Columbus Midcentury Modern House Could Be Torn Down

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The tower section of the Gunning House in Columbus, Ohio, was constructed in 1940; two other sections were added in the early 1950s.

Credit: Bud Byrne

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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Submitted by Saw It at: March 24, 2009
omg! This house is really cool and a work of art, but way to much renovation work..Its almost just not worth it. And the house is very small, not enough room for a bedroom hardly. I can't believe all the people that want to save this house and all the hoopla and no one has come forward with the cash. I say money talks. I hope someone who has all the time in the world and money does step forward to preserve this neat house.

Submitted by Mom Weiss at: January 10, 2009
If I could afford it I WOULD LOVE TO PURCHASE THE HOUSE/PROPERTY, even with a combined income we do not even hit the hundred thousand mark. All it seems as that people want to do tear down rebuild for commercial. Just like the beautiful homes on Broad Street going towards Bexley now those beautifuk homes are commercial buildings and I am sure on the inside a lot is/was lost.

Submitted by Mom Weiss at: January 10, 2009
Why would anyone want to destroy something that is so beautiful in its one right what about the Preservation Society purchase and use as office space unchanging only repairing or repairing and selling with stipulations

Submitted by Sandy at: January 8, 2009
Kiki Smith, Seton Smith, and Sarah Auld (Tony Smith Estate) flew in from New York, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, and toured the house and property. There are still a lot of people trying to save one of the most important modern homes in the Columbus area.

Submitted by bump56 at: December 30, 2008
RE: The 1940 Gunning House You will need an asbestos material study done on the property before it can be demolished. If we can provide you with pricing for that service, please let me know. My boss is a big Frank Loyld Wright fan. You can contact me at