July 30, 2014

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Preservationists worry as Taft house goes on market

CINCINNATI — A 121-year-old house built as a wedding gift for William Howard Taft before he became president of the United States is for sale, raising concerns that a new owner will tear it down and build condominiums on the site, preservationists said.

The five-bedroom house was built in 1886 by the parents of Helen Herron, a future first lady who married Taft when he was a young attorney. He was elected president in 1908 and later served as the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Asking price for the hilltop house that features a view of the Ohio River is $700,000.

“I know there are a lot of people in Cincinnati who are anxious that this house not be torn down and the site redeveloped,” said Carol Meadows, a real estate agent who represents owner Josephine Joseph, who no longer lives in the house. “The Josephs don’t want that to happen.”

The family wants to sell it to someone who will preserve it, Meadows said.

The property, which isn’t protected by any historic designation, is zoned for multifamily use, and two small undeveloped lots nearby are also for sale. Preservationists fear that the properties will attract buyers who are interested in building condominiums.

“We would hate to lose this house,” said Margo Warminski, preservation director of the Cincinnati Preservation Society.

The house was also the birthplace of Taft’s son, Robert, a former U.S. senator and the grandfather of former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft.