Home Tour: Dayton Street event will show off a dozen 19th century houses restored to past glory
Area once was called Millionaires' Row
Brent Coleman, WCPO contributor
5:00 AM, Aug 21, 2015
11:20 AM, Sep 11, 2015
CINCINNATI -- The Dayton Street Historic District received a boost early this year when developers received a $1.8 million Ohio historic preservation tax credit to turn the 86-year-old Heberle School into 59 market-rate apartments and retail space. It was the first such credit awarded to a West End project.
Dayton Street resident Sharon Cook is all for that development, which she can see out her front window. She also said she is pleased to see city and housing developers like non-profit Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) spurring the redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine through historic tax breaks and investment.
The folks on Dayton Street haven’t been as fortunate.
“It sure would be nice for them to bring some money in here,” Cook said. “There was a reason this was called Millionaires' Row. (The founders) put a lot of money into these homes. The Dayton Street Historic District, bounded by Bank Street, Linn Street, Poplar Street and Winchell Avenue, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
“We’d like for more people to see how lovely it is over here,” Cook said.
That chance is coming up Sept. 13 when the two-year-old Dayton Street Preservation Foundation will open about a dozen houses in the 800 block that vary in condition from fully restored to just getting started.
Foundation board member Jerry Bates moved onto Dayton Street in 1978 and has owned four houses there. The West End street was dubbed Millionaires' Row in the 19th century when wealthy businessmen, such as beer baron John Hauck and Cincinnati Mayor George Hatch, moved into fancy new digs on what was then the outskirts of the city.
Bates found the houses to be sturdy but in various states of disrepair. Still, he took a risk and became a residential renovator on Dayton Street. His current home, the William Goodall House, is still a work in progress because “you never really finish with an old house.”
But Bates points with pride to his backyard where he installed what he said Cincinnati police officers have told him is the only in-ground residential swimming pool they know of in Cincinnati’s urban basin.
Having a garage, a swimming pool and tons of square footage on a tree-lined street that’s less congested than Over-the-Rhine a few blocks away are all plusses for Dayton Street, Bates said. As is the fact that all the houses on the 800 block of the Millionaire’s Row, are owned by renovators, past and present.
“I think we’ve hit the lottery,” Bates said of the ownership trend. “Now we’ve just got to get people in.”
Hoping tour attracts new residents
He and Cook said they hope the tour will attract new residents to Dayton Street and the rest of the historical district, which is a blend of occupied and boarded-up 19th century properties.
“It will give them a vision of -- if you bought a house here -- what it would look like now, what it would look like in two years and what it would look like when it’s pretty much done,” Bates said.
And, Cook said she believes visiting Dayton Street will show people that it isn’t the crime-ridden neighborhood people might expect.
“This is still a walking neighborhood, a historic neighborhood. That history needs preserving, and that takes love and families,” Cook said.
We visited two houses that will be on the 1 to 4 p.m. tour on Sept. 13. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased on tour day at a booth that will be set up at the corner of Dayton and Baymiller streets.
Louis Hauck House, 1860
Built around 1860 by wholesale grocer William Poor, it was the home of American Jewish Reform and Hebrew Union College founder Isaac M. Wise from 1876 to 1879. Beer baron John Hauck bought it for his son, Louis, in 1890, and it has been known as the Louis Hauck House ever since. John Hauck lived at 812 Dayton St., and his daughter lived at 816.
Sean Caldwell, who grew up and spent most of his life in Europe, Germany in particular, said he was overwhelmed when he first investigated buying the Louis Hauck House 15 years ago.
“I was flabbergasted by the fact that it exists here in a city, and that it’s something somebody can buy,’ Caldwell said.
Visitors encounter the light yellow, Italianate house’s grandeur upon entry. They pass through an antique iron gate, up several stairs and into a vestibule guarded by receiving doors that would have been closed by 19th century residents as a way to say they weren’t receiving visitors.
The wide entry hall features original woodwork and intricately patterned Italian palazzo tile flooring. The house’s overall condition, Caldwell said, was remarkable when he bought the home.
Other than “making it my own” décor-wise, Caldwell said, only a few major changes had to be made. One was the parlor to the right of the entry hall. It had been divided into two rooms – the 21-foot-wide, three-story house had 11 rental units at one time – with the front section missing the intricate trompe l’oeil ceiling of the back half.
Caldwell removed what was left of the dividing wall, saving its two large stained glass panels. The large room now features two fireplaces with what appear to be original tile surrounds. It now serves as Caldwell’s billiards room.
Beyond the pool room is the dining room. It features the same tile flooring as the entry hall and has a unique pantry off the side with a door high on the wall that can be opened from the stairwell. Another unique feature is the gardener’s sink in a short hall between the dining room and kitchen.
A kitchen that seats 10
The second room to receive major attention from Caldwell is the kitchen. An Amish-made quarter-sawn oak table that expands to seat 10 occupies the middle of the fully updated room. Caldwell’s choices of white oak flooring, light cream cabinetry and walls and white quartz countertops maximize the natural light in the kitchen.
There are four large bedrooms and a bathroom on the second story of the Louis Hauck House. Of those, the bathroom and the street-side bedroom perhaps best capture the feel of the 155-year-old house.
The blue and white tile in the bathroom matches the wall frieze and dates to 1913 – Caldwell found a newspaper clipping from that year beneath it while making repairs – but the trim tile that wraps around the room at shoulder level is original, as is a floor-to-ceiling built-in cabinet with its original doors and hardware. Also original is the radiator, whose system provides steamed heat throughout the house.
Drama in the bedroom at the end of the hall is created by three large windows that face Dayton Street. Each features different, 19th century wooden fretwork at the top. The room’s rich color was created by Caldwell after several tries and plays well off the original ceiling.
Paint choices, Caldwell said, were key to drawing out the grandeur and beauty of the house.
“It took a couple of years to get it right,” Caldwell said, adding that his advice to anyone restoring a historical house is to “take your time.” He did that in many cases and loves the result.
“One of the biggest things I had done was to have (the house’s exterior) painted. It was kind of a cold, chalky color,” he said.
All three floors of the house, including the third with its “Ikea” guest room, will be open during the tour, as will Caldwell’s grassy side yard. A two-car garage and the two-bedroom apartment above it will be closed off.
The Edward Harwood House, 1857
The Rev. Edward Harwood, a successful local businessman, built this townhouse in 1857. It became part of the Underground Railroad and was visited frequently by abolitionist/author Harriet Beecher Stowe. The minister character in her famous book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” is believed to have been based on Rev. Harwood.
Art dealer Sharon Cook purchased the house 20 years ago and rented out the apartment above the garage on the back alley to several tenants before Jim Weithofer moved in 12 years ago and won over her heart. Today the married couple shares the six bedroom main house, the bottom floor of which they will open for the tour Sept. 13.
Cook’s affair with the Harwood House is a strong as ever.
“A friend of mine said, 'I think I found your house,'” the former Louisville and Covington resident said. “So I came over a few times but was only able to peek in the windows. I was sold on the house before I walked in the door. It had everything I wanted.
"I’ve never looked back, and I’ve never been sorry. I needed a big place (6,000-plus square feet), and I never thought I’d fill it.”
She has done more than that, said Weithofer, a retired city employee.
“Before I met her, I didn’t know you could stack art all the way up the walls and on the back of doors,” he said with a laugh.
A three-window Italianate house like the Louis Hauck House, the Harwood House’s first floor features two parlors, a dining room and a brand-new modern kitchen on the first floor. The grand space is chock full of Victorian-style furniture and artwork.
Other than developing their backyard garden retreat and completely redoing the kitchen – Cook and Weithofer finished it two weeks ago – the couple has been focused on maintenance because the house was in such good shape when Cook bought it.
Once a 12-unit rental
The Harwood House has been remodeled since it was a 12-unit rental property, most dramatically in the 1970s when drop ceilings were removed, revealing intricate trompe l’oeil ceilings in the parlors.
The front parlor features 4-by-12-foot, double-hung windows and a marble fireplace. The windows get a little shorter in the interior parlor, but there are plenty of rays coming in to light up the dozens of pieces of artwork in the room.
Down the hall is a large dining room where, Cook said, “We’ve had some wonderful parties and we plan to have more.”
The couple’s new kitchen is a showpiece of what can be done in an old space. The center island is 6 feet by 4 feet and is topped with a thick slab made from two pieces of South American hardwood. There are five stools around it.
A six-burner stove is set dramatically below a shiny, dark green tile backsplash in a back-wall cubby surrounded by a mock fireplace mantel. The kitchen's cream-colored cabinetry features metal pulls made by Joe De Luco Architectural Metals of Green Township and they're surrounded with colorful paintings and whimsical objects.
Even though only the first floor and garden of the Harwood House are on the tour, Bates said, it will be a popular stop on the tour.
“I think people will love seeing this. It’s so beautiful,” he said.