Wednesday, May 23, 2001

A sense of area's history secure

Residents do part to preserve past

By Terry Flynn and Amanda York
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BELLEVUE — Charlie Cleves just wanted to rebuild the wall in front of his yard on Fairfield Avenue to match the charm of his 1930s-era home, but his efforts led to a course in fashioning wrought-iron fencing and an historic preservation award from the city.

        Mr. Cleves, who operates Cleves & Lonneman Jewelers in Bellevue, will receive his award Thursday evening along with over 20 others from Bellevue, Newport and Covington at an historic preservation reception at the historic Wiedemann Mansion in Newport.

[photo] Robert and Jo Ann Anderson, will receive an award for their building at 81 18th St., Newport.
(Patrick Reddy photos)
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        Mr. Cleves funded his own work, but one common thread used by preservationists in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio is rehabilitation income-tax credits, tax credits given to individuals who revamp a historic building for income-producing use. If individuals use the rehabilitation credit, they can get a 20 percent income tax credit.

        For the federal fiscal year 2000, Kentucky was ranked ninth for income-tax credit projects. Ohio ranked sixth and Indiana ranked 15th.

        In Newport, Ken and Patty Hund used a facade grant obtained from the Kentucky Heritage Council through the Renaissance Kentucky program to restore the front of the frame structure at 114 E. Seventh St. that houses their specialty gift shop, earning one of the city's historic preservation awards.

        Mr. Cleves' efforts at historic preservation took him on a journey to local wrought-iron makers, antique shops and a local machine shop over about four months before the stone wall topped with ornate wrought iron was completed.

        “It started when the block wall at the front of my property (at 212 Fairfield Avenue) fell down,” said Mr. Cleves, a Bellevue native who runs the business begun by his grandfather in 1932. “I knew how I wanted to rebuild it, with a stone bottom, a limestone cap and fancy wrought iron on top.”

        He toured historic neighborhoods in Covington and Newport and saw examples of what he wanted to do. The next step was approaching some local wrought-iron companies, but he quickly discovered that it would cost $10,000 or more for the 42 feet of custom wrought iron he needed.

[photo] The home at 3615 Lincoln Ave. (left) and 3611 Lincoln will be honored by the city of Covington.
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        He did find some partial sections of an old wrought-iron fence at an antique store at Stewart Iron Works. A friend, Don Robinson of Southgate, saw Mr. Cleves' drawing of the intended wall and fencing and convinced him he could do it himself.

        Mr. Cleves, brother of the Rev. William Cleves, former president of Thomas More College, learned to carve patterns for the wrought iron from wood, learned to weld, and was given room at a friend's machine shop in Dayton to perform the work.

        “From the time the old wall fell down until (Mr. Robinson) and I finished the new wall was about eight months, but it was worth it,” he said.

        While the three Northern Kentucky cities are honoring residents who have aided the historic preservation of the neighborhoods, the same sort of effort is being made around the Tristate.

        Often it is ordinary people such as Gerald Miller of Lebanon who take an interest in preserving their communities. Mr. Miller has worked all his life at preserving old houses in his historic Warren County hometown.

        Mr. Miller, a member of the Lebanon Conservancy Group, is the owner of the Gerald Miller Company and an antique shop called Uniquities.

        Mr. Miller loves Lebanon for its many old houses, which he says aid Lebanon in keeping its “historic character.”

        “It is very important that we save these houses because they are like orphaned children,” Mr. Miller said. “If somebody doesn't take care of them and nurture them and bring them back to useable assets then they will end up being a parking lot or a lot of weeds.”

        The group now is painting an historic Queen Ann house on the corner of Cherry and Mulberry streets.

        These renovation projects don't come cheap. Just to paint and repair the windows in the Queen Ann house costs about $15,000, he said. Mr. Miller said the Conservancy Group gets money for their projects through membership fees and fund-raising efforts.

        Becky Proctor, the transportation enhancements projects coordinator for the Kentucky Heritage Council in Frankfort, said several cities in Northern Kentucky had taken advantage of tax credits for historic preservation. For example, Ms. Proctor said Jack Quinn's Irish Ale House in Covington was a tax income credit project.

        Business owners in Ohio are also using the rehabilitation tax income credits to rehab historic buildings. Tom Wolf, the public education manager for the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, said a great deal of tax income credit use was taking place in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine area.

        Preservationists and business owners in Over-the-Rhine, home to Findlay Market, one of the city's historical landmarks, are combining the rehabilitation tax credit with a low-income tax credit, Mr. Wolf said. Through doing this, Mr. Wolf said it was making it attractive for people to invest in historical buildings and then rent them out to low- to moderate-income families. In Covington, new historic preservation officer Kate Carothers is familiar with the tax credit and Renaissance programs, having worked as a consultant in both Louisville and Frankfort.

        Ms. Carothers, a Louisville native who has a master's degree in historic preservation, emphasized that the Covington awards represent a cross-section of the community, from honoring an addition at Sixth District School to the parking lot at the Baker-Hunt Foundation to the historically appropriate colors at a pair of houses on Lincoln Avenue in Latonia.


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