This stately limestone home with a green glazed tile roof sits on two acres just southwest of Rose Hill, one of North Avondale’s most sought-after neighborhoods. Built circa 1912 and once owned by David May, possibly of May department store heritage, the home’s shape and exterior design resemble College Hill’s Laurel Court, only on a smaller scale.
Inside, though, it’s a different story. While Laurel Court centers on a giant atrium with a retractable glass roof, the May mansion’s centerpiece is a sun room clad entirely in Rookwood tile. It features a glazed tile floor in shades of blue and pink, two built-in tile benches with legs sculpted to look like cats, and walls covered with a special line of Rookwood known as architectural faience—matte glazed tiles arranged here into murals depicting blooming gardens and distant hills. The space provides an appropriate background for the room’s undisputed focal point—a 7-foot-high Rookwood fountain designed by Clement J. Barnhorn, with a sculpted boy on a dolphin at its center.
There are other stunning design features on this property to be sure: Wedgwood door knobs that grace every door in the home’s first floor public spaces; the living room ceiling, patterned with dozens of circular plaster medallions; and a series of decorative terraced pools in the home’s side yard, flanked by two gracefully curved stone staircases. We also love that this home still retains so many vestiges of the working class world that once kept a place like this humming—the original intercom, security system, marble-lined iceboxes, and time clock, most of which still work, says current homeowner Marcus Cross.
In 1988, the home served as a decorator’s show house sponsored by the Cincinnati Opera Guild; in the event’s brochure, an unnamed author notes that the home “is often described as a ‘mysterious’ place abounding in hidden passage ways and buried gold.” Intrigue aside, we’re pretty sure the gold here rests in this home’s exceptional design and architectural details.
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