Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Before Ruth Lyons Moved In

This is a long overdue blog post! I hope you enjoy reading the history of this house, mostly known for being the home of Ruth Lyons and her husband Herman Newman. When this house went on the market earlier this year, I was surprised to see the year built is listed as 1865! So I had to dig more into the history of this home.
5205 Colerain Avenue - Photo from Motz Real Estate
Let's go back in time to some historic maps. This is often the easiest way to trace back ownership of land and to see if a building on the old maps matches up with a present day map. I used the CAGIS maps to determine the property's Township, Range and Section (original divisons of the Symmes Purchase) so I could use the same information on the old maps.
CAGIS Map  - Blue dot is location of the property today.
The oldest map for Hamilton County that I have been able to locate is from 1847. This map shows a house in approximately the same location owned by H. Kendall.
1847 Map of Hamilton County, Ohio by attorney William D Emerson, C. S. Williams and Sons publisher (No. 5 W. 4th St.), includes property owner names, inset maps and detailed legend
To verify this information, I went to the Recorder's deed and mortgage files. The first series of the deed and mortgage index books from 1789 to 1859 are shown below.
Hamilton County Recorder
This shows the transfers from the original Symmes Purchase down to Henry Kendall, the same name on the 1847 map. The structure on the map could be the house standing today, but there is no concrete proof of this from the records I found. The map below from 1856 shows H. Kendall as the owner, but there are no markings for structures.
1856 Hamilton County by A.W. Gilbert
Hamilton County Recorder
1869 Titus Map
The second series of deeds also matches the 1869 Titus Map, which now shows that Michael and Mary Cahill own the property and the small black square in front the 5.15 (acres) could be the house still standing today.

Hamilton County Recorder
1884 Map of Hamilton County, Ohio, by Geo. Moessinger & Fred. Bertsch
The third series has quite a few transfers and leases, so by the time of the 1884 map, Joseph H. Wolf owned the land but had rented it to Allen Haisley in 1883 and sold it to him in 1886.

Hamilton County Recorder
 In 1888, Allen Haisley purchase the lot to the north of his property from Martha Riddle, bringing his land to almost 15 acres.

Hamilton County Recorder
 Allen died in April of 1922 and the property transferred to his daughter, Nettie Eckoff. Nettie had married Joseph Eckhoff and their family lived in the house until they sold to Alice Taylor in 1946.

1920 Census
1930 Census
1940 Census
Hamilton County Recorder
Alice Taylor sold the property to Herman Newman and Ruth Lyons just two years later in May of 1948. The following article describes their home:
Cincinnati Enquirer; October 8, 1950
Ruth and her husband updated the property and their decor was featured in the April 1958 issue of American Home Magazine. 
Photo from Motz Real Estate
Photo from Motz Real Estate
Cincinnati Enquirer; September 21, 1968
The current owners purchased the property in 1968 and after 48 years, are ready for the home to have a new owner. In a recent interview for WCPO, they hope the home can find a new family to love and appreciate the home's history. More photos from the listing real estate company can be seen below.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

John Mears Home - Mount Washington

My photographer friend, Tim Jeffries, took this picture a few weeks ago and I just had to learn more about this home.
Heis Avenue, Mt. Washington by Tim Jeffries
I found this home was mentioned as being recently restored in the Mount Washington Comprehensive Plan. They also called it the "Mears House" so this gave me some information to start with. The Hamilton County Auditor lists the year built as 1833! So I went to check my maps to see what I could find.
1847 Map of Hamilton County, Ohio by attorney William D Emerson, C. S. Williams and Sons publisher (No. 5 W. 4th St.), includes property owner names, inset maps and detailed legend
The 1847 Map of Hamilton County shows the land and quite possibly the house were owned by J. Gallagher. A little searching in the deed records revealed that James Gallagher purchased this land circa 1830 and then sold it to John Mears in 1854.
1856 Hamilton County by A.W. Gilbert
This map had not caught up with the sale of the property to John Mears in 1854.

1869 Titus Map - Anderson Township

1884 Map of Hamilton County, Ohio, by Geo. Moessinger & Fred. Bertsch

John Mears was a well-known farmer and renowned for his strawberries as mentioned in this article from the Farmers’ Home Journal, Sept. 25, 1879.
The average yield of strawberries will run from fifty to sixty bushels per acre, but in many instances over 100 bushels are obtained in field culture. During the years 1860 to 1865, Mr. John Mears, of Mount Washington, was the most extensive grower of strawberries in the State, having about twenty-five acres under cultivation. These were the years of highest prices, and Mr. Mears realized from six to ten dollars per bushel for his crop, his berries being exceptionally fine and salable. During the year 1864, Mr. Mears gathered 316 bushels from a patch a trifle less than two and a half acres. Mr. Mears may be justly termed the strawberry king.
John passed away at the age of 87 on April 15, 1904. He had married once at the age of 67 to Marie who was 22 years younger than he, but they had no children. After his death, the property was sold to John Weld Peck, who became a federal judge and the namesake of the Federal Building in Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati Enquirer; Thursday, May 23, 1912; p. 13
1914, Hamilton County atlas: containing plats of townships, incorporated towns and villages, and map of greater Cincinnati

Judge Peck sold the property in 1921 to Frank G. Menke and it was sold again in the 1940s to the Clarabeth Heis. The Heis family created the Heis Realty Company and subdivided the land. The home became a multi-family property over the years. Between 2003 and 2007, the home underwent a conversion back to a single family home. The Mount Washington Community Council approved this decision in the following article from the Comprehensive Plan for Mount Washington in 2007:
Residential Zoning Changes: Numerous areas of the neighborhood currently zoned for multi-family use should be rezoned to single family zoning designations to reflect the current use of the property and to reduce the potential for future multi-family expansion. These areas include properties around the intersection of Oxford Avenue and Crestview Place, around the intersection of Heis Terrace and Beth Lane, and along the north side of Corbly Street west of Oxford Avenue. These areas contain mostly single-family homes. The properties in the Heis Terrace/Beth Lane area do contain existing multi-family buildings but should be rezoned to a single-family district to encourage this area to revert back to a single-family area over time. The recently renovated Mears house on Heis Terrace, which had been broken into multiple units and was restored to a single family home, should be preserved as a single residence and the properties immediately surrounding it should be encourage to be redeveloped with single-family homes.
2015 CAGIS Property Map, identifying the Heis Realty Company subdivisions. The location of the Mears Home is outlined in red.
The current owners attempted to sell the home in 2013. The property was described as:
Rare 3600+ square feet plus lower level, 12 ft ceilings, wood floors, elaborate moldings, updated mechanics, stainless appliance, granite counters and more. Historic John Mears Mansion. 
It seems to be a small miracle that this house has survived since the 1830s and was not demolished in the 1940s-1950s when the other neighborhood houses were built. Thanks to the Heis family, we get to enjoy a surprise piece of history.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How To - Find Pictures

Finding old pictures of your property can be quite difficult, unless your property is located near a landmark, owned by a famous Cincinnatian or located in a prominent neighborhood. There are a few websites worth searching just in case.

If you do not find any success, try locating living family members of former owners. Perhaps photos were taken of the home and are hiding in someone’s attic. Using the information collected from your research, try an internet people search and make contact with the relatives. It cannot hurt to ask!

Cincinnati History Library and Archives
The Cincinnati History Library is located in the Cincinnati Museum Center. Their website offers access to some pictures that have been scanned and indexed, but many more are available at the Museum Center. They also offer many books in their library of local interest and also have archives of materials related to Cincinnati history and Cincinnati families. It is worth the trip to their library to see what information they may have to offer.

This is a large collection (over 12,000) of postcards and photographs of Cincinnati. A search page is offered and images are nicely categorized. The author of this site has also provided a lot of research of buildings which is extremely helpful.

Greater Cincinnati Memory Project
This site is a continuing effort being made by the Greater Cincinnati Library Consortium to make available to the public the large collection of images that these libraries hold in their collections. Initially, almost 6,000 pre-1940 images were scanned to preserve and share. More from post-1940 are being added and more institutions are joining the Project, making this a wonderful resource even better.

University of Cincinnati Digital Resource Commons; UC Libraries – Historical Records
The University of Cincinnati’s Libraries has a variety of historical records on-line, including many photographs of streets that were repaired from 1920 to 1956. These were obtained from the archives of the City of Cincinnati’s Engineer Office. Homes along these streets are often also photographed. Within this collection are photographs of the construction of the rapid transit system, commonly called the subway, which was never completed.

Other Photograph Resources
Library of Congress:
Old Photos of Cincinnati Facebook Group:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Apotheke Building - 1833 Vine Street

Another repeat client recently adopted this building from OTR A.D.O.P.T. He wanted to know more about the history of the building that has stood at this corner of Vine, Findlay and McMicken for more than 160 years.
Google Streetview, August 2014
Commonly known as the Apotheke Building, because of the sign that was saved on its south facing facade, it appears from my research that it was built in 1851 for George Wurth. He leased it that same year to William Boettger, the first apothecary (Apotheke in German) to live and work in this building. William remained in business here until his death in 1878.
Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); Jan 16, 1878; p. 8; ProQuest Historical Newspapers
1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
The apothecary business carried on with Julius Greyer, who was in business here until 1900. He was well known in the pharmacy business and as a chemist, created some products of his own.
1899 William City Directory - Source
The Cincinnati Enquirer; Sunday, May 30, 1897; p. 3;
From 1900 until 1914, William Scheidt took over the pharmacy business. In 1915, however, the storefront changed business entirely to a billiard and pool parlor. The upstairs apartments continued to be rented to various families through these years. The pool business did not remain for long. By 1920, Arthur Ehrmantraut and other fellow optometrists and opticians took up shop here. In 1925, Edwin Enz had his doctor's office here as well, delivering over 5,000 babies during his 48 years of practice. In 1930, a dentist was also added to the mix, although part of the storefront at 1835 Vine Street became a shop for Howard Cleaners.
1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Circa 1925 - Source
Because Ehrmantraut had his business here for so long and purchased it from the Wurth family in 1924, it was called the Ehrmantraut Building in city directories. By 1959, 1833 Vine Street was vacant and 1835 Vine Street had the Westendorf Men's Shop. Otherwise, the rest of the building no longer had tenants of any sort, either residents or offices.
Hamilton County Auditor; 1999-2003
In 1999, the building to the south was demolished, revealing the Apotheke sign. When this building was repainted, Don Heinrich Tolzmann, a local German history expert, encouraged the painters to keep the sign because:
“It's important we don't destroy the evidence and material culture that's here,” he says. “It's an integral part of the community identity. If you erase that, you succumb to historical amnesia.”… - Source
Now with a new owner, the building will return to active use, with commercial space on the first floor and two two-bedroom apartments on the upper floors. With close access to Findlay Market and the famous Schwartz Point Jazz Club just across the street, this old building will soon get a new life and more history to add onto this story.