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Cincinnati Preservation Collective 'heart-bombs' important places that could be lost

It's hard to miss the love for these buildings
Posted at 8:23 PM, Feb 19, 2018

CINCINNATI -- Like a lot of people, Derek Scacchetti loves historic buildings.

But he and his friends in the Cincinnati Preservation Collective took it a step further than most: They decided to show their love with a Valentine of sorts, "heart-bombing" important places in Over-the-Rhine and Walnut Hills. The idea came from Buffalo, New York, where young preservationists started "heart-bombing" for Valentine's Day in 2012.

The big, colorful hearts attached to building exteriors are meant to call attention to places that figure prominently in the fabric of a community -- but, as Scacchetti and others worry, could be lost forever.

One of those is the Davis Furniture building, at the intersection of Central Parkway and Main Street. The city of Cincinnati denied the owner, Stough Group, a permit for demolition in 2014.

That was the first real fight for the Cincinnati Preservation Collective, board member Pam Sattler said. And the group warns the fight isn't over, either -- because members have heard the city's Historic Conservation Board will take up the matter again at 9 a.m. March 20.

"It's an important gateway into the neighborhood, and there's a lot of new businesses and development happening on Main Street," Scacchetti said. "It would be a shame to see a building that we know to be stable and can be renovated to be [demolished]."

Heart-bombing the C.H. Burroughs House in Walnut Hills for Valentine's Day 2018. (Photo courtesy Cincinnati Preservation Collective)

Also in Over-the-Rhine, Julie Fay is working to renovate the Imperial Theatre on West McMicken Avenue. She's raising money to replace the roof, a project that will cost more than $100,000. The whole renovation could be up to $10 million. 

Getting heart-bombed, Fay said, was "a wonderful honor."

"This can be that catalytic project, that anchor project for this whole wonderful intersection and a fabulous location," Fay said.

The Cincinnati Federation for Colored Women's Clubs also gave the Cincinnati Preservation Collective a warm welcome, at the C.H. Burroughs House on Chapel Street. The organization is raising money to renovate or at least improve the building based on historic details.

Grammer's Bar, on Walnut Street, got heart-bombed, too. But it's not seen customers for years. Martin Wade still owns the property, and future plans remain unclear.

"It's not only an important piece to the nightlife and brewing heritage of Cincinnati, but it's an important, it's a beautiful building and it's also, I think, a building that doesn't need to have a lot of work put in it to be stabilized or saved," Scacchetti said.

The love came too late for one beloved building, though: A May Street home once occupied by civil rights leader the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was already in rubble. Samir Kulkarni, the property's owner, had permits to demolish the 132-year-old home and said it was unsalvageable.

The home on May Street was already a pile of rubble. (Photo courtesy Cincinnati Preservation Collective)

"When we showed up, the pile of rubble still smelled like old house even though it was covered with a bed of snow," Scacchetti said.

Was it foreboding what may happen soon on Main Street? By Monday afternoon, the hearts were gone from the Davis Furniture building.

Sattler wants the Stough Group to know she and others still care, and they're not going away: The hearts should be a reminder of that.

"We're keeping an eye on it, and just know that we're still here, and we're watching, and we want to know what you're doing," she said.