Sunday, September 11, 2016

The James Keys House - A Mount Auburn Original

I have had my eye on this property for years to really dig into its history. Now I see the property is being sold as land, which tells me the house may not be standing for too much longer. So now it is time to tell its story before it is gone.

Cincinnati, a Guide to the Queen City and Its Neighbors; Writers' Program; 1943
The quote above caught my eye over three years ago. I thought surely other local historians knew about this house but I couldn't find any mentions of it and whether it still was around. So I did more digging.
The Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, 1868-1943 : an historical ... Cochran, Mary Rudd.
Having already researched the Worth home, I took a drive to the end of Bigelow Street. There stands the stone pillars and a very over-grown driveway.
Google Streetview June 2011
A quick look at the Hamilton County Auditor's website told me their year built date was 1865, but time has proven these dates aren't always accurate. That date more likely came from when the land was divided into a subdivision by John Bigelow, who was James Keys' brother-in-law. The auditor site also showed that the same family mentioned in the article from the Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church in 1943 still owned the home. Photos from the auditor's site were really no help in getting a better look at the property.
1993 - Hamilton County Auditor
2005 - Hamilton County Auditor

I have still been unable to get a good look at this house, since I am not one to trespass on private property. However, inspired with all this information, I wanted to see if I could verify the history mentioned in the two articles.

I decided a deed search would be helpful. The land was originally part of the Symmes Purchase and sold to Israel Ludlow who sold to Christoper Cary who sold to William Cary who sold to Arthur Henrie who sold to William Barr and James Keys. Barr was James Keys' father-in-law and shortly after their joint purchase, Barr sold his half to Keys, leaving Keys the sole owner of 30 acres. Pieces of the original plot were sold over time and after Keys' death, the property went to his sister-in-law, Maria Barr Bigelow, her second husband being John Bigelow. John died in 1858 and Maria in 1860, and shortly after, the property was divided into Bigelow's Subdivision.
Plat Map - Hamilton County Recorder
After the subdivision was made, lots 14 to 17 were sold to Bigelow's other brother-in-law, Frederick Andress. He in turn sold to John M. Reid (also listed as Reed). Reed sold to Mary F. Wood, who sold to John Gano and his wife Laura. The Gano's sold to Frederick Hassaurek, half brother to Leopold Markbreit and both Hassaurek and Markbreit were prominent Cincinnatians. 

The property's current elderly owner, Carolyn Schoenle, is the wife of Walter Markbriet Schoenle, a direct descendant of the Hassaurek/Markbriet family. This property has been in her family since 1882, over 130 years!

Maps are always helpful in locating property and see changes over time. So let's go back in time to see. 
1856 Hamilton County by A.W. Gilbert. Red outline is the original John Bigelow Estate that was subdivided.
1869 Titus Map - Red outline is the approximate size of the land today.
1884; Atlas of the city of Cincinnati, Ohio : from official records, private plans & actual surveys;
Robinson, Elisha & Pidgeon, Roger H.
Yellow indicates a frame structure. Pink indicates a brick structure. Red outline is the approximate size of the land today. The original square wooden structure is in lot 14.
1891 Sanborn Insurance Map
Red outline is the approximate size of the land today. Additions can be seen on the sides on the original square building.
1922 Sanborn Insurance Map
Red outline is the approximate size of the land today.
1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map
Yellow indicates a frame structure. Pink indicates a brick structure. Blue indicates a stone structure.
Red outline is the approximate size of the land today. 
1950 Sanborn Insurance Map
Red outline is the approximate size of the land today.  A large addition had been added to the south portion of the original square and a portion removed from the east side.
A Facebook follower reminded me that the Auditor does have Pictometry Aerial Imagery which gives a bird's eye view. These help clarify the changes to the original square wooden house that has now been stuccoed.
Hamilton County Auditor; facing north.
Hamilton County Auditor; facing east.
Hamilton County Auditor; facing south.
Hamilton County Auditor; facing west.
Newspaper articles are also a great way to document the history of a property. Here are some I found regarding the changes made to the house in the 1920s. Walter Schoenle was the father of Walter Markbreit Schoenle, the current owner's deceased husband.
Cincinnati Enquirer; March 12, 1922
Cincinnati Enquirer; August 15, 1924
Cincinnati Enquirer; August 17, 1924
Cincinnati Enquirer; March 21, 1926
The current owner had fought in the 1980s to prevent portions of Mount Auburn to be included in historic districts without owners' permission.
Cincinnati Enquirer; September 19, 1980
Since that time, it appears the property has been rented and sometimes used for business purposes. But in all this time, the history remained hidden on this perch of Mount Auburn. Stay tuned for updates, as I have reached out to the Cincinnati Preservation Association and the listing agent for more information!