Hidden gems are constantly uncovered in Cincinnati and this historic 1878 Italianate is no exception. Located in the Observatory Historic District, named for its proximity to the Cincinnati Observatory, the home was built by Charles Isham, whose son Phillips served as an assistant there in the late 1890s.
Fast forward to the late 1990s, when current owners John Pinney and Lyn Marsteller drove by. “On an early date with my now-husband, [he] circled the drive of the Observatory telling me what he knew about its history,” Marsteller says. “I even remarked that it would be great to live in that great house next door to the Observatory. Both looked like they needed some love and care.” The home had deteriorated, sitting empty for three years with no insulation and no air conditioning. Beyond the condition, the house had not been updated since 1960. Still, Pinney and Marsteller were motivated to make it theirs. “I was smitten,” Marsteller says.
Over six months, the couple made major changes, widening first-floor doorways to create a flowing floorplan, demo-ing the kitchen down to the studs, restructuring the great room’s ceilings, and adding a laundry room and garage. Details like replaced flooring, refinished slate fireplaces, and repurposed wood cabinets were also part of the initial changes. But plenty more followed through the years, including the addition of a sunroom, perhaps the most unique space in the home.
The sunroom is both a sitting area and entertaining space with a wet bar for drink prep—wine fridge and cabinets included. Cupboards handmade by the women-led Arts & Crafts movement in Cincinnati are set in two corners of the space for additional storage and a light fixture made from a vintage birdcage hangs at the point of the vaulted ceiling. Plus, the room offers a walkout to the patio.
Throughout the home, nooks, built-in shelving, and cabinets provide storage, room for decoration, and space for book collections. The hallway off the sunroom has a full wall of bookshelves, and the great room’s massive wall cabinets hide electronics. The kitchen also boasts the same custom cherry cabinets made in Wilmington, Ohio. Designed to maximize space, they disguise the fridge and offer a space for everything. A set of glass door cabinets repurpose some of the home’s original wavy glass windows. Up three steps from the adjacent great room, the kitchen is perfectly positioned for entertaining.
Other notable rooms include the master bath with a soaking tub, a large laundry room with plenty of organization opportunities, and a spacious lower level for a second family room. But the star of the show is the location and outdoor space. At least 12 gardens surround the home including a rain garden in the front yard, not to mention Ault Park in close proximity.
“It is very quiet and has continued to be as the popularity of the astronomy and the Observatory has grown since we moved here,” Marsteller says. “The location is a true highlight of our home.” The home is now a stop on a self-guided walking tour provided by The Observatory and next door to the historic 1845 telescope. “It has been great to see kids and adults enjoying the campus,” Marsteller says. “And learning about naked eye astronomy.”