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.
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….
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.