Past Lives Reflected in New Mansion Restoration

A storied North Avondale mansion, once home to hundreds of Xavier University students, is ready to tell a new tale.
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Photograph Courtesy Wow Photography

992 N. Marion Ave., North Avondale, $1,799,000

There aren’t many properties in Cincinnati that have lived as many lives as Marion Hall, the beaux arts masterpiece in North Avondale. Xavier University students who attended between 1943 and 1991 may remember it as a dormitory that housed up to 60 students each year.

Anyone who lived in North Avondale before the early 1940s knew the house behind the wrought iron fence as the Enger Mansion—home of Franklin Enger, the local mogul who tapped into the switch from carriages to automobiles to make his fortune in the late 1800s.

Photograph Courtesy Wow Photography

But we’ll undoubtedly remember this Italian Renaissance gem in its current, restored state as the family home of Ryan Messer and Jimmy Musuraca-Messer, local development champions who are no strangers to daunting renovations. Homes they’ve worked on in the past have often required complete gutting. This one, much to their delight, was different.

Photograph Courtesy Wow Photography

“Marion Hall, while a little down on her luck, still maintained much of her architectural integrity,” Ryan says. Most of the trim was buried beneath coats of paint, but it was intact. The grand staircase was in “reasonably beautiful condition,” and the floors, though not in great shape, were salvageable. The couple say they were able to preserve, not replace, as they renovated.

Photograph Courtesy Wow Photography

Inside their once-in-a-lifetime project, they dipped a toe into the maximalism trend but did it in a way that makes sense. The lavish area rugs (of which there are many), the dizzying wallpaper patterns, and the candelabras in the dining room harken back to an earlier day. But the eclectic touches don’t feel out of place—not even the neon signs in the parlor or the buffalo head on the wall.

Photograph Courtesy Wow Photography

Each homage to the home’s past lives feels authentic because so many of them are authentic. The stained-glass windows were painstakingly revived, pane by pane. Period fixtures were restored to their former glory. At more than 15,000 square feet, the house was a labor of love brought back to life with the help of a powerhouse team of craftsmen and two tremendously devoted owners.

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