“You don’t need experience in historic renovation to live in a historic home, just a love for it,” says Tom Hadley from his home at 519 Liberty Hill, in Prospect Hill, just north of Liberty Street and Over-the-Rhine. Hadley, a retired student affairs administrator at the University of Cincinnati, and his wife Pam Luttmers, an academic advisor at UC’s early childhood education program, bought the three bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom Queen Anne style home in 1999. “We see ourselves as stewards more than anything,” he says.
Designed by architect Joseph G. Steinkamp and built in 1887, the home was spared the fate that befell so many homes of this age in the neighborhood: Subdivision. “It never got chopped up into apartments like so many others, and so a lot of original features have remained,” says Hadley. These include graceful room proportions featuring nine-foot ceilings, never-painted woodwork with rosette carvings, narrow quarter-sawn oak floors, and five original fireplaces.
Hadley and Luttmer spent those seventeen years of residence renovating the home with the help of expert craftspeople skilled at repairing masonry, plaster, and paint; the original painted living room ceiling took a year a half to restore with the help of their friend and former Prospect Hill neighbor Susan Martin. “She’d work on it here and there, whenever she had time and we had money,” says Hadley. The challenge has always been to balance historic preservation with the needs of modern living. Over the years, the couple has had the kitchen modernized and new bathrooms installed (and yes, there is central air conditioning). “We lived here as a family, not a museum,” he adds.
Amenities that lured the couple from Corryville in 1999—like baseball games and Music Hall concerts, and walking their son to school at the School for Creative and Performing Arts on Sycamore Street in the Pendelton neighborhood—have been joined by a flourishing downtown dining scene, the rebirth of Washington Park, and perhaps most encouraging of all, young families. Says Hadley, “When we first moved here, there weren’t many families with young children. Over the last five to six years, we’ve started seeing more young families at community events. It makes me optimistic that people want to be a part of the city.”
Click through our gallery to see more of the home—like this courtyard: