Columbus Midcentury Modern House Could Be Torn Down
By Rachel Ruffman | Online Only | Dec. 22, 2008
A midcentury modern beauty in Columbus, Ohio, is being threatened with demolition. The 1940 Gunning House is for sale, and its owner has been offered a competitive price by a commercial developer intent on razing the structure and rezoning its 2.5-acre lot for commercial use.
According to Kathy Mast Kane, executive director of the Columbus Landmarks Foundation, owner Fritz Neuenschwander prefers to sell the house to an alternative buyer who will preserve the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired design.
"We're at the eleventh hour," Kane says. "There is a huge amount of interest from people wanting to see it."
The Gunning House, also known as Glenbrow, is a one-story structure built of glass, cypress paneling, and sandstone originally quarried onsite. Commissioned for Robert and Mary Gunning, it was designed by a team of architects that included 19-year old Theodore van Fossen, the mastermind behind the well known Rush Creek Village, 47 houses in Worthington, Ohio. Designers van Fossen, Tony Smith, and Larry Cuneo built Glenbrow amidst an idyllic natural setting that compliments the house's organic architectural style.
San Francisco architect Darren Kelly, who is currently writing a book about Rush Creek Village, explains that van Fossen's work is a departure from disposable architecture and a move towards truly sustainable designs. "[His] genius is that he articulates the individual's relationship with the natural environment," Kelly says.
Kelly believes the Gunning House should be a registered landmark and is offering his architectural services to anyone interested in buying and restoring the property. He joins Kane and several others who have shown their support for Glenbrow's preservation, notably the Gunning family children, architect David Vottero and artist Kiki Smith, daughter of Tony Smith.
But Glenbrow, which has been vacant for two years, is in considerable disrepair, prompting listing agent Bud Byrne to estimate that it will cost $200,000 to repair the $275,000 property.
"We are in a trying situation," says Byrne, who says he has received three offers from potential buyers, including the developer. "The owner needs to respond to something here shortly. He'd like to see the house restored, bottom line, and if that doesn't happen, it's going to be taken down."
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