CINCINNATI -- Tom Hadley is still impressed with the 1887 Queen Anne house in historic Prospect Hill that he and his wife, Pam Luttmers, have owned for 17 years.
To prove how incredibly original the home is, he pulled out architect Joseph G. Steinkamp’s hand-drawn plans from an old tin tube and spread them out on his kitchen peninsula. They showed that, other than a relocated staircase to the basement, the layout of the house has barely changed. It has always been a single-family home, and only one large room upstairs had been walled off by previous owners to create an extra bedroom.
“For Prospect Hill, to have all this detail intact, you just don't find them,” Hadley said, moving into the front parlor. “The transoms have their original hardware. They still work. The woodwork is all original.”
The Kohl family that lived in the house for about 80 years, previous owner Richard Graeter, chief executive of Graeter’s Inc., and Hadley and Luttmers get credit for preserving all that originality. The current owners tackled projects bit by bit, inside and out, until the three-story, 2,793-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom house was the showcase it must have been when Steinkamp designed it for lawyer J.B. Krusling the same year renowned architect Samuel Hannaford started drawing plans for Cincinnati City Hall.
That said, the couple is about to move a few blocks away to a fifth-floor apartment in Alumni Lofts , the in-progress project at the 1907 Woodward High School building in Pendleton that most recently was the School for Creative and Performing Arts. They are asking $535,000 for the house they bought from Graeter for $222,000 in 1999.
The Hadley-Luttmers house isn’t all old. The couple remodeled the kitchen with granite countertops and a floating island that abuts a tall, built-in cabinet. In addition, the custom cherry cabinets, porcelain farmhouse sink and stainless steel appliances are new, and the bathrooms are updated.
They also transformed the third floor, which originally was used as servants’ quarters and for storage, into a 1,000-square-foot family room that has the best view in the house of the gilded tower of the Bell Event Centre (formerly St. Paul Church) and part of the Cincinnati skyline.
The family room features cork flooring, a heating and cooling wall unit, a vented gas fireplace and an expanded bathroom that has a walk-in shower with creamy white subway tile and marble bench. The room’s clean, contemporary feel is enhanced by whitewashed beadboard wainscoting.
“Whoever buys this house could use this as their master suite,” Hadley said of the six-window room, which they furnish with a king-size bed, mid-century rattan furniture made locally by Ficks Reed and a large flat-screen TV.
“When we have company, this is their space,” he said. “In the winter time, we come up here a lot.”
Fancy rooms upfront
Visitors to the Hadley-Luttmers house can’t help but be impressed that almost every surface – from the hard-fired brick facade to the Eastlake-style (1870-1900) painted ceiling in the front parlor – has been revived. Moldings, window frames, pocket doors, fireplaces and hardware hearken back to 1887.
Experienced home tourists will notice how the architectural details in the foyer, front and middle parlors scream “fancy,” but the back room – a 21st-century kitchen now but a sitting room in the 19th century – has more modest design elements.
Let’s get back to the fancy. Guests enter the handsome red brick building, whose first floor features three similarly sized rooms, from a small porch. Its woodwork sports Eastlake period-paint colors that Hadley said were recommended by the Cincinnati Preservation Association , which hosted a tour of the house 10 years ago.
The oak front door is two-thirds glass with an arched transom and opens into an 11-foot by 6-foot foyer whose woodwork is oak. A hinged door to the left leads to the 23-foot by 16-foot front parlor. The staircase straight ahead features its original square and fluted newel post and balusters.
The front parlor (living room) was designed to impress. Still hanging from the middle of a stenciled plaster ceiling – restored over many months of weekend work by Susan Martin – is the room’s original gasolier, rewired decades ago for electricity. Molded plaster curves down from the ceiling to a narrow ribbed rim. The plaster walls, which have been repaired, are covered with paper reminiscent of the Eastlake period.
As in the middle parlor (dining room), the room’s floor is pine, and most of its woodwork is bird’s-eye and tiger-striped maple. The windows, including a bay at the front of the house, have their original interior shutters. The room’s main attraction is its fireplace. It features high-glazed, French blue tile with classic embossed motifs, a metal “summer cover” in front of its firebox and an oak mantel with fluted Tuscan columns that support the over-mantel and a beveled mirror between.
The middle parlor is 7-feet shallower than the front parlor and can be closed off with maple pocket doors between them. Spanning that opening at the top is the original wooden grille composed of knobs and dowels, a Victorian architectural detail that rarely survives this long.
The middle parlor has similar architectural details, although the electric chandelier is not original, the ceiling design was Martin’s and the fireplace tiles are pink instead of blue. A door off the side leads to a hallway that connects a full bathroom that Tom restored – originally the only one in the house – to the foyer. Two doors at the back lead into the kitchen and line up with large sash windows at the end of the house, facing the city.
Matching upstairs fireplaces
The ceilings fall to 10½ feet upstairs, and the floors and wood trim are all pine. The middle and master bedrooms feature matching soapstone fireplaces decorated with stenciled Eastlake designs. The red- and green-checkered hearth in the middle room had missing pieces that Hadley was able to replace with tiles he found at an architectural salvage shop in Louisville.
A large bathroom off the master bedroom at the front of the house originally served as a nursery. Hadley spent hours restoring its plaster walls and updating its fixtures to meet modern standards. He also stripped the master’s wallpaper, which he joked had been “glued on with Gorilla Glue.” He gave the room a light blue faux paint job and added a William Morris -style stencil pattern just below the top the walls.
Concert in the cellar
One surprise held by the old Queen Anne beauty is its basement, a partially finished space that’s larger than the footprint of the rest of the home. It is accessible via the aforementioned interior stairs and two doors on the east and south sides of the hillside property.
At the front (north) of the house is a massive, 9-foot-high, all-stone cellar, now a utility and storage room, notable for its unusual stone barrel vault supporting the front porch. “Jimmy Hoffa could have been buried in there,” Tom joked.
Other uses have been found for the room over the years. “About a year ago,” Hadley said, “we had a concert for 60 people down here. We set up a stage and everything. It was pretty cool.”
On the opposite end of the basement, which includes a half-bathroom, is the original kitchen. It juts out beyond the current kitchen, a design that would have limited damage a kitchen fire could cause to the main house.
The age and remarkable care the Queen Anne has received is visible throughout the house, even in the basement. Still in the kitchen is its original soapstone sink and countertop, and the round hole in an exposed chimney where a cast-iron stove would have vented.
Between the cellar and kitchen is a room that was the original dining area, a cool place to eat in those pre-air conditioned days. Today, it’s somewhat of a man cave, with a couch and big-screen television set.
A second unexpected space on the property is the yard, much of which Hadley and Luttmers have paved for optimum use and landscaped for privacy. The Weber grill in the side yard is something Hadley said he will miss a lot when they move to Alumni Lofts.
“We’re going to miss it,” Hadley said of their old Queen Anne, “but not all the steps in this place.”