. This veritable “museum without walls,” tells the story of Cincinnati – and is where many of its most influential citizens reside.

drawing of Spring Grove Cemetery

In the mid-1800s, Cincinnati experienced an aggressive cholera outbreak. Local cemeteries were unequipped to handle the influx of deaths, leaving them crowded and unkempt.

Spring Grove was founded as the antithesis of this. The rolling, picturesque landscape became a destination for residents wanting to get away from bustling city life. With walking paths, stone bridges, islands, and wooded areas, Spring Grove was – and still is – its own Elysian Fields within Cincinnati.

historic photo of Spring Grove Cemetery

Famed landscape architect Adolph Strauch had a huge part in making Spring Grove a peaceful haven. Strauch implemented a principle called the “lawn plan,” encouraging families to have one central large memorial, surrounded by footstones.

As mentioned, many of Cincinnati’s elite rest at Spring Grove – and as you walk through the cemetery, you can gain a sense of funerary history and customs. It’s like a journey back in time, giving you a glimpse into the lives of these extraordinary people.

main entrance to Spring Grove Cemetery

Let’s explore a few iconic monuments and traditions that you can use as a scavenger hunt on your next visit:


Fleischmann Temple

Fleischmann Temple – Modeled after the Parthenon in Greece, this Doric temple is best-viewed from across the lake, where you can see it against the trees. It was built for the Fleischmann family – of Fleischmann yeast. The temple features a stained-glass portrayal of the Three Fates.

Dexter Mausoleum

Dexter Mausoleum – The most iconic memorial in Spring Grove, the Dexter Mausoleum is often compared to Notre Dame, even though it’s modeled after Paris’ Sainte-Chapelle. The Dexter family were “bourbon barons,” in their time. The mausoleum features flying buttresses, spires, and 36 marble catacombs. Its construction would cost approximately $1.7 million in today’s money. Despite its grandeur, the mausoleum was never finished due to financial reasons. It was originally meant to feature an elevator and stained glass, which were never installed.

Charles West monument

Charles West – An important figure in the founding of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Charles West is one of only a few life size statues in Spring Grove. The striking memorial shows West sitting in repose. The foundation of his memorial is flanked by caryatids of the four major aspects of the arts: architecture, sculpture, painting, and music.

Robinson Mausoleum

Robinson Mausoleum – The Robinson family-owned Robinson’s Circus and made a lasting impact on the city. It was said that you could see their famed elephant Tillie plowing the field near their Terrace Park home. The Robinson’s have a number of circus family and staff buried in Spring Grove. This rough-hewn mausoleum features statues of Faith, Hope, and Charity.


Burnet Mausoleum

Use of Marble – It’s rare that marble is used today in monuments and headstones due to its tendency to erode over time. A beautiful example of a marble monument is the Burnet Mausoleum. Senator Jacob Burnet and his family are interred in this unique monument. It is built into a hillside and the facade is Italian marble. Over time, it settled, sealing the doors permanently. The mausoleum originally had three steps, but only two are now visible.

McDonald Mausoleum

Iconography – Iconography has evolved in cemeteries over time. A wonderful and pristine example of iconography is the McDonald mausoleum. It was built for Alexander McDonald, who was an investor in oil, banking and also served as the director of the Big Four Railroad. The doors of the mausoleum feature multiple bas relief symbols, including a winged heart and flame, a dove, a lamp, and an open book.

Gerrard Mausoleum

Statues – On a walk-through Spring Grove, you will see a large array of statues – everything from angels, busts, lions, a sphinx, and even a mermaid. It wasn’t uncommon to feature a statue of a woman in mourning: leaning on headstones or sitting on top of monuments. A fantastic hidden treasure of sculpture is the Gerrard mausoleum. Stephen Gerrard was an inventor known for creating the first refrigerated produce truck. If you walk up to the doors of this mausoleum and peer inside, you will find four marble statues depicting the four seasons.

Huenefeld Mausoleum

Perpetual Care – An interesting and often unknown aspect of the cemetery is the idea of perpetual care. When a burial right is purchased, it is considered private property. This means that many of the mausoleums and monuments at Spring Grove are expected to be maintained by the families. The Huenefeld mausoleum is an example of perpetual care, a former option where the family purchased the ability for Spring Grove to maintain the mausoleum over time. This included pressure washing and resealing. The Huenefeld mausoleum remains in outstanding condition. There are rare exceptions where Spring Grove will intervene in the care of a monument. An extreme example was when the cemetery shored up the Dexter mausoleum when it began sliding backward toward the lake.

While the historic sections of Spring Grove serve as a time capsule starting in 1845, this cemetery is still very much an evolving landscape. It features over 700 acres and is still active and serving the local community.

The next time you’re itching to discover a unique locale with a friend, choose Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum. Despite its evolution of 177 years, it has maintained its status as a destination for reflection, escape, and relaxation. It’s far more than a cemetery – it’s a place of connection and a celebration of life.

historic photo of Spring Grove Cemetery

Karli Wood is a volunteer with the Spring Grove Cemetery Docent Program. The mission of the Docent Program is to provide tours and programs focusing on art, history, architecture and horticulture. Through increasing the knowledge, excitement, and understanding of our visitors, the docents can enable the continued stewardship and cultural contributions of Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum.

Spring Grove’s tour season runs April through October. All public tours can be found in the events section of the website, and registration opens 30 days before each tour/event. Private tours are also offered, and those can be walking or tram, historical or horticultural. Please direct all tour queries to Ruth Reck at 513-853-4941 or

Spring Grove also offers a free walking tour app! These self-guided tours start at the Customer Service Center near the entrance at 4521 Spring Grove Ave. and offer 3 options: History and Heritage (3-hour moderate 4-mile hike), Iconography (1.5-hour moderate 1-mile hike) and Stately Trees of the Grove (1-hour light 1.2-mile hike). Available for iPhone or Android.

Cincinnati Preservation Announces New History Mapping App and Website

02/17/2022 Cincinnati Preservation Association introduces a new website/app titled Cincinnati Sites and Stories which lets visitors explore the people, places, and moments which have shaped Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky’s history. 

In honor of Black History Month, the website’s initial collection, Sites and Stories of Black History, is designed to preserve collective memory by recognizing the African American milestones and movements that have shaped Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.  

The site includes such stories like that of the Fossett family, former enslaved people at Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, who moved to Cincinnati. Learn how an incident in 1860 on a streetcar prompted Sarah Fossett into a fight to desegregate public transportation in Cincinnati. Or dive into the history of King Records and how rock and roll created in a brick building in Evanston crossed racial lines and revolutionized American music.  As part of CPA’s Sites of Black History project, the stories in this collection will present the area’s rich Black history through text, photographs, and multimedia.  

Visitors will also be able to explore Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky history via virtual tours such as Union Baptist Cemetery Tour.  The tours will allow visitors to explore the sites and stories online.

This interactive website/app will be continually updated and expanded in the future with other curated collections about Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky’s historic sites and stories.  Cincinnati Preservation is collaborating on content with scholars and other organizations throughout the region.  CPA researcher Deqah Hussein-Wetzel, is organizing the data and writing about sites of Black history.

The project currently has thematic articles that identify, document, and publicize the significant Black history on both sides of the Ohio River. Examples of themes include Civil Rights, religious spaces, educational institutions, civic organizations, urban planning and design, architecture, parks and recreation, entertainment, neighborhoods and districts, industry, and business. 

CPA Board Member Dr. Eric Jackson, Professor of History and Director of the Black Studies Program at Northern Kentucky University notes that “This new mapping tool, particularly with a focus on the history, culture, and experiences of African Americans in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, will show that despite numerous obstacles and against seemingly insurmountable odds, African Americans made a significant contribution in many fields, ranging from music, medicine, education, performing arts, poetry, and athletics.”

The website and app was developed by the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University.

To view the web version, use this link: Cincinnati Sites and Stories.  For  the free app at the Apple App Store, use this App Store link. For Android devices use this link from the Google Play.

Funding for CPA’s Sites of Black History project was provided by the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation and the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

CPA Executive Director Paul Muller Stepping Aside in May to Return to Architecture

After more than 12 years, Cincinnati Preservation Association Executive Director Paul Muller is stepping down. Muller is leaving CPA in May to return to his architectural practice. A national search is underway to find his replacement. The application period is currently closed but you may click here to learn more about the search.

Muller became executive director in March 2010 and before that was a CPA trustee. In previous terms he also served as the president of the board of trustees.  Muller brought great passion to Cincinnati Preservation, advocating for dozens of buildings during his tenure.

“Historic buildings are everywhere – they’re in everyone’s neighborhoods,” he once noted. “We want to make sure that people experience the community benefits that these magnificent buildings can contribute.”

Under Muller’s guidance the CPA board focused on a vision that historic structures have significant unrealized cultural and economic value, and there is a powerful emerging market demand for unique, interesting cities. With that belief in mind, strategies were developed to fund an expanding portfolio of initiatives, to increase partnerships and collaborations with other organizations, and to engage the public in preservation.

The success of these initiatives led to the CPA board being recognized by the National Historic Trust for Organizational Excellence, several awards from the Ohio History Connection and locally by the Cincinnati Business Courier for board excellence.

Among Muller’s other accomplishments:

  • Restoration of the 1938 Rauh House in partnership with Emily Pulitzer with awards from Docomomo-US and the Ohio History Connection.
  • Renewal of Lytle Park Historic District as well as renewal and expansion of Dayton Street Historic District.
  • The restoration of Hauck House in the West End with multi-year support for the John Hauck Foundation at 5th3rd
  • Acquisition and renovation of Pinecroft, the Estate of Powel Crosley Jr., and opening it as an event venue in partnership with Funky’s Catering.
  • Establishing a Revolving Fund with grants from 1772 Foundation which was used to purchase and save the 1833 Dennison Homestead in Batavia and the Eckstein School in Glendale.
  • Hosting the National Preservation Partners Network Annual Meeting in Cincinnati.
  • Advocating for the 1948 Terrace Plaza Hotel including an “11 Most Endangered Place” listing by the National Historic Trust and an award for advocacy from Docomomo-US.
  • The initiation of “Sites of Black History in Cincinnati” project with support from the Haile Foundation and the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.
  • Collaborating with Margaret Valentine in growing the annual Fall Forum into a leading lecture series on emerging civic topics.
  • Growing CPA assets to $7.8 million, operating in the black for almost every year since 2012, and increasing the CPA endowment from half-a-million to $1.4 million.

And while doing all of this….and more… Muller also worked to strengthen many partnerships with Cincinnati organizations and institutions.

He promoted a vision of preservation as a holistic activity that can impact and contribute value to many aspects of contemporary life…while fostering a culture of inclusiveness and professionalism that has strengthened CPA and expanded the community it serves.

We wish Paul well in his return to architecture and know he will not be a stranger to Cincinnati Preservation as we move forward with new leadership.

CPA Welcomes Shannon Tubb as New Office Manager

Cincinnati Preservation Association is pleased to welcome Shannon Tubb as the new CPA Office Manager. Tubb joins CPA from Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati where she worked for seven years as an office administrator and receptionist. Prior to working for Habitat, Tubb worked at the Michigan Theater Foundation in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“During my time in Ann Arbor I worked as a manager and volunteer coordinator,” Tubb notes. “I got to see daily the beauty of a restored art house and the joy it brings to the patrons. Working at Michigan Theater inspired me to tour art houses in Los Angeles while traveling, learning about projects that have thrived and seeing evidence of those that hadn’t survived.”

In addition to her work at Habitat and the Michigan Theater, she was an AmeriCorps member focusing on affordable housing preservation and development as well as crime prevention and safety.

Tubb has a love of history and learning.

“My interest has been shaped by my brother Shawn’s experience as a world traveler and architect,” she says. “I’m interested in collaborations among private citizens, neighborhoods, membership organizations, and governmental agencies to create better solutions.” 

Tubb is looking forward to learning about local history and the process of selecting sites and the work it takes to protect them.

“I am committed to serving excellent non-profits as an administrative professional,” she says. “This position will provide me with an opportunity to learn new skills and support preservation of historic sites and structures.”

Tubb currently lives in Finneytown, but grew up in West Virginia, Iowa, and Ohio. She attended Milford High School and graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Spanish. She also has completed masters work in the field of public administration at Eastern Michigan University.

When not working, Tubb enjoys reading, hiking and being outdoors. She cites Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum as one of her favorite locations to walk.

Cincinnati Preservation Welcomes New Board Members

Cincinnati Preservation Association is pleased to welcome four new members to its Board of Trustees: Dr. Eric Jackson, Jeffrey Rush, Thea Tjepkema and Will Yokel. Each new board member brings with them a unique background and set of skills as they join the current CPA Board of Trustees to promote the appreciation, protection and appropriate use and development of the Cincinnati region’s historic buildings, communities and landscapes.

Dr. Eric R. Jackson is a professor of history with nearly 30 years of university-level academic experience, primarily in American and African American history, race relations and peace studies. He earned his doctorate degrees at the University of Cincinnati and has published a wide array of books, book reviews, and articles in numerous journals. He teaches at Northern Kentucky University and is director of its Black World Studies program.  Among his more than fifty publications, those of special local interest are his recent online book/website on African Americans in Cincinnati, and a book he co-authored: “Cincinnati’s Underground Railroad.” Dr. Jackson has served on the Boone County Historic Preservation Review Board, is a member of the Kentucky Historic Preservation Review Board and is board vice president of the Boone County Public Library.

Jeffery Rush is a recently retired partner at Frost Brown Todd LLC where he served as head of the firm’s commercial transaction and real estate department and was a member of its executive committee. He earned his JD degree at Vanderbilt University and his bachelor’s in economics/finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  Rush’s local historic preservation involvement includes representing the financing lender for recent major renovations to Music Hall and Cincinnati Union Terminal. On a more personal level, he donated an easement for the historic home he formerly owned in East Walnut Hills.  His past community involvement includes serving on the boards of Seven Hills School and the Beechwood Home.

Thea Tjepkema is an ardent preservationist who holds a BFA in historic preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design and a master’s in arts administration from the University of Akron. She and her husband, John Morris Russell, conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, are passionate advocates of Cincinnati history as told through its buildings. Tjepkema has worked at several historic sites and museums across the country and in Canada. More recently, she served on the board of the Friends of Music Hall for six years. In this role, she identified, researched, and guided major restoration projects such as the restoration of the building’s missing roof ornamentation. She also developed an outdoor architectural walking tour and two major presentations about the building’s history. In 2020, she presented “Muses: The Women of Music Hall” at Cincinnati Preservation’s Fall Forum. Tjepkema was recently named historian and archivist for the Friends of Music Hall and will continue to explore new historical topics in her blogs at

Will Yokel holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from the University of Cincinnati as well as a certificate in historic preservation. Since 2016, he has been the in-house architect at Urban Sites where he manages the predevelopment and design of mix-use renovation projects in Cincinnati’s urban neighborhoods. His projects often utilize state and federal historic tax credits. Prior to joining Urban Sites, Yokel worked at Bloomfield/Schon + Partners and Jose Garcia Design in Cincinnati, and held co-op positions at Hartmax-Cox Architects in Washington DC and Architectural Resources Group in San Francisco. He currently serves on the boards of the American Sign Museum and Northsiders Engaged in Sustainable Transformation (NEST) and is a past member of Covington’s Urban Design Review Board. He and his wife recently restored their 1890 Victorian home in Northside.

CPA also thanks Eric Landen, Danny Lipson and Jim Gibbs for their service and dedication to preservation as they leave the CPA board.

Preservation Awards 2021

Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA) honored 10 local preservation projects for outstanding accomplishments at it’s annual meeting on December 5th, 2021. The projects were recognized in the areas of education, restoration, sustainability and more. The awards were presented at the Glendale Lyceum in historic Glendale to recognize and honor the members of the Eckstein Cultural Arts Center. Below are brief descriptions of the projects that received preservation awards. We want to thank everyone who attended online and in person.

Education Award

Urban Roots and Invest in Neighborhoods

Season 1: “Lost Voices of Cincinnati”.

Urban Roots podcast tells little known stories of urban history, highlighting the stories of women, people of color, and other marginalized groups in an effort to preserve, remember, and hear their important perspectives, contributions, and lessons. Urban Roots is a collaboration between Deqah Hussein-Wetzel, a Somali-American historic preservationist based in Cincinnati, and Vanessa Quirk, a cities journalist and podcaster based in New York City. The series, titled, “Lost Voices of Cincinnati” combines oral histories from long-time Black residents and seeks to uncover patterns of wrongdoing, preserve memory, and give voice to those whose stories have been forgotten or ignored. 

Urban Roots partnered with Invest in Neighborhoods to help connect with community leaders, neighborhood organizations, and long-term residents whose voices, stories, and memories have been captured by this series.

Preservation Leadership Award

John Paul McEwan McEwan worked at Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity for 13 years overseeing the organization’s new home renovation program and managing the completion of more than 200 homes, many of them historic properties. He brought a craftsmanship to those homes that they otherwise would not have had. Working closely with a staff architect, his construction staff, and other local contractors, McEwan worked hard to preserve or rebuild as much of the historic character of these homes as possible on a very limited timeline and budget. Many times, this meant fabricating doors, windows, trim, and cornice work himself. He now owns his own construction company, specializing in fine carpentry and historic restoration.  

Restoration Awards

IMusic Hall Finials. The Friends of Music Hall and their partners worked to restore the sandstone ornamentation on the exterior of the iconic Samuel Hannaford designed Music Hall building, including ten finials atop gables, and a sandstone lyre. Low-pressure wash removed years of organic and carbon pollution from the finials and sandstone caps on the 11 gables, as well as nearby sills and ledges on the main façade. The clean sandstone was individually color-matched for the new Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC) restoration pieces.

E. Cort Williams House. E. Cort Williams, a naval Civil War officer, and his wife Matilda, built the classic shingle-style house in 1885. Last renovated in the 1950s, complete with two kitchens plus dining rooms, the team had the extraordinary challenge of restoring the home back to its original, natural beauty. The work included stripping original woodwork, doors and hardware back to their natural state, bringing aspects of the exterior design by Desjardins & Hayward, most notably arches, to the interior back to life and creating a welcoming, worthy kitchen, as well as baths, that are modern in design yet still feel period appropriate. 

Sustainability Award

Sol design + consulting OfficesFounded in 2006, Sol was committed to staying downtown as their office grew so they purchased an historic building in Pendleton within the Over-the-Rhine Historic District with the intention of making it a case study in historically-sensitive and sustainable rehabilitation. The project is mixed-use, returning the Italianate corner building to its origins with the firm’s office space at street level and four apartments above. To bring light to the basement and make it part of the office, the design placed a stair at the front of the ground floor and used an existing sidewalk vault to add a window with more filtered light from above.

Adaptive Reuse Awards

The Standard In 1931 a gas station opened on the corner of Main and Fifth Streets in Covington’s Main Strasse. It closed in 2015. Now thanks to a restoration/reinvention The Standard is now a restaurant. As part of the transformation metal cladding on the sides of the building was removed revealing underlying brickwork. Metal canopies were replaced with metal-covered wood structures built to the same dimensions. Also created were several historic nods to the Standard’s former life. Those include a mural in the front entry honoring the original owner which include found material from the station’s past. 

Century Design Workshop The building was built in 1910 as the Century Theater, a three hundred seat theater for vaudeville and moving pictures. Michael Miritello and Susannah Tisue renovated it to become their ceramic studio (SKT Ceramics), woodshop, and retail storefront. As part of the process, they restored the arch window depicted in a photo from 1927, restored the main center staircase, and created a manufacturing and retail storefront for them to operate their business from. They have a few artifacts from the building’s earlier days they found during the renovation, some of which are currently on display at Century Design Workshop. 

Peters Cartridge Factory ApartmentsWhat had been a derelict brownfield site for many years along the Little Miami River and Little Miami Bike Trail in Warren County— the Peters Cartridge Company, manufacturer of gun powder and munitions for U.S. armed forces in World War I and II — has been repurposed into a community of apartments, a multi-purpose facility, and the Cartridge Brewing pub. This complex of six industrial buildings, constructed between 1916 and 1919, are what remain of what once was a much larger facility. Almost two acres of damaged glass were replaced with historically appropriate new windows. The shot tower was converted into two multi-story dwellings, plus a small commercial space. The original concrete floors remain, and the concrete ceilings are visible, showing the form marks from the construction process.  

Ingalls Building/Courtyard by Marriott HotelHGC renovated the historic Ingalls building, located at 4th & Vine into downtown Cincinnati’s first Courtyard by Marriott Hotel. The $25 million project created a new 126-room hotel across 16 stories and has been LEED Gold Certified. Floors one and two were connected through a new monumental, curved staircase. The first floor has a market, seating areas, and is the main lobby. The ornate ceilings on the first and second floor were completely restored. The original marble ceilings were restored as much as possible. The bank vault was transformed into a large fitness center, and the original intricate door was kept. 

TThe Manse Apartments The Manse Apartments in Walnut Hills, provides 60 affordable housing units for seniors ages 55 and up. The historic hotel and its annex have been renovated to offer 13 efficiencies and 29 one-bedroom apartments. A newly constructed building  was also added featuring 18 one-bedroom apartments welcoming seniors age 60 and older. The project cost was $13.5 million. Funding sources for the project include Low Income Housing Tax Credits, Federal Historic Tax Credits, State Historic Tax Credits, City of Cincinnati HOME funds, Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Program funding, charitable donations, and deferred developer fees.

Fall Forum 2021 Focused on Power of Preservation To Tell a Fuller Story of American History

Cincinnati Preservation Association Presents:

“Preservation as Social Justice”

Keynote Speaker – Brent Leggs

We were pleased to welcome Brent Leggs as our 2021 Fall Forum Speaker. His talk focused on preserving the galaxy of Black landmarks.

Our 26th annual Fall Forum luncheon will took place in the Hall of Mirrors at the Netherland Plaza on October 22nd at 12pm and was live streamed online. You can view an interview with Mr. Leggs and Fall Forum Chair Margaret Valentine at this link to the WCET program Showcase with Barbara Keller.

About our Speaker:

Brent Leggs is the founding executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund – a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and largest preservation campaign in U.S. History on behalf of historic African American places. Through the Action Fund, he leads a broad community of leaders and activists in honor of the clarion that preserving African American cultural sites is fundamental to understanding the American story. Leggs is a Harvard University Loeb Fellow, author of Preserving African American Historic Places, and the 2018 recipient of the Robert G. Stanton National Preservation Award. His efforts to protect the A.G. Gaston Motel, Madam C.J. Walker estate, John and Alice Coltrane and Nina Simone residences, and Joe Frazier’s Gym is exemplary of his successful campaigns to preserve many cultural monuments throughout the U.S. Leggs is also an Adjunct Associate Professor and Senior Advisor to the Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites at the University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design.

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