CINCINNATI -- Ellen Bierhorst believes her home, for the past 50 of its 136 years, has had a spirit that knows who does and who does not belong there – and the holistic psychologist and Alexander Technique practitioner certainly belongs.
She said she first felt the force, if you will, back in 1957 when her parents bought the former house of Cincinnati pharmacist, chemist and novelist John Uri Lloyd, whose side interests included mystical phenomena.
The house had been on the market for six years “and nobody wanted it,” Bierhorst said. A potential buyer showed great interest in the house, but the Bierhorsts got it for $22,000, which was $14,000 less than the original asking price.
“I think the house didn’t like that person who looked at it,” Bierhorst said. “The spirit of John Uri Lloyd knew that Ellen, just 17, was going to grow up to be a holistic psychologist. The spirit of this house liked my family and knew we would carry on the work and the charisma of John Uri Lloyd."
The spirit resurfaced in the 1990s when Bierhorst was struggling to keep up with the house and her mortgage. She decided to move to Denver to be with her daughter and listed the house for sale at $305,000.
“I was just sick at the thought of leaving,” Bierhorst said. “I was going to move to Denver. We had a $3,000 yard sale. But I feel the spirit of the house said ‘Nah, you’re not going to move to Denver. You have so many things to do here.’”
Still, she locked in a buyer. Then suddenly the mortgage rates plummeted, and she was able to refinance her loan, stay put and live among the many great memories she had made in the Lloyd House.
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Some memories were made in the house’s formal dining room, with its classically carved fireplace mantel, extra wide French doors that open to a veranda, cherry trimmed windows and 8-foot-wide pocket doors, antiqued egg-and-dart with Greek key molding and antique alabaster bowl-shaped chandelier that hangs over a 14-foot long table.
“One of the coolest things to happen in this room,” Bierhorst said while directing a brief tour, “is that during the Vietnam War we published the Independent Eye here. We had all these bell-bottomed, long-haired people pasting it up on the table.”
She has also hosted many readings, parties, weddings and a decade of salons in the house’s formal rooms – the light oak living room and the maple library in the front of the house and the cherry dining room and the dark oak parlor in the back.
Separated from the dining room by a centrally located butler’s pantry and kitchen, the parlor is dominated by a fireplace framed with dark brown tile and a mantel shelf that’s almost 6 feet off the floor. Centered above the firebox are four relief-framed tiles that feature a twisted Celtic design popular in some lines of art pottery but unlike tiles made at local potteries in 1879 when the house was built.
A 3-foot-wide door – two panels of dark oak on one side and six panels of golden oak on the other side – divides the parlor and living room, whose pentagonal, cone shaped crystal chandelier, large fireplace and another set of 8-foot pocket doors to the library dominate the decor.
A sweeping, 4-foot-wide staircase with white-painted spindles – beneath which is a powder room – rises from the east side of the living room to a landing that features a built-bench tucked in the oriel with its leaded-glass sash bay window. Bedrooms branch off from a large second-floor landing and hallway.
The third-floor turret space – a shiny, hardwood-floored room Lloyd used as his study – is now an exercise space for Bierhorst and her Alexander Technique clients (the technique stresses optimizing one’s natural body balance, support and coordination to relieve everyday stress and pain). A curved bench follows the contour of the turret, and the view out the five south-facing windows above it stretches a mile down Clifton Avenue.
House’s Past and Future
Cincinnati’s seminal 1800s architect James W. McLaughlin built the 6,110-square-foot Romanesque Revival home in 1879 for Cincinnati coal magnate Solomon P. Kineon at the top of Clifton Avenue hill where the road turns east and then down into the Mill Creek Valley.
Its exterior features Indiana limestone, rounded arches, Romanesque columns, a prominent conical turret, a rounded Diocletian window and a bay window on the west side called an oriel that protrudes from the main floor but doesn’t reach the ground. The interior features four formal rooms trimmed in different hardwoods, seven bedrooms and five-and-a-half bathrooms as well as a 1,150-square-foot attic and a 2,565-square-foot basement.
John Uri Lloyd, whose scientific books are the foundation of the Lloyd Library at Court and Plum streets, moved his family into the house after World War I and added electricity, radiant heat and a sleeping porch above the first-floor veranda.
Procter and Gamble chemist Walter Preston bought the house after Lloyd’s death in 1938. Preston passed in 1950, after which his wife, Margie, lived there with their daughter and boarded young bachelors from P&G while trying to sell it.
Bierhorst and her then-husband, Monroe Sher, moved into the house in 1965 and bought it from her mother following her father’s sudden death less than a year later. Bierhorst has lived in the Lloyd House since then and currently shares it with five boarders.
She would like to sell her home to the Lloyd Library so that its directors could restore and use it as a conference and events center. But Bierhorst has a second, more lofty dream.
“What I would love to happen to the Lloyd House is that somebody with enough money to help me restore and renovate it would come here and live with me,” Bierhorst said. “It would be a cozy place for me to live the rest of my life. They could cook and change my bed pan or whatever I needed.”
About James W. McLaughlin
The Cincinnati native (1834-1923) came to prominence under the tutelage of John Keys Wilson (Plum Street Temple, Spring Grove Cemetery offices) in the middle of the 19th century and went on to design several of Cincinnati’s iconic buildings, its art museum and art academy in Eden Park among them.
Many McLaughlin-designed buildings, such as the public library (1874-1955) on Vine between Sixth and Seventh streets, no longer exist. Others, such as the 1878 Shillito Building at Seventh and Race streets, have had their architecture muddled.
The Lloyd House, wrote architectural historian Walter E. Langsam in his “Biographical Dictionary of Cincinnati Architects,” is one of the best residential examples of basic, geometric, minimally ornamented works.
“McLauglin gave a personal twist, rather tough but handsome, to the design of virtually every building he was responsible for,” Langsam wrote.
His influence carried over to the next generation through the many architects he mentored, men such as Alfred O. Elzner and George Anderson who built the 1903 Ingalls Building at Fourth and Vine streets, which was the world’s first steel-reinforced concrete skyscraper.
“Although a number of his major works no longer exist, there is more than enough evidence to establish James W. McLaughlin as an important and innovative American, as well as Cincinnati-area, architect,” Langsam wrote.