Sunday, March 12, 2000

Loth auctioning his memories


Former Laurel Court mansion owner will help call the sale of his furnishings

BY JIM KNIPPENBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Roger Loth is mystified: “Look at all this stuff. Where the hell did I keep it? Was I that addicted a collector?”

        Seems he was.

        Mr. Loth, 53, owned Laurel Court, a 27-room, 30,000-square foot College Hill mansion built in 1905. He bought it in 1991 and sold it last November for $1.95 million. But the buyers didn't want the contents, and he wants to downscale his life. So now comes the auction block:

        Furnishings, carpets, china, silver, paintings, decorative items went Saturday. Lawn, garden and power tools go at 1 p.m. today.

        Mr. Loth is one of three auctioneers calling the auction, something he couldn't do when Laurel Court itself was auctioned: “There was no way I could have . . . way too much emotion.”

        He auctions off other houses all the time in his job as a real estate auctioneer. “That is my job, but when people ask, I tell them I'm a missionary. I want to convert people to the notion of auctioning their houses instead of the traditional route.

        “People have the idea that if a house is auctioned it's a distressed property, but it's not true. In many cities, it's the thing to do.

        “Think about it: You put your house on the market for $500,000 and the first person who walks in buys it. Now you're thinking, "I could have gotten $600,000.' With an auction, you have a room full of people who are already interested and who are going to run it up to $600,000, if that's what the market will stand.”

        The theory is that if you have it and they want it, they will come. That is why he sold Laurel Court at auction before moving to condos in Newport and Fort Lauderdale.

        “Can you believe this? Two master bedrooms at Laurel Court were 1,500-square feet each. My condo in Newport is 3,000-square feet — the size of the two master bedrooms.”

        As large as Laurel Court is, it's smaller than his boyhood home. That was several hundred rooms.

        “I grew up at the Netherland (Hotel). We lived on the 21st floor. Dad had had a couple of heart attacks and wanted to be near his business (Loth Business Furniture), and mom had a business downtown too, so we moved in.

        “It was a neat way to grow up, but kind of lonesome with no kids to play with. In the 19 years we lived there, I became mascot of the hotel employees and got to be friends with all the ball players staying there. I even wormed my way on the elevator once with Vice President Nixon.

        “It was better than a castle, with all its nooks and crannies and back steps everywhere.

        “Imagine that elegant lobby bar in the '50s and some kid like me bouncing through on a pogo stick.”

        Memories.

        “I'm going to miss Laurel Court even more. How could I not? All that space, the privacy and, face it, the ego trip of owning a home like that.

        “What I'm really going to miss is the gardens. After a stressful day, sometimes I'd wander out and sit on the footbridge, listen to water gurgle and sip a black Russian. Utter peace.”

        It is not utter peace now in the auction center, a former Drug Emporium in Fair Plaza that he rented for two months.

        Early last week, 600 lots had been tagged with 400 to go and a catalog waiting to be produced.

        Whole lotta scurrying going on.

        Scurry down this aisle: Six bedroom sets, all old, heavy wood: Here's an original Eastlake, current darling of the antique world; here's a Victorian set, complete with marble-top wash stand; Jacobean next to it.

        Scurry down another: More than a dozen armoires,including one converted from a portable confessional with kneelers that still fold down inside the door.

        Scurry down a makeshift aisle of tables: they stretch the length of the store and are crammed with china, silver, dinner service, Waterford and Lenox goblets, a collection of marble eggs, a half-dozen Gone With the Wind plates, lamps, candlesticks, vases.

        Check out the wall: 30 paintings and mirrors, some large enough to fill a wall in most homes, tagged and ready for bids. Check the adjoining wall: Framed prints of cowboys (Mr. Loth is such a major country and western fan he once owned his own C&W clothing store) hang next to prints of Key West and Paris.

        “I'm going to miss a lot of it.”

        Like what? Can we walk through and pick, say, 10 heartbreakers? Let's go.

        • “See that blue rug? It's not much of anything, but it was the first Oriental I bought, right out of college for my first apartment. It was in the Music Room at Laurel Court.

        • “That's Grandma's breakfront, in the family forever. I dug it out of an attic years ago and refinished it. Polished those brass pulls for hours.”

        Memories.

        • “Oh, these two life-size bronze tigers. They used to be on the porch. Friends who owned a bar in Key West shipped them up years ago.

        • “And isn't this stupid? These green dishes. They're nothing special, but I bought them for a special party and it turned out to be one I'll never forget.”

        More memories.

        • “This print here, the little boy that looks like a goody two-shoes. Something I never was.

        • “My white accordion. A friend willed it to me recently, but it brings back memories of me as a child, dragging my accordion down Main Street for lessons. I'm short legged, so it always dragged.

        • “This is stupid, too, but I'm going to miss my power tools. They helped with a lot of renovations.

        • “This thing, this almost room-sized, three-sided oak desk is special. It belonged to one of the archbishops (a previous tenant of Laurel Court), but I used it for work. A lot of deals went down across it.

        • “That cowboy print there, right on the end. It hung over the bar in the party room where I had dances. It's not terribly valuable, but I still see it hanging over the bar . . . ”

        • “This Victorian bedroom set. You don't realize how huge it is sitting in here, but there aren't many homes it would fit into. The lamp shades, the pillows and the drapes were all the same fabric.

        • “Ohhhhh, my Christmas stuff. These huge wreaths all strung with lights. And the 10-foot Christmas tree, we used to set up five of them and have family in. The kitchen smells, the Christmas lights ...

        “That is a memory.”

       



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