Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Castle on the Mount

I came across this home while looking at a list of National Register places in Cincinnati. This beautiful castle-like building sits on a hill in Mount Airy, across Colerain Avenue from Mount Airy Forest.
2005 Hamilton County Auditor
Named "Cote Bonneville", it was built in 1902, but the story of this land starts long before then. In the 1850's, this rural location was purchased by Charles Frederick Adae, who was born in Wurttemberg in 1815 and arrived in the United States in 1833. He began in business in Cincinnati around 1846, investing in sugar and imports of liquor, wines and tobacco. He was appointed Consul for some of the German States and eventually for all of Germany. He was trusted among the German community of Cincinnati, especially in regards to their surplus funds. When Germans had money to collect from Europe, they asked C.F. Adae, as Consul, to assist. In order to help, he opened a banking business, commonly called the German Savings Bank.

He moved his family to just north of Northside (then called Cumminsville) on a plot of land they called "Adae's Woods".
1869 Titus Map - Source
C.F. Adae passed away as a successful banker in 1868 and his wife, Ellen Woods Adae remained in the home. The banking business, however, found itself in trouble under the leadership of  his nephew, Carl A. G. Adae, and in 1878, it closed, having to pay depositors about $0.30 for each dollar. Ellen sold the estate to Napoleon DuBrul in May of 1884 and she passed away in December of that same year. The Adae family is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.
Napoleon DuBrul
Source - "Napoleon DuBrul, a Cincinnati Inventor," THE CINCINNATI HISTORICAL SOCIETY BULLETIN  v38:#3  (Fall, 1980)
Napoleon DrBrul was born in Quebec, Canada in 1846 and at the age of fourteen began an apprenticeship as a pattern maker for steam ships. As a French Canadian, he was not keen of the English leadership of Canada and in 1867, he left his home country for Chicago. He became an accomplished pattern maker and was granted his first patents for tin-lined cigar molds, which were actually never commercially introduced.

In 1872, he moved to Cincinnati and lived in the West End. He returned to Canada to marry Marie Liliose Le Gault and returned to the city with his bride along with his four brothers and one sister, since their mother had died. His father soon joined them all in Cincinnati. Napoleon entered the business of Schwill & DuBrul, The Cincinnati Cigar Mould, but then later joined Miller and Peters, who were also in the same line of business. As his family grew, they moved from Everett Street in the West End to Dudley Street near Mohawk. Business remained strong, securing thirty-five patents in cigar manufacturing between 1871 and 1895. He also marketed cigarette machinery to Europe and South America to avoid the monopoly held in the US by American Tobacco.

The DuBrul's enjoyed the former Adae's Woods, hosting parties such as this one:
Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); Apr 7, 1893;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Cincinnati Enquirer (1841 - 1922)
pg. 4
However, by the early 1900's, Napoleon desired to build his own home on the estate and enlisted the help of architect W. W. Franklin, who was born and educated in England and had come to Cincinnati in 1877. He was a professor of architecture at the Ohio Mechanics Institute. Franklin is also known the homes of Henry PogueWilliam Oskamp and many others in Cincinnati. DuBrul had only three of his nine children still living at home, so there was no need for nurseries or other accommodations for small children.
Source - "Napoleon DuBrul, a Cincinnati Inventor," THE CINCINNATI HISTORICAL SOCIETY BULLETIN  v38:#3  (Fall, 1980)
The house was built with a concrete foundation and limestone with steel beams supporting the floors. The interior partitions were made from brick and the ventilation system was designed by DuBrul himself. The home was three-stories tall and has 24 rooms in total. No detail was left out when designing his home. Venetian stained glass, pine and oak flooring, imported mosaics, murals on the ceiling, hand carved doors and banisters, carpets from Austria were just some of the things in the home. DeBrul named his home "Cote Bonneville" because this means "beautiful city" in honor of Cincinnati and also because Bonneville was an old family name.
Source - "Napoleon DuBrul, a Cincinnati Inventor," THE CINCINNATI HISTORICAL SOCIETY BULLETIN  v38:#3  (Fall, 1980)
DuBrul only was able to enjoy his home for about fourteen years until his death on October 23, 1916. His wife sold the home in the early 1920's to Herbert Faber, co-founder of Formica Corporation and developer of the Raeburn subdivision next-door to this home. Faber sold the home and 27 acres to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in the early 1950's and they sold in 1954 to the Glenmary Sisters.

The Glenmary Sisters used the estate for a convent for training women to become nuns. With the decline of members in the early 1970's, the order began to look of other options for the home and land, since the building was becoming too large to serve their small numbers.
The Cincinnati Enquirer; June19, 1976; pg. C2
Less than a month after this announcement, another came saying the nuns had decided not to sell to the city but instead hired consultant Guy Chamberlin to study possibilities. In 1978, it was announced that the land and home would be developed by Chamberlin into more of the Raeburn neighborhood. Luckily, the castle-like home would remain along with its pool house and garden. It was purchased by Tony and Roberta Michel, of the well-known business Michel Tires.
The Cincinnati Enquirer; June 14, 1981; pg. E4
In June, 1981, the Michel's offered a tour of their home to Sharon Peters of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Roberta shared that while the convent had made some changes to the home, such as converting a bedroom into a dormitory-style bathroom, they were lovingly and painstakingly restoring the home to its former splendor.  All but one of the murals and all of the stained-glass were gone. However, the wood floors, woodworking, tile and stone work remained. Even brass and silver lighting fixtures were still there, needing a bit of polishing. Mrs. Michel enjoyed the enormous rooms, some with private terraces, 8-foot windows, a butler's pantry with a 6-foot built in oak ice box, marble fireplaces and 6 acres of property.
The Cincinnati Enquirer; June 14, 1981; pg. E4
The Michels continue to own "Cote Bonneville" today and I am sure over the last 30 years have put much more loving care into this 111-year old home. As Roberta Michel said in 1981, "But now I wouldn't leave it for the world. We've put so much of ourselves into it that to get me out, they're going to have to carry me in a pine box."
The Cincinnati Enquirer; June 14, 1981; pg. E4

The Cincinnati Enquirer; June 14, 1981; pg. E5
From Cote Bonneville's Facebook Page


  1. Did they raze the original house then? Very interesting. I love your blog pieces.

    1. Thanks Maria! Yes, the original home from the 1850's was demolished and replaced with the 1902 castle-like home.


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