Gamble house public hearing heats up

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The fight to save the Gamble House in Westwood got heated Wednesday night.

Hundreds came to speak out and hopefully stop it's pending demolition. Will the city be able to take the property by eminent domain?

That is the half-million dollar question, because that's roughly how much the city would need to seize the property using eminent domain.

Council must determine that taking the property is for the public purpose of preservation. The public hearing Wednesday night was all about documenting that interest via speeches and presentations.

There are signs outside the historic mansion that say, 'keep out', but the interest and the passion clearly could not be kept in as people named names, stating their case to save the Gamble mansion.

"We've a duty to what's happened here and to affect change and protect the legacy of the people who came before us," said Mary Kuhl, who sported a t-shirt touting the use of eminent domain to save the home. "And in this case, the owner is giving us the big middle finger."

Kuhl singled-out of the crowd, Carter Randolph, who she said is head of the non-profit Greenacres, who currently owns the crumbling house.

Randolph claims he wants to turn the land into some sort of kids educational park and though he hasn't spoken publicly, he brought his own court stenographer to take down every word said at the public hearing.

"Back there eight rows behind me, Carter Randolph, is the person who should be ashamed of himself by the neglect that has happened to that building," Kuhl said angrily.

"It used to be that when houses were listed in our neighborhood," said Rita Ross, who has lived in Westwood 22 years. "They touted, backs-up against the gamble estate as a point of pride. Now if you look at that home, it has been allowed to deteriorate, it is what I consider to be criminal."

There are shingles falling-away from the Victorian-style rooftops. There are holes in the front porch ceilings.

"We're the world headquarters for Procter & Gamble," said Reginald Goolsby. "And we want to save James Gamble's house."

Goolsby is a realtor whose home faces the Gamble estate.

"We've done everything we possibly could to acquire the property," he said. "Cincinnati Preservation Society made an offer and it's been declined, it was more than fair market value."

Goolsby said he's using his high-visibility position to announce meeting and recruited some friends to help out.

"I actually bought these at an auction two years ago," he laughed and smiled.

Those "friends" are about a dozen life-size cardboard cutouts, holding signs, urging people to speak-up, like retired P&G employee Eugene Schwoeppe, who said his father was James Gamble's paperboy.

"To tell you what kind of man he was," Schwoeppe said. "He told my father Art, you should build a house and my dad said I don't have any property. He said, you take the property on Montclair and pay me when you can."

Schwoeppe, like the many others who spoke at the public hearing Wednesday night, said the man who invented Ivory Soap, has made lasting impressions, not just in Westwood, but around the world.

There will be another hearing, where Council has to take a vote, whether or not to use eminent domain. If they do exercise that option, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said the whole thing will likely end-up before a municipal judge.

Now, just for the city to seize the home, it is assessed at around $317,000 right now. To seize all of the land with it, the price tag comes-in closer to $700,000.

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