347 Amazon, Cincinnati, Ohio -- Taliesin Design -- Modification

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David Tornheim
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Joined: Mon May 04, 2020 2:22 pm

347 Amazon, Cincinnati, Ohio -- Taliesin Design -- Modification

Post by David Tornheim »

In the neighborhood I live in--Clifton in Cincinnati, Ohio--we have two Frank Lloyd Wright designed houses.

My understanding is that the building at 347 Amazon was "certified" as a Frank Lloyd Wright design.

I am posting here because there is a proposed addition to the building that is currently under review by the Cincinnati Zoning Hearing Examiner.
File No. ZH20200054, application date: 3/22/2020, by Thomas R. Warner, Registered Ohio Architect.
Building Permit: 2020P01254 for Addition + Excavation/Fill
https://cagis.hamilton-co.org/opal/apd. ... 2020P01254
https://data.cincinnati-oh.gov/Thriving ... /85pt-d6vq
dated: 2/6/2020

I do not know how significant the building is. I am curious if anyone here is concerned that the addition might compromise a historic resource.

Below is what I found from a google search--including information I found at your forum.

Please feel free to contact me by email: dat_room@hotmail.com

-David Tornheim


2002 - The John and Kay Berno House, 347 Amazon Avenue, Clifton OH. The Bernos bought their lot in 2000 with the dream of having a Frank Lloyd Wright house and approached Taliesin Architects for an unbuilt Wright design. Architect Bill Mims oversaw the project and Jack Brand, a contractor from Cincinnati,
built it, making adjustments such as adding central air conditioning and a deeper foundation to ensure stability on the hillside lot.

[includes two beautiful pics below].
from: https://usmodernist.org/wright.htm



John and Kay Berno House (2002) – 347 Amazon Ave., Cincinnati, OH - based on Sidney Newman (1939) - Lansing, MI

Berno House article –[To add a few additional details: The Berno Legacy Project did use the Newman, 1939 plan with some changes. It was one of several unbuilt designs for a small group of professors in that busy year at Taliesin. However the Berno perf is from the Schuck House designed for South Hadley MA. The Shuck House designs started in 1956 but the building plans they were given were revisions dated '58. The perf in Schuck plan was placed only in the gallery. The Newman House perf, as are most of the Lansing perfs, is very classical with one cut out shape that runs in continuous clerestory bands & also stacked 3 high on the SW & NW sides on the tower. There is also a particularly nice Newman feature of stacked perfs at the entry door. I suspect it looks much more interesting with the Berno's choice of the Schuck perf design than it would have looked with the Newman perf. The Schuck perf had to be elongated to fit the dimensions of that installation and their architect did it proud.]

Bracketed information is from Wright Chat contributors

from: http://www.flwright.us/LEGACY%20PROJECTS.htm

Also from a Wright discussion group:

Sidney Newman (1939) - Lansing, MI / John and Kay Berno House (2002) - Clifton, OH - Berno House article

from: http://wrightchat.savewright.org/viewto ... nd&start=0

Would you object to my notifying that group about the plans?

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright

2016 article:

https://www.modernnati.com/single-post/ ... Cincinnati

The Bernos, an Ohio couple who greatly admired Wright’s work, first chose his pupil Benjamin Dombar in 1994 to design for them a Wrightian-style house in Morrow, Ohio. Then, in the year 2000, they purchased a steep lot in the Cincinnati suburb of Clifton. By that time, Ben Dombar had retired and the Bernos approached the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation for plans, from which they constructed a faithful version of an unbuilt house that Wright had designed in 1939 for clients in Michigan. An irony of this recent and well-crafted Cincinnati “Wright” house is that, in 1939, when Wright originally designed it, no Cincinnati clients would have hired him due to his scandalous reputation. [see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Scandals]

link to image used in the article

Berno House, Clifton, Cincinnati, Ohio (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939 for clients in Michigan; unbuilt). Adapted for the Bernos' site and built in 2000, supervised by William E. Mim, Taliesin Architects. Image retrieved from Google Maps. 2018.

A final irony is that, while Wright’s designs are now being reproduced from the scale of tourist trinkets to entire houses, few Cincinnatians show much awareness or concern for the many, fine Wrightian-style buildings that exist in their city. The University of Cincinnati’s recent demolition of its handsome, Wrightian Faculty and Alumni Center should awaken Cincinnati to the importance of Wright’s influence on the city and to the many local buildings by Wright’s pupils and followers that form an integral and important part of Cincinnati's landscapes.

2003 article:

https://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/ ... tory2.html

The Wright price: In an unusual move, an original Clifton home goes up for auction

By Richard Curtis – Courier Managing Editor
May 12, 2003, 12:00am EDT Updated May 8, 2003, 3:58pm EDT

Miriam Gosling remembers the day her husband, David, heard about the chance to buy a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, America's most famous architect.

"It was like offering a Picasso to a painter," she said.

So appealing was the offer that it helped persuade David to leave his professorship at Sheffield College in England and move to the United States, where he became the Eminent Scholar for Urban Design at the University of Cincinnati.

Now, 15 years later, her husband having passed away last spring, Gosling hopes to find a new owner for the Clifton house that became the couple's muse and, at times, their master.

But Gosling is taking a nontraditional approach to the sale. The house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and one of only three official Wright homes in Greater Cincinnati, will be auctioned June 19.

"This is the first auction I've run across on a Wright home," said Ron Scherubel, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in Chicago, a nonprofit dedicated to saving the architect's works.

"It could go quickly, higher or lower than you might expect," he said. "It's hard to set a value. Every Wright home has its own story."

Gosling's home on Rawson Woods Drive is officially known as the Boulter House, named after the original owners, Cedric and Patricia Boulter, who completed the home in 1954.

Cedric was a professor of classics and archaeology at UC. Patricia knew Wright because her parents owned a Wright home in Minneapolis.

"I asked (Wright) if he'd build a house for us when we got married," said Patricia, who now lives in College Hill. "He promised he would, and he did."

The home is one of hundreds designed by Wright during his career, which ended when he died in 1959 at the age of 91. His best known homes are Fallingwater in central Pennsylvania and the Robie House in Chicago. He also designed New York City's spiraling Guggenheim Museum.

Wright developed a cult-like following among students and clients. He called his style "organic architecture." His intent was to make his designs flow with their natural surroundings and not mask the building materials he used.

The Boulter House is one of Wright's "Usonian" designs, his attempt to create an affordable residence. Throughout the 2,700-square-foot home, the concrete block walls and rough-hewn redwood beams are in plain view, alongside the Philippine mahogany doors and trim.

This is not a home for the suburbia-hearted. The kitchen is very small, the bathroom tiny, and all but one of the bedrooms minuscule -- more like a ship than a house. But the great room soars, bathed in light through a wall of glass that faces south.

Wright clearly intended for family to spend almost all of their time together in the great room, not isolated in separate rooms or cavernous baths.

"Of course now and then you bang your head against Frank Lloyd Wright," said Gosling of the layout. "But it's such sheer pleasure to experience his use of space."

The couple also experienced the flipside of owning a historic home -- expensive repairs.

"This house had all the traditional problems of a Wright home," said Ken Hughes, owner of Decorative Restorations in Oakley, which helped the Goslings with many of the major repairs to the home. "The roof leaked, and there were major problems with the foundation and the drainage. But with a home like this, you just can't rip things out and throw them away."

To get at the faltering foundation under the master bedroom wing, for example, Decorative Restorations had to jack up the room and disassemble everything that made up the south wall, label the pieces, and then reassemble everything after the structural repairs to the foundation were made. Now the house is much better protected against Cincinnati's shifty hillsides.

The Goslings also put into place protection for the home's historical value by granting an easement to the Cincinnati Preservation Association. Future owners must keep up the home's exterior and cannot alter it without the group's permission.

"We're hoping it's bought by someone who will take care of it as well as the Goslings did," said Chris Cain, the association's interim executive director and the owner of Christopher Cain Furniture Craftsman in Camp Washington. "To have a home like this intact is significant for Cincinnati."

Cain is trying to establish another easement for some of the home furnishings that Wright also designed, like the custom dining room set. He fears a buyer might sell off the furnishings for a quick profit.

"The value of this furniture, which is not the height of Wright's designs, is to keep it with the house," Cain said.

Gosling said she's willing to listen but intends to move forward with the June 19 auction regardless. She said the home is too big for her to care for now that she is alone, and she wants to free up the money that's tied up in the home.

Advertising the home on the Conservancy's Web site (savewright.com) has resulted in inquiries from different parts of the country and even one from England, said Earl Hatt, a Coldwell Banker West Shell real estate broker who helped Gosling decide to take the auction route.

"But everyone's first question is: 'Why an auction?'" Hatt said. "They're worried that there's some sort of problem."

Both he and Gosling say there are no problems. Rather, they had a difficult time trying to determine a selling price for such a unique home. So Hatt, who had discussed the idea of an auction with David prior to his death, put Miriam in touch with Williamsburg, Ohio-based Semple & Associates Inc. She signed a contract with Semple to auction the home.

"Perhaps in an auction, it will find its own price," Gosling said.

Mark Euton, Semple's managing auctioneer for the Gosling home, said the auction will take place at the house at 7 p.m. June 19 with registration beginning an hour earlier. Bidders will need to be present or have an agent there. And Gosling has an undisclosed reserve price on the sale.

Recent home sales in Gosling's neighborhood have brought $350,000 and up. Scherubel said a Wright home usually commands a healthy premium over neighboring houses but not an exponential one.

Still, the Boulter House is likely to be a relative bargain for someone looking to buy a vintage Frank Lloyd Wright house in Cincinnati. The other two, one in Amberley Village and the other in Indian Hill, are both on much larger pieces of property. And the Indian Hill home is twice as large.

But should a bid fall short, there might be another way to get a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati, said John and Kay Berno.

The couple, both teachers in the Cincinnati Public Schools, bought plans for a Wright home that was never built from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz. They hired Arthur Brand Construction to build the Usonian-style home on a wooded double lot on Amazon Avenue not far from the Boulter House.

As the Bernos complete some of the finishing touches themselves, they're awaiting certification that could make their 2,100-square-foot house the fourth official Wright home in Greater Cincinnati. The level of certification they receive will depend on how the Wright Foundation views the modifications the Bernos made to adapt the plan to the site and to local building codes.

The Bernos aren't saying how much the entire project cost, but they are delighted with the outcome.

"It has a nice, natural feel," Kay Berno said.

"It's very restful," John added. "Sometimes you don't want to leave."


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Re: 347 Amazon, Cincinnati, Ohio -- Taliesin Design -- Modification

Post by DavidC »

See, also: This thread from 2007 on the Newman/Berno House.


p.s. - it would appear that as of 2017 the Bernos now own the Winn House in Kalamazoo, MI.

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Re: 347 Amazon, Cincinnati, Ohio -- Taliesin Design -- Modification

Post by SDR »

Dear David Tornheim

First, thank you for addressing this issue, and for your extensive research into the matter. In short, I think we can safely say that the Berno residence is not one which will excite a reaction from the Wright community, official or unofficial, if an addition is made to the structure.

Among the various sources you found in your searches, an older (2007) Wright Chat thread will be of the greatest value in assessing the building, I think. David C also cites this thread:

http://wrightchat.savewright.org/viewto ... lit=newman

I will repost the published illustrations of the Newman house project---plan, elevations, view drawing---here, so that they can be compared to photos of the Berno house. I believe most would agree that an approximation of the floor plan alone is not enough to garner a building recognition as the work of the original designer, when the roof forms are entirely different---for a start.

Newman (1939):




Berno (2002)


© 2007-2020 Modernist Archive, Inc (US Modernist)

It seems likely that the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation did not supply the Bernos with the desired recognition of their house as an "official" Frank Lloyd Wright design. It is interesting to learn that the owners now possess a genuine Wright Usonian, in Michigan.

Thank you so much for your concern, and for bringing this matter to our attention.


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