Friday, May 10, 2002

Old house new home for tourism

By Cindi Andrews,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — While the city in its bicentennial year continues to grapple with whether to restore or remove its old buildings, Warren County is quietly moving forward with plans to renovate a 150-year-old building for its tourism bureau.

        The county is seeking bids to renovate a house it owns at 313 Warren St., near the commissioners' former administration building.

[photo] This 150-year-old-plus Greek revival house in Lebanon is being restored for use by the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        Once completed — possibly by September — the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau will move there.

        “We're very excited because it's historic, and that's what Warren County represents,” Executive Director Shirley Bonekemper said.

        The bureau is outgrowing its rented office space on Oregonia Road, just east of Lebanon, she said. The Warren Street house will provide an extra 1,000 square feet.

        That will be particularly helpful when the tourism bureau adds to its staff of five full-time and two part-time employees, likely within three years, she said.

        “I think it's important to get closer to town, and more accessible to visitors,” Ms. Bonekemper added.

        The bureau will pay for the interior remodeling, expected to cost around $100,000, County Administrator Bob Price said. The county is repairing and painting the exterior.

        The house is “a fine example of Greek revival” probably built before 1850, according to Mary Klei, curator of the Warren County Historical Society Museum and secretary of the tourism bureau's board.

        Originally a private residence, the building in recent years housed the prosecutors' office, now in the Common Pleas Courthouse, and then the data processing department, now in the new county administration building on Justice Drive.

        It's less grand than Glendower, Lebanon's most famous Greek revival house, Mrs. Klei said. The Warren Street house, however, does include typical characteristics such as eyebrow windows near the roof, a symmetrical facade and a stairway banister that ends in a scroll design, she said.

        “We do want to proceed in a historically correct manner as much as possible,” she said. “Over the years, it has been rather poorly remuddled.”

        Historical correctness extends to the colors, which Mrs. Klei helped select. The brick exterior will be painted a yellowish beige and the trim white, she said.

        Meanwhile, Lebanon City Council and the private Lebanon Conservancy Foundation remain at odds over the future of 5-7 Cherry St., a modest Queen Anne house the city owns. City officials say the $200,000 estimate for restoration is too expensive and the location is hampering efforts to turn its downtown block into a park.

        The conservancy maintains that the house is part of the fabric of historic Lebanon.

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