lots of changes……..

by Jan 12, 2013ModLife4 comments

our previous home in madeira (where we lived from fall ’91 – fall ’97) meeting an untimely demise in december 2011. check out that gorgeous birch tree in the foreground and read the post script below.

There is a fine line between preservation and progress. Cincinnati Pubic Schools is in the final stage of their massive Facilities Master Plan in which all schools in the district will either be surplused, razed and rebuilt, or remodeled. The whole issue has me torn as well. As an architecture buff and preservationist at heart, I hate to see the old buildings come down. But in the case of many of these old schools (the 1949 Art Moderne North Avondale Montessori a case in point) interesting architecture and history cannot make up for a lack of function. Sometimes it is just time to move on.

Our kids are still fairly young – 15, 20 and 23. But in the past 3 years, their preschool (circa late 1970’s with addition from the 1990’s) has come down, their grade school (the aforementioned North Avondale Montessori) has been replaced with a brand new building. The original SCPA building (attended by our youngest for 4-6th grade) is being turned into apartments, and Walnut Hills High School (alma mater of Arlen and our two older kids, and Tenley’s current school) – a stately 1930 interpretation of Monticello by architects Woodward and Garber – is undergoing a complete renovation and partial rebuild. The pool where Kirsten holds a school record has been filled in. When all is done, only the exterior, the auditorium, and domed library will be recognizable. Even Silverton Park where they used to play is gone – now the site of the new Silverton School.

So with so much of our children’s history being ‘erased,’ it was particularly distressing to hear that our previous home – the one we moved to when Trent was 3, and the one we first brought our baby girls home to when they were born – was seriously damaged in a fire about a year ago. It’s taken me this long to be able to write about it. There is nothing quite so sad as a burned out house. This sturdy 1956 midcentury ranch seemed indestructible (it even had a bomb shelter under the front porch), but it could not stand up to the damage of fire and smoke. Shortly after we took these photos, it was torn down and was listed as a prime Madeira building lot for sale. We drove by to take a look and I could not resist the urge to walk around the newly cleared ‘lot.’ Even picked up a couple of souvenirs from the freshly churned dirt – a piece of the grey bathroom tile and a piece of pool tile. These and pictures and memories are all that is left of the home where we became Rissover Party of 5.  

snapped these pics on my phone shortly after we heard the news of the fire in january ’12


our once gorgeous back yard. the owner filled the pool in shortly after he bought the house from us 🙁

I wanted to take this opportunity to pay tribute to this classic ranch – the kind so plentiful in Cincinnati and so often overlooked. We saw the potential under all of the hideous wallpaper. Making this house into a modern home was truly a labor of love. And while we must admit – we were originally more drawn to the pool than the house – we truly enjoyed our 6 years of classic midcentury ranch living! They really don’t build them like this any more! And Cincinnati is loaded with granny ranches like this looking for a new lease on life – and hopefully with a happier outcome! 

these ‘before’ photos are from August 1991. the ‘mondrian-esque’ front window spoke to us, as did the cool modern fireplace and brick wall in an otherwise plain house. through layers and layers of wallpaper and nicotine was a solid house with great bones. please, enjoy the slideshow. especially the wallpaper!



and here are a few ‘after’ photos. we stripped the wallpaper and carpet, refinished the wood floors, and painted everything white – instantly giving the house a more modern gallery type feel. we also replaced small windows in the master and LL family room with walkouts, removed the concrete staircase off of the kitchen (no small feat) and added a multi level deck to bridge the house and the pool. made a few missteps along the way – looking back wewould not have removed the powder room tile and crane sink (d’oh) – but it was the early ’90’s – glad we didn’t do worse! I only wish we had more and better photos. this was before digital photography….and my wide angle lens!



~ Post Script ~ Arlen drove by the ‘lot’ yesterday and there was a bulldozer on site, getting ready to build a new house. And next to the bulldozer, lying on the ground, was our big beautiful birch tree that we had planted as a sapling and survived the fire in perfect condition. And in perfect position to be preserved.  The very last remnant of ‘our’ house….

RIP Rissover birch tree.

update 4/8/2020 – this is what was built where our house once stood, nestled in a neighborhood of midcentury ranch houses.  It sold in 2018 for $686,500. 


  1. Susan Rissover

    How tragic, I have learned with age that it is difficult to go back home again since it is the memories and people rather than the house that make the memories. Tough to swallow though!! So enjoy your blog entries, articles, ideas and updates!! I am inspired to look for a mid century modern house since we are in the market. Crossing fingers we find one in KY, Fort Thomas, Park Hills, or Fort Wright.

    January 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhoebe ([email protected])

  2. Susan Rissover

    Thanks for the photos and story about your former home. It was certainly a home that was loved. Replacement value…priceless to the families which lived there. I see that prospective buyers aren’t expressing concern for energy efficiency when I get feedback on home showings. The market is fickle and always has been.

    February 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterH E Hawkins ([email protected])

  3. Susan Rissover

    This makes me sad 🙁 So many great memories here. Playing with the torpedo in the pool, holding a funeral for a mole we found and probably should not have touched…So glad to see all of these great pictures!

    April 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCami

  4. Susan Rissover

    I enjoyed seeing this home as I always envisioned it! I’m glad it had a happy life before the last owner destroyed it. Funny the house was long gone before the fire. I appreciated this beautiful house, too bad the family that moved in after you didn’t treasure it as well.

    June 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCindy Shuman ([email protected])

Submit a Comment

featured publications




research + articles






modern books



some of our listings