Much of Mid-Century Modern architect Ray Roush’s best known work happened in partnership with fellow architect Carl Strauss; still, fans of their buildings will find this solely Roush-designed home fascinating. It’s part of a small, four-home enclave on a steep Anderson Township hillside overlooking I-275, where one home belonged to (and was designed by) architect and peer Hans Nuetzel and the other three, including Roush’s own home, were designed by Roush.
According to Nuetzel’s son, John, the hill was developed in the early 1950s, pre-I-275, as a sort of “collaborative effort” among all four homeowners. Although they couldn’t get city water or sewer on site (each home has its own cistern and septic tank), the group did manage to secure electric lines after clearing the land.
This house—the first as you drive up—changed hands relatively shortly after construction because both original occupants died. By the time Tom and Nancy Benner bought it in 2010, it was in foreclosure; it was also occupied by squatters, marred by graffiti, and stripped of all plumbing and wiring. But the couple saw potential and pressed on, doing all the interior demo work themselves and hiring a Lawrenceburg, Indiana-based contractor to rebuild the insides, sticking as close as they could to the home’s original floorplan.
The restoration took about three years, but the Benners helped save original features like redwood exterior siding, vaulted tongue and groove ceilings inside, the fireplace, and even the hearth, which, despite a few “scars,” says Tom, is “cast concrete, not a single crack.” Meantime, the home has all new electric, plumbing, heating, and cooling.
“We didn’t do it Mid-Century Modern, and I know that offends some people,” says Nancy of the kitchen and bath upgrades. But as similarly-aged structures elsewhere deteriorate while historians and owners argue over potential changes, finish details seem incidental. Kudos to the Benners for seeing the forest for the trees, and saving a significant piece of Cincinnati’s architectural history in the process.