When you read about historic districts in Cincinnati, you generally think of Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, the West End, and many other inner-city neighborhoods that make up the older parts of the city. However, areas such as Northside and College Hill force us to look beyond the confines of the basin to acknowledge other historic districts that are equally as important.
One such notable district is the Bella Vista Historic District in Bond Hill, located about eight miles north of downtown along I-75. The district comprises the length of Bella Vista Street, which is separated from the southeast corner of the Maketewah Country Club by Reading Road. 17 homes are recognized as within the district along the no-outlet street.
City Council voted Bella Vista a historic district in October of 2019. So what makes this historic district historic?
- All of the homes built on the street were constructed before 1940
- All of the homes on the street are unchanged in any significant way, and no new homes have been built since the street was originally founded
- Nearly all of the homes on the street are built in the Tudor Revival style
- It's the only 1920s-30s historic district in the city of Cincinnati*
Being rooted in the relatively recent Jazz Age, the Bella Vista Historic District is uniquely positioned to captivate the imagination due to it being less than 100 years young. There are still people living today who were born in the 1920s and 30s. That's not a luxury older historic districts can claim.
Additionally, with nostalgia for Jazz Age fashion and opulence surging 100 years later, it's also unsurprising the district is looked upon particularly favorably today.
Developer Arthur R. Green is credited with the founding of Bella Vista in 1926. He had a vision of a peaceful lamp-lit street lined with modestly sized homes built in the Tudor Revival style. After purchasing the land, he advertised the neighborhood as "restricted" with protections from overdevelopment.
Things took a turn thereafter. Green finished building several homes on Bella Vista Street, but development around the street grew suddenly. New streets were laid around Bella Vista with hungry developers looking to build. The sharp rise in competition damaged Green's exclusivity, and the ensuing years proved difficult for sales. Though several homes on Bella Vista sold, others sat vacant for years. By the beginning of the Great Depression, liens and foreclosures were issued to unsold properties.
Some homes were sold on the courthouse steps. The remaining plots of land were turned over to other developers who eventually completed building the rest of the houses on the street by 1936. Though Green couldn't finish what he set out to do, he is credited with the historic district's vision that exists today.
LIVING IN THE DISTRICT
The opportunity to live in this historic district doesn't come around often, but one of the homes recently went to market. 1718 Bella Vista Street, one of the original Arthur Green houses, is a three-bedroom, one-bathroom, 1,800-square-foot Tudor Revival home on the north side of the street.
The house oozes 1920s charm throughout without sacrificing modern comfort. (Air-conditioning wasn't commonplace in American homes until decades later, but this house obviously has it.) It originally belonged to William F. and Mary Orth and was valued at $16,500 in 1930. Over its 90 years on the street, it's only been owned by five different people.
Recognize the name Ibold Cigars? Charles R. Ibold once owned the house. Reverend Robert J. Grosch, who was pastor of Avondale's Immanuel Lutheran Church and a chairman of the Cincinnati NAACP, also called 1718 Bella Vista home.
The current owner, Alexis Liu, is responsible for leading the effort to categorize Bella Vista as a historic district and authored the Conservation Guidelines for it. She's a trustee for the Cincinnati Preservation Association today.
1718 Bella Vista is pending as of this writing, but you can still take a look inside in the gallery above. It's listed for $235,000 by Joan McKinney with Sibcy Cline.
For more information about the Bella Vista Historic District, Alexis put together a terrific site all about it that can be found here.
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*Many will point out that Mariemont was also constructed in the 1920s, but it is not within the city of Cincinnati.
The listing for the house can be found here.