Take a tour through historic East Walnut Hills
Photos by Robin Victor Goetz, RVGP Inc.
In the 1850s, the Village of Woodburn grew up around the intersection of Madison Road and today’s Woodburn Avenue. St. Francis de Sales Church was the center of the densely built small community, which was home to many German Catholic immigrants.
After Woodburn was annexed by Cincinnati in 1873, new streets were laid out and streetcar lines were extended along Madison Road. In the late 1890s, the owners began to subdivide the estates, taking care to preserve the neighborhood character.
In 1988 the area was designated a local historic district by the City of Cincinnati, to protect its ambience and character for the future. Cincinnati Preservation Association invites you to step inside six of the neighborhood’s most charming and elegant homes as part of their “Upstairs, Downstairs” historic house tour.
Charles Dexter House
6 Dexter Place • circa 1855; expanded 1864• Original house attributed to James K. Wilson, architect
This fascinating house was built in three stages. Its historic core was built in the mid-19th-century and is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the neighborhood. Built of rough “undressed limestone,” it features angled buttresses, low Tudor-pointed arches, square hoodmolds and delicate pinnacles.
In 1864 the house was purchased by Charles Dexter, a prosperous liquor dealer, remodeled and expanded. Angular, Stick-style frame wings were added to the north and south, featuring steep gables and articulated openwork trim. A matching carriage house was constructed around the same time. During the early 20th century, the frame wings were dressed with Tudor Revival-style half-timbering.
The house has recently undergone a careful restoration, including repair of all the historic wood windows in the house and carriage house. This unique residence and its parklike, tree-shaded grounds are protected for posterity by a historic preservation easement.
Charles J. and Lily F. Livingood House
2766 Baker Place • 1902 • Elzner & Anderson, architects
This house was built in 1902 for Charles J. Livingood and his wife, Lily F. Livingood. Charles Livingood was the amanuensis of Mary Emery, Cincinnati’s grande dame of philanthropy. As head of the Thomas Emery Memorial, Livingood supervised the development of Mariemont, Mary Emery’s “national exemplar” village, as well as the construction of the Ohio Mechanics Institute building in Over-the-Rhine. Lily Livingood was the great-granddaughter of General William Lytle, surveyor of the Northwest Territory, for whom Lytle Park is named. Both husband and wife lived here until their deaths, in 1935 and 1952 respectively.
3 Beechcrest Lane • 1917 • Architect unknown
This house was built in 1917 for three women: Jane Isher Lehmer, widow of real estate developer James Lehmer, and her daughters Fanny Bryce Lehmer and Caroline Lehmer. Jane Lehmer resided here until her death in 1923 at the age of 95. All three women were major patrons of the Cincinnati Art Museum. Fanny also was a supporter of Children’s Hospital and left them part of her estate.
After Fanny’s death in 1935, the house was purchased by Hugh McDiamond Ritchey and his wife, Mary Gamble Ritchey. Hugh Ritchey was a partner in the law firm Graydon, Head & Ritchey. Mary was the great-granddaughter of James Gamble, co-founder of Procter & Gamble. The Ritcheys, who resided here for three decades, supported many civic organizations and charities, including numerous agencies devoted to the welfare of women and children.
Thompson Servants’ Residence
5½ Beechcrest Lane • circa 1918 • Architect unknown
This charming Cotswold Cottage, perched on a hillside below Beechcrest Lane, is hidden from sight yet enjoys a sweeping river view. It was built for the servants employed by the Peter G. Thompson, Jr., family, who lived next door at 5 Beechcrest Lane. Peter G. Thompson served as president of the Champion Fibre Company during the early 20th century. He was the son of Peter G. Thompson, Sr., founder and president of the Champion Paper Company of Hamilton. Servants who helped run the busy household included chauffeur Richard W. Cook and gardener Joseph S. Leisring.
1945 Madison Road • 1894 • architect unknown
This house was built in 1894 for Samuel Morse Felton and his wife, Dora. The son of a Philadelphia railroad and steel magnate, Samuel Felton was president of the Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railway, also known as the “Queen and Crescent Line” for its two termini. In 1899 he left that position to become president of the Chicago & Alton Railway. The family resided here with their four children and three servants.
In 1905 the house was purchased by Fenton Lawson and his wife, Corinne Moore Lawson. A native of the West End, Fenton Lawson was president of Cincinnati’s oldest business, the F.H. Lawson Company in Lower Price Hill. Founded in 1816 by his great-grandfather, the company produced a variety of tin, copper, iron and steel goods. Lawson was a strong proponent of the charter amendment leading to Cincinnati’s city manager form of government. He also is reported to have been good friends with William Jennings Bryan, who stayed at his home when in Cincinnati.
Benedict N. Smith House
1949 Madison Road • circa 1911-1913 • Guy Burroughs and V.J. Hall, architects
This house was built around 1913 for Benedict N. Smith and remained in the Smith family for half a century. Benedict Smith was president of the Pickering Hardware Company, an important local firm that opened for business before the Civil War.
Architectural historian Walter E. Langsam says of the Smith House: “One of the few dwellings in East Walnut Hills that could have been influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s early ‘Prairie Style’ houses in the Chicago area at the turn of the century, this intriguing dwelling combines ‘modern’ with more traditional Neo-Classical elements.” The house’s basic massing is symmetrical, with a wide, hipped roof, arched dormers and urn-topped buttresses. The unfluted Ionic columns of the recessed front porch are juxtaposed with the rough stucco walls. Langsam observes “5,800 pieces of geometric and floral leaded glass enliven the surfaces with their delicate tracery.”