Rose Hill Restoration (2007-2017)

3924 Rose Hill Avenue

3924 Rose Hill Avenue, North Avondale, Cincinnati

Lead Agent Adam Sanregret does more than help his clients buy and sell historic homes. He restores them as well.

An 1896 Beauty

In late 2007, Adam bought the 1896 Queen Anne Victorian at 3924 Rose Hill Avenue. The home sits at the entrance to the historic Rose Hill Subdivision of North Avondale—one of the most architecturally distinguished of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods.

The entry hall showcases the original woodwork of the home.

Splendid original details drew Adam to this architect-designed house. On the 1st floor, each room has a different species of wood, including an entire room of birdseye maple in the music parlor and another room of rosewood. There is also the breathtaking 7-by-7-foot stained glass window of the Greek deity Persephone along the main staircase. In the 1920s, a butler call system was installed. And let’s not forget to built-in marble sinks and walls, and bottom-level Douglas toilets.

Adam is only the third owner in 113 years. Full restoration of this one-of-a-kind home took him 10 years to complete.

Restoration Challenges

The porch roof was in very poor condition.

Adam’s Rose Hill home suffered from neglect, not the more common “remuddling.” Except for small modifications in the 1920s, very little had changed. Most mechanics didn’t work when he bought the house and only a few had been updated. This left the nearly irreplaceable original elements intact. It’s much easier and cheaper to replace old pipes, wiring and furnaces than to find items like built-in marble sinks, stained glass, eight-foot-tall (and extra wide) front doors.

Despite restoring other Cincinnati homes, the Rose Hill house supplied new challenges. Adam’s first priority was to make the roof tight and to replace and install whatever necessary before plaster repair began. Both 2nd floor bathrooms had toilets, sinks, or tubs that either didn’t work at all or leaked badly. The drain and supply lines were so far beyond their use life that Adam had to install over 400 feet of plumbing. This included two drain stacks from basement to roof and hot and cold supply lines to four bathrooms.

The Mechanics of It All

The master bathroom needed to be gutted to its bare bones!

After opening walls and exposing chases to the 2nd floor, Adam ran new electric and communication wiring. He also replaced the electrical service and fuse distribution panel with modern circuit breakers. Some minor floor plan tweaks were needed to add 2nd floor closets and a laundry. Adam saved all the woodwork and reused it in new locations in the house.

Ins and Outs of Plaster Repair

Once the mechanics were finished, Adam brought in a plasterer who practically lived with him for over two months. The home’s original plaster—in poor shape—was costly to restore. Most rooms had extensive water damage from years of leaking box gutters and split drain lines. Every 4-foot-wide patch inevitably turned into most of a ceiling to repair. Among the plasterer’s repairs were the radius cove ceilings in the turret, using plaster and metal lath verses drywall.

During the plaster work, Adam kept one room ahead of the plasterer. He removed light fixtures to rewire, portrait rails to strip, and masked the woodwork from the inevitable dripped plaster. As the plasterer finished a room, Adam then followed—priming, painting, stripping and shellacking replaced molding, and reinstalling rewired light fixtures.

Details, Details, Details

This view of the rear staircase hall shows the poor condition of the plaster walls.

After the first two floors were rewired, plastered, and painted (minus the kitchen, baths, and back staircase), Adam sanded and refinished the floors. He then had  a nearly livable house. By this time spring had arrived. It was time to tame a jungle yard, re-glaze and repaint windows, install insulation in the roof, and install two high efficiency furnaces and central air conditioning with ductwork revamped to zone the house.

Window repair, insulation, and furnace replacement were top priority to avert $1,800 monthly heat bills Adam experienced the first winter. Adam also had the collapsed concrete porch floor, portions of the sidewalk, and the driveway replaced.

At Long Last, the Kitchen

The kitchen was primed for a full re-do!

The following winter, Adam redid the kitchen. With its rusted-through 1950s metal cabinets, Adam had no guilt in starting from scratch. He kept only the original built-in butler’s pantry and the butler-room call box (He did reuse all of the window, door, and baseboard moldings). Adam also kept busy with smaller restoration projects. These ranged from short, weekend tasks like stripping and refinishing entry doors, to larger, summer-long missions, including rebuilding the porch with its “Swiss cheese” porch roof.

Was It Worth It?

Restoring an historic home allows you to know its every nook and cranny. The Rose Hill home led Adam to some fun and curious discoveries. He discovered a path to climb inside the cone roof of the turret. And he once fell into a fresh air shaft under the basement floor (it connected to a vent under the porch that fed the original gravity heat furnaces). While he sometime wonders how he got himself into the endeavor, he remains glad to have brought back the splendor of this historic architectural gem.

Before and after gallery