Home Tour: There aren't many houses around here like the historic John Hauser House in Clifton

Spanish Mission home has a unique provenance

CINCINNATI -- The John Hauser House might have a cousin or two in Cincinnati, but certainly it has no twin. There just aren't many Spanish Mission homes in the region that have its provenance.

English architect William W. Franklin (1848-1918) -- whose clients included well-known business powerhouses with names such as Pogue, Oskamp and Lunken(heimer) -- designed it during the heart of the Arts & Crafts era in 1904. His client was Hauser (1859-1918), a German-born artist who traveled extensively in the West, then returned to his second-floor studio in Clifton to paint. Hauser and his wife, Minnie, dubbed their special home on Morrison Avenue "Pine Ridge," and Hauser crammed his second-floor studio with American Indian art and artifacts from its floor to a 16-foot-high ceiling.

In the early 1970s, longtime Cincinnati food columnist Marilyn Harris and her husband, University of Cincinnati German professor E.P. Harris, bought the house. She planned a new gourmet kitchen and hired Cincinnati architect Don Beck to design it. The Harrises returned what previous owners had converted into a duplex with two kitchens to a single-family home. They lived there for 42 years before moving into a Downtown condominium.

West Side native and Downtown attorney Bob Hust and his wife, UC Design, Architecture, Art and Planning professor Vicki Daiello, took over stewardship of the Hauser House in 2012. Now they have twin grandsons and need more space. They will move into a newer, larger Clifton home on a much larger lot once they find the next steward for Hauser House, which went on the market in late September at $439,000.

Hust and Daiello, both Ohio State University graduates who met in Columbus in 2009, planned their move to Cincinnati when she got hired by UC in 2012. At first, they lived in an old boarding-house condominium in Walnut Hills and loved its high ceilings.

When the couple adopted a trained service dog -- a German shepherd named Rozzy -- they realized she needed a yard of her own. They looked at properties in several Ohio River Basin neighborhoods before Westwood Realtor Mary Bryan hooked them up with the Harrises and Hauser House.

The two couples became instant friends and shared a deep interest in the house's history, especially E.P., who researched and co-wrote the book "A Straight White Shield: A Life and Works of John Hauser."

"As we were leaving (after viewing the house), E.P. and Marilyn came home and just embraced us," Daiello recalled. "They had us in for wine and were just enchanting. And the house was enchanting.

"We like its verticality. It was like our Walnut Hills place, like living in the trees."

Take the tour

Perched a dozen or more steps above Morrison Avenue, the house's Spanish chapel design is striking when splashed with morning sunlight. Its symmetrical, bright-white stucco facade features two archways under a line of three windows and a rounded fourth one in the curved peak, which is overlapped with terra cotta tiles.

Guests traverse a patio to step through a wide, mullioned, glass-and-oak door into the entry hall. Folding French doors to the left lead to what was E.P. Harris' office. Beyond that, one might expect to find a dining room and kitchen. Instead, Hust and Daiello converted the former sewing room into a bedroom-sized dressing room with a door to the brick-paved, portico-style patio out back. A second single door matching the aforementioned French ones leads to the master suite.

The overall style of Hauser House's interior is Arts & Crafts, but the original wood trim has been painted white, as has the brick fireplace in the master bedroom. Italian tile with an olive motif lend a little European flavor to the decor.

The first-floor rooms feature oak floors and interior window shutters that swing open to let in light from all sides. Two windows in the blue-wall and white-trim office are flanked by adjustable bookshelves added years after Hauser's time. A non-working but original fireplace is set in the interior corner of the room.

Two surprising facts about the house are that there are only two bedrooms, and the kitchen is upstairs. The yellow and white guest room's windows face Morrison, and there's a small black-and-white bathroom with a large claw-foot tub connected to the room.

Hauser's studio and Marilyn Harris' kitchen are where Hust and Daiello live and entertain.

"This is almost like loft-style living up here with the high ceilings and this glorious kitchen," said Hust, who, when not practicing law, co-hosts the radio program "Blue Snakes and Banjos" with music critic Bill Thompson on 88.3 WAIF-FM.

Sitting at the dining room table in the old studio, guests get that loft ambience from the high ceilings and 20 adjustable pendant-on-pole lights that dangle several feet from ceiling.

"It's like stars hanging down from the sky," Daiello said of the incandescent lights. "And they add warmth, too. It's like having the sun inside."

The studio's three original-glass windows -- two rounded ones flank a 10-by-13-foot centered one -- look as if they belong in an old Manhattan penthouse and would have provided Hauser multiple hues in which to paint his Western scenes.

The light show continues in the Harris kitchen, which features buttercream wall paint, Spanish tile flooring and backsplash, custom blonde maple cabinets with rounded corners, Corian countertops, high-end stainless-steel appliances, a central island and a peninsula overlooking a large breakfast nook.

The nook is a showstopper and the main reason the kitchen is such a welcoming and popular gathering place. Casement-style windows with screened transoms face west and wrap almost all the way around the room. The light they let in has plenty of room to wander, as its four-piece vaulted ceiling peaks near the height of the studio ceiling.

In the winter, Hust said, the backyard's 19th-century Dutch elm tree in which the nook feels perched loses its leaves, providing views of Central Parkway, Cumminsville, the Mill Creek's western ridge and the setting sun.

The backyard

Hauser House sits on a half-acre, leaving plenty of room for a gardener's paradise out back. Though past its peak now, the landscaped grounds once burst with color and texture provided by multiple mature perennials such as hydrangeas and hostas, which visitors pass on a paved trail to the koi pond and roofed deck at the back of the property. Beyond that and an adjacent two-car garage are undeveloped woods that descend almost to Central Parkway.

The privacy the couple have in their yard is interrupted only by hawks, woodpeckers, blue jays, rabbits, deer and other wildlife, Hust said.

"The bird life here is just unbelievable," he said.

Life at Hauser House has been fairly unbelievable for Hust and Daiello. But with four grown children between them, more grandchildren could be on the way, and the 2,248-square-foot home just isn't big enough.

"For two people, it's a perfect house. We just weren't thinking about grandkids when we bought it," Hust said. "We decided to give somebody else a chance to live here because it's a really cool place. I can't imagine there being another place like this."

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