CINCINNATI -- A Samuel Hannaford designed- and built-house – the very one the famed Cincinnati architect called home for 56 years and lived in with three wives who bore him 10 children – will be for sale this spring.
Chances are you didn’t know that. Chances are you don’t know where the house is. And chances are that if you’ve driven past it, you didn’t even notice the place.
Thirteen years before Hannaford cemented his stellar reputation by designing and building Cincinnati’s Music Hall in 1878, he constructed a modest Victorian home for his family on Derby Avenue across Winton Road from the Spring Grove Cemetery wall.
Like many of the 300-plus stately residences, churches, commercial structures and civic buildings built by Hannaford and/or his sons, the house is still solid and viable. But there seems to be something a little amiss about it.
Different Look Than Many Hannaford Homes
The 1865 house looks nothing like the big stone and brick structures upon which Hannaford (1835-1911) built his professional life. In fact, were it not for the initials “SH” cut out in the wood siding below the house’s gables, the thought that it could be a Hannaford house – the Hannaford House – might not ever occur to passersby.
For one, there is not a brick to be seen, and the house’s only stones are in its 151-year-old foundation. The gables are dramatic, and there’s a handsome circular porch and central tower. But the wood-sided home bears no resemblance to the typical sturdy and stately structures Hannaford and his sons, Harvey and Charles, are known for – Cincinnati City Hall, Cincinnati Observatory, Memorial Hall and Newport’s Wiedemann Mansion among the many.
As a result of that and the house’s modest location in Spring Grove Village, owners Sean Mullaney and Dianne Schweitzer don’t expect to make a profit from the house they bought in 2005.
Treasuring History and Preservation
They’re just hopeful to find someone who treasures the house’s history and appreciates preservation as they do. And they’re glad it will become a single-family home for the first time since the 1940s when Hannaford’s descendants sold it to someone who divided it into six apartments with a seventh in a “shack” in the yard, Mullaney said.
Mullaney, a former toy inventor and current sculptor and real estate investor who grew up in the neighborhood when it was called Winton Place, said he and Schweitzer have made a number of significant improvements to the house. They bought it in 2005, not as a residence for their two daughters, but for the use of Waldorf School across the street, which the girls attended.
Converting the house to a commercial space required Mullaney to close off the staircase to the second floor and add fire alarms and glass-block basement windows, among other security improvements. He also had to shore up a lot of floor joists and install new flooring over much the old random-width pine boards on the first floor.
Mullaney, who had renovated about five houses before tackling the Hannaford House, replaced all of its old windows with new vinyl, double-insulated ones, put on a 30-year shingled roof, installed heating and cooling systems for both the upstairs and downstairs, returned the formerly “Pepto Bismol pink” exterior to its original yellow and green and reconstructed the front porch, using composite boards and 42-inch high, spindled rails.
He said he plans to have the interior painted all white by Feb. 6, when it will be the site of a tour hosted by the Cincinnati Preservation Society. At that point, Mullaney’s 10 years of gradual renovation – little of which was unexpected – will be over.
“It’s almost like the worse they are the better I like them,” Mullaney said of the houses he has preserved. “The challenge to meet the commercial code (at the Hannaford House) was sort of chilling, and I know it’s kind of weird, but it’s been interesting to learn how it all works.”
Work Still to be Done
When he and Schweitzer put the 5-bedroom, 3½-bathroom house on the market in late winter or early spring, Mullaney said potential buyers likely will see changes and improvements that need to be made. For sure, he said, a new kitchen will be in order. And there’s a lot of work to be done in the full basement where several rooms and disheveled bathrooms are located.
But the Hannaford House won’t be near the mess it was in 2005. Though it had what Mullaney described as “issues” back then, “It’s pretty amazing it was in this shape.”
Although the 3,500-square-foot house isn’t as stately as the ones the great architect built for Cincinnati’s elite families, it has similar touches. The ceilings are 11-feet 3-inches high throughout. There are wood and marble fireplaces with beveled mirrors and original tiles trim and hearths.
The first-floor rooms and the stairwell feature Victorian faux leather wainscoting that would have been a new material when Hannaford remodeled the house in the 1880s.
The house’s main windows are 7½ feet tall and 3 feet wide, and two bedrooms feature vaulted ceilings. The room’s closets are wide but shallow, and there are built in cabinets and drawers in several rooms.
Two fireplaces stand out as obvious showpieces. The dining room’s mantel features carved oak korbels and a side cabinet with a built-in beveled mirror. The fireplace in the master bedroom suite is tall with classic pediment, side and lower cabinets and a surround and hearth made by Eaton Art Tile of Chelsea, Mass.
“When you look at it from the outside, it looks like a farmhouse,” Mullaney said. “But when you get inside and see the scale of it, it’s huge.”
What Mullaney said he hopes the potential in the house’s size – especially its extra large kitchen – and the Hannaford mystique will sell the house.
“If a family comes through and says ‘I want to live in a Hannaford house, then boom!’” he said.
Or it could be someone who thinks it would be cool to live in the Hannaford House.
The Cincinnati Preservation Association’s tour of the Samuel Hannaford House will be 10 a.m.-noon on Feb. 6. Tickets are $10 at the door. Make reservations at 513-721-4506. A Level 3 snow emergency cancels the tour.
More About Hannaford
Samuel Hannaford (1835-1911) was the first and only mayor of Spring Grove (it was annexed by Cincinnati in 1902). His house once featured a grand crystal chandelier and fireplace mantel carved by the renowned father-son team of Henry and William Fry. He held town council meetings in his study, according to Cincinnati historian Betty Ann Smiddy.
His first two wives died, and his third wife was the sister of his son Charles’ wife, which would make him an uncle-grandfather to Charles’ children.
The architect had 11 brothers and sisters and grew up on farms in Devonshire, England, and in Cheviot. Four of his 10 children died as infants. Two daughters passed at age 20. The other four children lived to be 65 or older. Hannaford died at age 75. Only his son, engineer Edgar, lived longer.