Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 9)


See Dr. Bruce Stephenson as the keynote speaker at the 28th Annual Fall Forum on Friday, October 13th at Noon in the Hilton Netherland Plaza.

Tickets and tables are available here

Q. Why Planning?
A. Stephenson grew up off the eastern Florida coast on Merritt Island near the floodplain of St. Johns River. When the wetland soils dried out due to droughts, the peat-like material caught fire eight feet below the surface. This natural disaster became the topic of Stephenson’s high school science project which led him to discover that many environmental problems, such as the one he was witnessing in his own backyard, were exacerbated by bad urban planning. Later he would grow up to be one of the nation’s leading planners, taking vast inspiration from early planner John Nolen. Nolen is, of course, the Cincinnati icon who created the plan for Mary Emery’s Village of Mariemont in 1923, among many others.

“As I started drafting plans I realized, John Nolen has already made these plans… 100 years ago!”
-Bruce Stephenson

Stephenson receiving the John Nolan Medal in 2020

Q. What is New Urbanism?
A. It all started in 1993 in Seaside, Florida with a town so picturesque it was the backdrop for The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey. What was once seen as merely 80 acres of sand and scrub was turned into the world’s first New Urbanist town. The neo-classical plan put homes closer together to protect the natural resources. The plan proved itself in 1995 when a Category 3 hurricane left no damage in its wake. This is thanks to the Urban Plan which built behind the dune system, elevated all buildings 1-2 feet off ground, kept all native landscaping and included building codes requiring tin roofs. Similarly to Mariemont in Ohio, Seaside designed by Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk is very walkable and community focused. 

“New Urbanism is a planning and development approach based on the principles of how cities and towns had been built for the last several centuries: walkable blocks and streets, housing and shopping in close proximity, and accessible public spaces. In other words: New Urbanism focuses on human-scaled urban design.” –Congress for the New Urbanism 

Q. How long will it take?
A. New Urbanism is a long-term investment. Plans typically have a 25 year time frame, yet are often priceless. For example, Central Park took 25 years to come to fruition and there is no argument that it was well worth the wait. Planners set out to resolve economic tears in the social fabric spurred by diversity to create a space designed to bring all people together regardless of their backgrounds. 

Another example from Bruce’s work directly can be seen in the Park plans for Portland and Seattle which specifically included saving the creeks and wetlands rather than developing them. Thus, preventing the city from flooding during heavy rains. The important role these plans play will not only impact our future, but primarily our children’s future.

Stephenson in the Portland’s Pearl Magazine in 2016

Q. Looking Forward – Is there Hope?
A. New Urbanist principles are sustainability and racial equity rooted in pedestrian-oriented design. Stephenson points out some good news among these two monumental challenges. There is a huge opportunity to make money! 

Imagine living in a place where you could walk to get all your basic needs. Because at least one third of the population is saying “Sign me up,” this makes the most valuable real estate in the country urban places where people can walk to get their groceries.

Q. What is your favorite planned community?
A. In his living room, Stephenson has an image of the original town square in Mariemont which includes a fountain, church, residential and commercial properties all built very thoughtfully 100 years ago. 

“It’s the most beautiful work of civic art in the country.”  -Bruce Stephenson

Beyond the US, Pienza is at the top of Stephenson’s list. First mentioned in documents dating back to the 9th century, Pienza, Italy was designed as the “touchstone of Renaissance urbanism” and built to embody the humanist vision of the “ideal town”. Pienza was the birthplace of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, who would become Pope Pius II. After he became Pope, Piccolomini had the entire village rebuilt to serve as a retreat from Rome. In 1996, UNESCO declared the town a World Heritage Site, and in 2004 the entire valley,  the Val d’Orcia, was included on the list of UNESCO’s World Cultural Landscapes.

Old Town Square, Mariemont

About Dr. Bruce Stephenson
Bruce Stephenson is dedicated to the art of city planning.  A Rollins professor and consultant, he is a recipient of the John Nolen Medal, the 1000 Friends of Florida Better Community Award, and the Graham Frey Civic Award, and his biography, John Nolen, Landscape Architect and City Planner, won the JB Jackson book award. Serving on the Orlando Sustainability Task Force and the Pearl District (Portland) Planning & Transportation Committee inspired his most recent book, Portland’s Good Life: Sustainability and Hope in an American City. Currently, Stephenson is working on a new book, The Clansman and the City Plan: Thomas Dixon, John Nolen and the Birth of a New Nation.

Learn more about Bruce Stephenson, his work and publications at Living New Urbanism.


Mariemont Preservation Foundation

Cincinnati Preservation Association is excited to partner with Mariemont Preservation Foundation on the 28th annual Fall Forum.
Get your tickets here!

The mission of the Mariemont Preservation Foundation founded in 1980 is to preserve, protect and promote the integrity and character of Mariemont. The Foundation’s goals include

  • Preserve & Protect
  • Promote, Advocate and Educate
  • Community Outreach

History of Mariemont
Mary Emery (seen above) was the initiator, benefactor and visionary who founded the Village of Mariemont in 1923. Appalled by the unsanitary housing conditions in downtown Cincinnati, she used her vast fortune to create a “national exemplar”, which would be planned in every detail to provide its residents with a high quality of life. Mrs. Emery and Charles Livingood, her business manager, hired John Nolen, an internationally known town planner. He developed the plan for the Village of Mariemont, which was named after Mary Emery’s summer home in Rhode Island. The result of Mary Emery’s amazing vision and John Nolen’s careful planning was a village with a real sense of community.


Explore MPF’s archives and learn about the rich history of Mariemont by perusing their collection of Fort Ancient artifacts, Mariemont photographs, history books and more.
They are open to the public on Saturdays from 9:00 to 12 noon at 3919 Plainville Rd.

Other hours by appointment.

“There’s not a lot of places like Mariemont. I grew up here, moved away, and ultimately came back to raise my family here. The generational sense of community, green spaces and walkability is hard to find anywhere else.”
– Paul Mace, President of MPF

Big Wins for MPF and Historic Preservation
  • On March 29, 2007, the entire Village of Mariemont obtained National Historic Landmark status with the National Park Service. Thanks to founding member of MPF, Millard F. Rogers Jr., for submitting the application found here.
  • On June 30, 2022, MPF accomplished the long-term goal of purchasing the Eliphalet Ferris House located at 3905 Plainville Rd in Mariemont (seen below). Built in 1802 with an addition in 1812 it is the oldest brick building in Hamilton County still standing at its original location. Mary Emery’s vision was to use the house as a Mariemont Museum, and MPF will realize this dream as part of their work in the future! The Ferris House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 29, 1975.
  • With a Tree City USA national recognition, Mariemont’s canopy is about 100 years old. Many of the original trees were purchased from George Washington’s Estate, Mount Vernon by John Nolan. MPF helps fund the trees in the village as an important aspect of the original urban plan.
  • MPF’s active educational programming partners with schools, visitors and local businesses to provide docent-led tours, community events and opportunities to learn about Mariemont’s earliest inhabitants including Late Fort Ancient Native Americans.


Honored Traditions 
With over 15 parks spanning over 50 acres throughout the Village, public green space was intentionally designed by John Nolen over 100 years ago. Notably, the village’s Mary M. Emery Memorial Carillon is located in the 1929 Bell Tower at Dogwood Park. A carillon is a pitched percussion instrument that is played with a keyboard and consists of at least 23 bells that are cast in bronze, hung in fixed suspension, and tuned in chromatic order so that they can be sounded harmoniously together. It originally housed 23 bells but was expanded to 49 bells covering four octaves ranging in weight from 19 to 4800 pounds in 1969. Free carillon concerts can be heard every Sunday at 2 pm during the summer months where listeners can enjoy the internationally recognized qualities of this instrument which uses no electrical assistance or amplification!
100 Years
In 2023, the Village celebrated it’s centennial (having been founded on April 23, 1923) with special events, memorabilia and a list of capital improvement projects for park and statuary restoration, rehabilitation of the historic street lights and installation of an updated gateway signage package. Learn more here.
Get Involved
To learn more about the special history of one of our country’s first urban planned communities or to get involved, become a member of and connect with MPF here.

Our Historic Steps and Alley’s

Did you know Cincinnati has 1,000 walkable public corridors? 
That includes over 500 alley’s and 399 public stairs! Cincinnati is actually the 3rd leading city for public stairways trailing behind Pittsburg and San Francisco.
Many of our alleys and stairs are unmarked either due to missing signage or they have never received signs at all despite the fact that most of them do have names.
Part of our local Historic Fabric
These important spaces are historic and need our help to protect them. It’s important to have proper signage for safety, ease of navigation, neighborhood culture/history and to maintain a sense of place.
“Cincinnati is lucky to have a living museum in public space ,” says Christian Huelsman, Founding Executive Director of Spring In Our Steps (SIOS) and CPA Policy Researcher. He continues, “For the past 12 years, SIOS has been committed to bringing a brighter future to the city’s most neglected public corridors – such as public alleys & stairways – through cleanup, programming, advocacy, and preservation. We promote and improve the pedestrian experience in Cincinnati, focusing upon stairways and alleyways to reconnect communities to its greatest cultural assets.”
Why Historic?
The City of Cincinnati defines an alley by any public ride of way that is narrower than 21 feet, and OTR has the largest collection of brick street surfaced in the region.
Historic Street Surfaces
  • Pitt Alley located on the top part of Vine Street in Holister triangle might have the oldest intact street surface paved with limestone. Dating back to the 1850s or early 1860’s, it pre dates bowlders aka cobblestone. Pitt Alley is still in good condition and is also the steepest alley in the city!
  • In the 1860’s the move from limestone to cobblestone occurred. Cobblestone Alleys like the one seen above on Corn Alley in the West End were built with river stones dredged from river and stream beds (popular which were superior to limestone. Peete Alley is a great example that was fully restored by SIOS in 2023.
  • The 1880’s brought Granite Block as seen on Colby Alley in the Mohawk District.
  • Brick was popular in the early 1890’s, and the Alley Act of 1895 put into motion paving alleys with vitrified brick first laid on Main Ave in Avondale which later became Reading Rd. See Catlin Alley in Prospect Hill for Huelsman’s favorite example, although brick alleys are certainly abundant throughout Cincinnati.
  • Finally, a variation of granite block paving callled Durax was used around 1912 before concrete and asphalt took over.  Durax blocks are half blocks or cubes oriented into a fanned pattern. These can best be seen at Tiernan Alley just east of Central Ave and north of Findlay.
Historic Steps

The Main Street stairs built in 1908 are comprised of 354 steps with a rich history. The stairs:

  • are located at the site of the very first incline rails in Cincinnati
  • are the first concrete stairway in the city
  • have the most risers of any Cincinnati stairway
  • were built in 1908, and were the longest concrete stairway in the US at that time
  • remain the longest stairs in Cincnnati to this day.
The Main Street stairs currently have no historic marker.
Learn more and get involved with Spring in our Steps at or on Instagram / Facebook / Twitter

John Hauck House is Now Open

Thank You to our members for an amazing ribbon cutting at the John Hauck House on August 29, 2023. You made the space come alive!

  • The Preservation Library & Resource Room in memory of Michael Ibold Wilger is open by appointment
  • Restoration work on the main house is complete
  • Our offices are set up
  • And we are continually inspired to carry out our mission from this 1870’s historic building every single day

Thank you to the John Hauck Foundation & Frederick Hauck Fund for making this all possible.





Hands-On Preservation Classes Have Begun

Congrats to the first students at the Covington Academy of Heritage Trades!

After an economic analysis of trade school graduates job market in the region, the Enzweiler Building Institute saw how people with preservation specialty skills were needed in the restoration market. So, a few months ago the Covington Academy of Heritage Trades launched an 11 track curriculum including focus areas on masonry, wood windows, box gutters, plaster and more!

Students include a mix of professionals already working in the field as well as those looking to launch new part-time ventures. As such, classes are designed to accommodate schedules of working folks. With introductory workshops and scholarship available, the school aims to make the program as accessible as possible.

One student, Joe Cunningham is General Manager at True Masonry. He came to add historic renovation services to the new construction work they already provide. He was amazed at the hand mixed mortar. Instructor Bob Yapp even seeps cigar butts to color the mixture to match the period!

Leased for $1 by the city of Covington, the 3 story single family mansion from the 1870’s or 80’s is located at 1515 Madison Avenue, Covington.

Vicki Berling of Enzweiler Building Institute (the heritage trade school’s parent company) founded in 1967 is the first school created by a chapter of national association of home builders.

Bob Yapp demonstrates the day’s project.

Layers of history inside 1515 Madison Avenue

Mortar is hand made and mixed, matching ingredients to that of the time period.

The school has seven years to complete the restoration of this building through hands-on classes.

About Bob
Bob Yapp, National Preservation expert designed the school’s curriculum

Bob Yapp has been involved in the restoration and rehabilitation of over 160 historic properties. He also hosted the national, weekly PBS program, “About Your House with Bob Yapp”. The 52 show series was co-sponsored by National Trust for Historic Preservation. Additionally, he has authored two preservation books and helped establish and taught at numerous preservation trades programs around the country.

Hoffman School threatened with demolition


On August 1st, 2023 Cincinnati City Council voted 5 to 4 not to approve CPA’s application for the historic landmark designation of the former Hoffman School located at 3060 Durrell Ave.

Thank you to everyone who took action, volunteering time, energy and resources trying to landmark this architecturally significant and culturally important site of Black History in Evanston.

Thank you to the residents of Evanston, Walnut Hills, East Walnut Hills and the community at large who rallied to have their voices heard so they could have a say in what their own community looks and feels like.

Thank you to the following council members who voted in support of the community’s voice and for historic designation at this meeting: Vice-Mayor Jan-Michele Kearney, Meeka Owens, Mark Jeffreys and Equitable Growth and Zoning committee chair Jeff Cramerding.

Together, your advocacy of our city’s historic structures helps to further educate and stand up for the many benefits historic preservation provides our residents including affordable housing, environmental sustainability, cultural heritage and architectural importance.

Your activism in saving places that matter also makes Cincinnati an attractive and distinct place to live, work, play and stay which contributes to our local economy as well as contributing to the shared past, present and future story of what it means to be in the Queen City.

CPA remains steadfast in our mission, and we are eager to share our strategic plan later in the year that outlines new, proactive approaches toward saving sites and structures in collaboration and partnership with all our neighborhoods in Greater Cincinnati.


Hoffman School
The Evanston Community is facing an attack on their history and their collective community identity. TA developer is planning to demolish the Hoffman School building located at 3060 Durrell Avenue and replace it with a 155 unit multi-family new construction complex rather than reusing the school for new housing, a reuse that has happened with almost a dozen other former schools in the region. Please refer to the end of this post for information on how to get involved in preventing the demolition. The Hoffman  School was built in 1922 and is a Jacobethan Revival design by the city’s most prominent architectural legacy, Hannaford and Sons. This was the firm that brought us icons like Music Hall, City Hall, and the Cincinnati Observatory. This was the firm that changed the landscape of Cincinnati. The building, while breathtakingly beautiful, is not just significant for its architecture, it is also representative of the Progressive Era Design for schools: with schools taking on a more holistic approach to the welfare of the students through physical education, access to light and air, and providing school lunches.

Further, the building has been a central nexus for the larger community for over 100 years. This is the school where the neighborhood children went to a Cincinnati public school until it closed in 2012. Since then, it has continued to operate in various community capacities, most recently as a non-profit school and church. The Evanston community is a diverse neighborhood with a rich history, especially associated with the Black experience. Hoffman School’s population, over its life, has reflected the demographics of the community. The demolition of the school will erase a site associated with the history of Cincinnati’s Black community.

Original detailed iron stair railing in Hoffman School.

Cincinnati Preservation Association works with the Cincinnati community and developers to find creative reuses for our historic buildings. We want to work by partnering with neighborhoods to identify and protect the buildings, that if lost, would irrevocably change the fabric of the neighborhood. With early identification of significant buildings, developers won’t be surprised when demolition is met with community opposition.

Luckily Hoffman School has already been identified numerous times as a building that is significant.

  • February 16, 2023 – Evanston community council voted against the demolition of Hoffman School
  • 2019 – The Evanston Work Plan specifically listed the Hoffman School as an important site where Historic Landmark Status should be considered
  • 2019 -National Register Questionnaire response from the State Historic Preservation Offices determined it was eligible for the National Register
  • 1998 – Cincinnati Public Schools Historic Inventory list it as eligible for the National Register
  • 1978 – Cincinnati Historic Resource Survey list is as a property that greatly contributes to the historic and/or architectural quality of the City of Cincinnati.
  • 1977 – Ohio Historic Inventory Form list it is as National Register Eligible

So, why wasn’t historic landmark designation sought before this. Unfortunately, this is often how the story goes in preservation and it is why, going forward, we need to continue to support neighborhood and city-wide efforts to identify the historic and cultural resources that matter in each neighborhood. Cincinnati Preservation Association needs your support so we can continue to offer the ability to help write historic designations for Evanston and our other neighborhoods. These historic designations will protect our historic buildings from demolition. 


We are asking you to support the historic landmark designation of Hoffman School and Site by writing letters to the City in support of the designation and by coming to public meetings and hearings to verbally show your support.

UPDATE: The Historic Conservation Board voted unanimously to recommend approval of the historic designation for the Hoffman School and Site on May 8th, 2023  

UPDATE: The City Planning Commission voted 6-1 to recommend denial of the historic designation for the Hoffman School and Site on June 2nd, 2023. 

As a result of the Planning Commission’s recommended denial. A super majority at City Council (6 out of the 9 council members) will need to vote for the Historic Landmark Designation on Tuesday August 1, 2023 at 1:00 pm– Equitable Housing and Growth Committee of City Council at City Hall Chambers on the on the 3rd floor of City Hall, 801 Plum Street. Attend in person or and via Zoom. 

Finally, please consider giving to Cincinnati Preservation Association so we can continue to support our neighborhoods as they work to save our shared resources. It’s our collective history, culture and places that make each of our neighborhoods unique and special for visitors and residents alike.


Media Inquiries
Contact Lindsey Armor 513.246.2043

Women’s Role in Historic Preservation

Since the mid-nineteenth century, women have been an important part of the historic preservation movement in the United States. As individuals and groups, as amateurs and professionals, women have worked to protect the country’s historic properties. Most credit the foundation of America’s preservation movement to Ann Pamela Cunningham who was appalled at the state of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Starting in 1853, she began advocating for its preservation. Through a campaign answered by women from across the country the Mt. Version Ladies Association was born and paved the way to the preservation of Washington’s home.

Mount Vernon Ladies Association provided by

However, before Cunningham, women were integral in many other instances of grassroots efforts for saving buildings, documenting history or creating memorials. Notably the creation of a monument in the 1820s for the Battle of Bunker Hill was championed by Sarah Josepha Hale through organized fundraising events. Even before Hale, cultural preservation in both African American and Native American traditions of storytelling has primarily been the role of women. Amachee Ochinee Prowers was an example of a Native cultural mediator who helped to preserve the cultural heritage of her people in what is now the state of Colorado. Mary B. Talbert is just one example of the many African American women who have been integral in the preservation of African American heritage and worked to champion black history as a part of our collective American history.

Mary Burnett Talbert portrait taken in 1916 and featured in the Champion Magazine.

In the 1920’s, Susan Pringle Frost, founded the first community based historic preservation organization, first known Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings which is now known as Preservation Society of Charleston. This organization was instrumental in persuading the City of Charleston to establish the first local zoning ordinance to protect historic resources.

At the Federal Level there were several individual acts dating back to the 1906 Antiquities Act that established focused avenues of preservation; however, in 1966 the establishment of the National Historic Preservation Act was established. This act was a national network and standard of preservation that created professional jobs at both the federal and state level to administer historic preservation initiatives nationwide. One of the early professional preservationists was Nancy Schamu who worked for the Maryland Historical Trust starting in 1969 and is considered a leader in the modern preservation movement.

Women of Miami Purchase Association at Fort Miami Dig Site.
Women of Miami Purchase Association at Fort Miami dig site.

Locally here in Cincinnati, our preservation foundations were also thanks to three civic-minded women. In 1964, Elizabeth Hobson, Martha Phyllis Rowe, and Margo Tytus founded the Miami Purchase Association with an initial focused on saving Fort Miami and quickly expanded to saving historic buildings. Miami Purchase Association, later renamed Cincinnati Preservation Association, was integral to establishing local historic districts and formal government preservation in Cincinnati.

Throughout the history of the preservation movement women have been integral locally and across the nation. Historic preservation is about more than saving windows in an old house or repairing a plaster molding; it’s about preserving any and all aspects of the history of a culture, where possible. Making sure that we honor the contribution of women to our history as well as to saving our history is one way for us to celebrate Women’s History Month.

CPA female-led staff seen at a renovation site in Covington, KY in 2022.
Shannon M. Tubb, Margo Warminski, Lindsey Armor and Beth Johnson

Local Women in Leadership Today

Greater Cincinnati can boast about a large number of female led cultural heritage institutions housed in historic buildings! CPA is proud to be among the many organizations who value preservation in their missions and currently have women at the helm. See some of them listed below:

Friends of Music Hall | Executive Director Mindy Rosen

American Sign Museum | Director Cynthia Kearns

Behringer-Crawford Museum | Executive Director Laurie Risch

Cincinnati Memorial Hall Society | Executive Director of the Cincinnati Memorial Hall Society and Longworth-Anderson Series Cori Wolff

Cincinnati Museum Center | President & CEO Elizabeth Pierce

Cincinnati Observatory | Executive Director Anna Hehman

Cincinnati Preservation Association | Executive Director Beth Johnson

Findlay Market | CEO Cordelia Heaney

Harriet Beecher Stowe House | Executive Director Christina Hartlieb

Over-the-Rhine Museum | Director of Museum Administration Donna Harris

Skirball Museum Cincinnati | Director Abby Schwartz

Taft Museum of Art | Louise Taft Semple President and CEO Rebekah Beaulieu

Greater Milford Area Historical Society | Executive Director Maria J. Keri

Preservation in the Park

Join Cincinnati Preservation Association at the Porch in Washington Park to hear about the stories that the historic buildings of Cincinnati tell in our new series called Preservation in the Park.

Grab a drink from the bar, sit back and let us tell you a story. 

First Tuesday of the month at 7pm on the Porch at 1230 Elm Street 

à     August 2, 2022- “The Little Theater That Saved Memorial Hall” by William Bauman

à     September 6, 2022- “Cincinnati Music Hall: Why Details Matter” by Thea Tjepkema

à     October 4, 2022- “Findlay Market: 170 Years” by Corporation for Findlay Market


             Presented by Cincinnati Preservation Association

              Sponsored by 3CDC


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.

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