blast from the past

by Mar 19, 2011ModArchitecture0 comments

 

 The Sheblessy House – 625 Evening Star Lane in Gaslight Clifton

We’re so excited about our new Clifton listing @ 625 Evening Star Lane.  It’s that rare combination of a large (3800 sq ft) MCM house, on large and useable grounds to match, on a really nice street with other MCM homes AND it’s really cool.  It’s the kind of spread you would expect to find out in the country or in the burbs.  But it’s just a minute from UC and the hospitals, and a few minutes from downtown.  In this case, you really can have it all!

Being the architecture geek that I am, I eagerly poured over all of the historical information I could find about this house and the ‘magical’ Evening Star Lane.  Thanks to Beth Sullebarger, an architectural historian who has been researching some of the Clifton moderns, a few more pieces of the modern puzzle have come together.

I knew that it was the former family home of the architect who designed it, Walter F. Sheblessy (1910 – 1995).  I knew that Sheblessy was responsible for developing Evening Star Lane and that the stonework and Rookwood pond in the back yard were from the grounds of the Taft estate that used to sit on the property.

Beth filled in the rest of the information for me, and as with so many Cincinnati homes, the family history runs deep.  Sheblessy earned a BS in Architecture from UC in 1932 and a MS in Architecture from MIT in 1933.  His father, John F. Sheblessy (1873 – 1939) was also a very successful architect and designer, particularly of Catholic churches in the Cincinnati area.  Walter’s brother, John B. Sheblessy (1907 – 1990) was a civil engineer and a very successful city planner (responsible for laying out the original routes of I-75 and I-71).

The brothers grew up in a home designed by their father (John F.) @ 3455 Morrison Ave  (and to this day, a family member still lives in the home!).  Right next door to this home was the estate of Mabel and Samuel Taft.  The Taft home had fallen into disrepair, and the brothers considered it a no-brainer to sacrifice it for their ‘John Francis Sheblessy Memorial Subdivision’ named for their father.  John named the street Evening Star Lane because he enjoyed the night views from the family home on Morrison.  As it turns out, the Walter Sheblessy house on Evening Star has one of the most spectacular night time views in the city, with gorgeous sunsets and twinkling light valley views.  It is no wonder that Walter chose this prime lot for his own home.

night time view from the great room of the sheblessy house on evening star

In all 9 homes were built on the street, 6 of them designed by Walter.  To this day, it remains one of the best contextual groupings of MCM architecture in town.  But the preservationist in me has to wonder, was the Taft house really that bad that it had to be destroyed?  Longtime Taft friend and former Rookwood pottery artist and president John D. Wareham moved into the estate after Samuel Taft passed away.   Wareham had designed the formal gardens for the Tafts (shown in their former glory in an extensive newspaper article from 1923 currently hanging in the Library of the home and included in the sale).  Wareham inherited the house when Mabel Taft passed away in 1932 and lived there until his death in 1954.  Because during that time Rookwood Pottery had fallen out of favor, Wareham did not have the means to maintain the house or the property.

the framed newspaper spread from 1923 still hangs in the library of the sheblessy house.

what remains of the formal gardens of the taft estate is now in the back yard of the sheblessy house. the garden stonework and the original rookwood tile pond were designed by wareham.

BUT this was also a time in Cincinnati history when many of the grand old estates were being razed in the name of progress.  In the 1960’s, Alexander McDonald’s baronial mansion designed by Samuel Hannaford was demolished to make room for the Clifton School Annex  designed by Carl Strauss and Ray Roush (on the corner of Clifton and Mc Alpin Avenues).  An Enquirer article this week detailed the demise of the Kilgour estate in Hyde Park, The Pines, demolished in 1966, also for a school.  Interestingly, both of these schools have been torn down in recent years, barely making it past the 40 year mark.  Just when do we draw the line and preserve the past?  I think Evening Star Lane is a great place to start!

great room of the sheblessy house. the corner glass detail appears here, the kitchen, and in the master bedroom.

sheblessy’s floor plan drawing of his dream home. 

sheblessy’s lower level plan. shuffleboard anyone?

this photo shows the drive through carport to the original stagecoach ‘turning circle’

 

The entire text of Beth Sullebarger’s history of 625 Evening Star Lane:

625 Evening Star history

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