Preservationists Unite in Cincinnati

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Musings, In The News, Old House History

Blog readers who have followed my posts in the past know that I’ve mentioned the Gamble House in Cincinnati on a few occasions. The Gamble House is a Victorian mansion once owned by an heir to the Proctor and Gamble fortune and now owned by a conservation foundation seeking a demolition permit to tear the old house down and use the land for other purposes. Local preservationists and the City of Cincinnati have been fighting to keep the home intact and have hopes of restoring the historically significant structure in the future. The case is currently in federal court and the latest news on the old house is that the foundation had been quietly removing interior doors, trim, and windows from the home either to salvage items considered to be valuable or in an effort to make the structure look to be in worse condition than it was when the case landed before the judge. Alerted to the covert demolition, the judge ordered the foundation to restore all items that had been removed, and that’s where everything stands as of October.

Cincinnati's Over the Rhine Neighborhood--photo from switchboard.nrdc.org

Over the Rhine--photo from switchboard.nrdc.org

An Increased Interest in Preservation

The Gamble House situation has served to increase interest in historical preservation in Cincinnati, and there’s hope that this enthusiasm will carry over to the section of Cincinnati known as Over the Rhine. Much of Cincinnati’s early growth was due to an influx of German immigrants, many of whom settled in a working class neighborhood that came to be known as Over the Rhine due to the heritage of its population. The area was designated a historic district in 1983 and contains over 900 buildings and old houses of historical and architectural significance. The predominant architectural style is Italianate, but there are also many examples of Federal, Queen Anne, and Greek Revival styles and some preservationists compare the historical importance of the district to Cincinnati to that of the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Historic French Quarter--photo from redcrossselanprc.files.wordpress.com

Historic French Quarter--photo from redcrossselanprc.files.wordpress.com

I wasn’t aware of it, but evidently the French Quarter was the first designated historic district in the country in the early 1900s to save the old buildings and homes that were already beginning to be torn down to make room for new construction. Cincinnati preservationists succeeded in having Over the Rhine awarded the designation, but restoration of the old homes and buildings has been slow due to lack of funding and the difficulty getting families and businesses to move into an area that became rife with crime during the later 1900s. Here’s hoping the Gamble House will be saved and the increased awareness in preservation it has brought about can also benefit Over the Rhine.

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  1. 4 Responses  to “Preservationists Unite in Cincinnati”

  2. Aug 29, 2011
    Actually, this is not the decision of Mrs. Nippert. Louise Nippert, 99 years old, is the wife of the late Louis Nippert. Mr. Nippert died unexpectedly in 1992; he was the grandson of James Norris Gamble, the inventor of Ivory Soap, and Cincinnati's greatest philanthropist. Mr. Nippert actually took ownership of the property in 1957, 4 years before the last Gamble heir, Olivia Gamble (one of the 2 adopted daughters of James N. Gamble and his wife Margaret Penrose). Louis Nippert maintained the property in pristine condition for more than 30 years; the home was like a museum minus the velvet ropes. Actually, it was like a time capsule, a perfectly Victorian Italianate Villa; when you crossed the threshold it felt as if you'd stepped back over a century through time. Mr. Nippert hired a caretaker and the home was so well maintained it was even vacuumed and dusted on a regular basis. Olivia had made almost no changes to her father's home; and personal effects were still placed 'round the home as if waiting for their owners' return: fine china in the butler's pantry, sweaters slung over the backs of chairs, libraries stocked with books, tables set, etc. After Mr. Nippert's death in 1992 the estate basically fell under the care of Carter Randolph, who is the Executive VP of the Greenacres Foundation, the property's current owners. This Foundation was formed by Mr. & Mrs. Nippert; it is funded nearly entirely on the profit made from inherited Procter & Gamble stock; thus Mr. Randolph is using wealth generated by James N. Gamble to tear James N. Gamble's house down. If you're on Facebook, come check out our group: http://www.savethegamblehouse.org -- and be sure to view the photo gallery, where nearly 300 photos help tell much of the story. You can also visit the Westwood Historical Society web site at: http://www.westwoodhistorical.org -- or the Westwood Concern web site at http://www.westwoodconcern.org/news.shtml
  3. Aug 29, 2011
    Hi Frank, It's kind of a long story that you might have to go back and read my prior posts about, but the condensed version is that the primary principle of the foundation is the surviving spouse of the last Gamble heir that owned the home and even though the foundation has more than enough money to restore the home which has been determined to be restorable by independent engineers, she doesn't want to spend the money and wants to tear it down. To make matters worse she has turned down offers from local preservation organizations to restore the home.
  4. Frank
    Aug 29, 2011
    I wonder what the conservation group wants to use the land for? I would think that they know if the home is worthy of preservation, but maybe not?!
  5. Jeremy
    Aug 29, 2011
    I think for some of us, our parents instilled a sense of preservation in all of us in that we should respect our elders and that may have crossed over to houses and objects to. Should be our goal for generations to come to instill more respect in our kids!