Elizabeth Hunt Bell on the Hunt House

Read about the Hunt House as told by Elizabeth Hunt Bell, the last of the Hunt family to live in the 1861 house that is now owned by the City of Blue Ash and open for tours several times per year and upon request for groups.

Excerpts from an article in Eastside Weekend, September 17-23, 1992

Historic Blue Ash home stays in the family

By Cathy Rose Barney

            Owner Betty Hunt Bell remembers when the farm was more than the current three acres and neighbors weren’t too close at hand.  “There were tennis courts across the street—long gone, now—and a farm next door owned by the Johnsons, an orchard with peach trees, maybe some apple and cherry and that was about it except for TwinLakes.

“Blue Ash is just so different these days,” she remarks.  “I used to walk to the old Blue Ash School.

“Blue Ash is a great place to live, and it has so much to offer,” Betty says.  “When I was growing up, there wasn’t that much to do.  The most exciting thing to do was to go to the festivals in the summertime in Silverton.  I was a Campfire girl and we would play lawn croquet.  But it was pretty quiet.”

Her great-great grandfather, John Craig Hunt, built the ten-room home with walnut and poplar floors and expansive 12-foot ceilings in 1861.

The only addition since that time, she believes, is the porch she and her husband enclosed somewhat recently.

Betty grew up in the home, was married there, returned in 1976 to care for her childhood home and celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary in the tradition and location of her parents and grandparents.

“I suppose I knew I’d always return, somewhere in the back of my mind,” she says with a sigh, recalling the continual upkeep of an older home.

Her home is filled with a variety of antiques that seem settled in this house.  Some came with the house, and others she’s picked up along the way.  The green velvet Victorian sofa with clawed feet in the living room belongs here.  Betty dispels that myth, however, by recounting the time she picked it up for a song several years ago, wondering what she would do with it.

The living room is adjoined by another sitting room, filled with more modern conveniences like a television.

The former first-floor parlor is now the master bedroom with beautiful dark, largely-proportioned Victorian furniture.  “When I was growing up, we weren’t allowed in this room.  I even remember that they laid my grandmother out in here after she died.  It was a very formal room.”

The bedroom’s floral wallpaper, hung by Betty’s husband, George, echoes the age of the house.

She opens another door to what used to be the main entry and points to the wallpaper up the stairs.  “We did hire somebody to hang the paper.  It was just too difficult to reach.”

The Bells were anxious to add a second bathroom to the home after their 1976 arrival and chose a cozy nook underneath their entry staircase.

“We’re somewhat sorry we did,” she laments.  “At the time, we didn’t realize how short we’d be on storage space.”

Though the rooms are large, closets are not abundant in this house.

Renovations—mostly cosmetic because the house’s structure was in excellent condition—were done in the mode of restoring the home to “what we thought it would have looked like,” Mrs. Bell says.

Their efforts have paid off in a comfortable way.  A certain welcoming and warm atmosphere pervades every room in the house.  It has the feel of a family home, lovingly cared for from generation to generation.

A wonderfully-old corner cupboard has found its way into the dining room and compliments the unique mantel, completed by Betty’s aunt when she was a teenager.  Betty described the design method as pyrography, burning a motif into the wood.

A Hunt family sampler dated 1824 hangs on an adjacent wall.

Off the modernized kitchen (still the same size it always was, according to Betty, who recalls the sink and pump she grew up with) and dining room is the house’s only addition: an enclosed porch.  A clever series of small windows is the perfect foil to the opposing exposed brick wall. It’s Betty’s favorite room and blends with the entire house.

The butler’s pantry (Betty doesn’t think the Hunts ever really had servants or a butler) is now a first floor bathroom and has been closed off from the kitchen.

Off the kitchen are a back set of stairs that ascend to a massive series of five bedrooms.  Betty remembers that her parents rented a portion of the upstairs when she was growing up.  She didn’t mind, though.  She was an only child and enjoyed the company.

Two of the rooms have the look and feel of a bed and breakfast, which shouldn’t be too surprising since the Bells were asked to sell the house by someone who also saw the potential.

“We’ve been approached a couple of times to sell but want to hang onto this house as long as we’re able,” Betty says.  Another room has been converted into a kitchen, with family heirlooms stored nearby.  A computer, George’s “toy,” according to Betty, looks somewhat incongruous on the kitchen table, providing a reminder of what century this is.

Otherwise, you’d never know it.  The house has a special sense about it, a timelessness. Perhaps that’s what builder John Craig Hunt intended.  The property’s original log house burned, and John Craig Hunt replaced it with the current home that the Miami Purchase Association describes as an “extraordinarily handsome house” and an excellent example of the transitional period between Federal and Greek Revival styles of architecture.”

John Craig Hunt was the grandson of James Carpenter, who, in 1789, purchased the land on which Carpenter’s Run Baptist Church was built, that eventually became Blue Ash.

Betty remembers hearing her grandfather, Wilson Hunt, relate the story of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and his Raiders.

“He (Wilson Hunt) was only about ten, sitting in what’s now the guest room.  Looking out the window, he saw them take the horses,” she retells.  “I’m not sure he understood what was going on, and his father told he there was nothing they could do.”

Betty’s love of the house and its past led her to become a member of the…Blue Ash Historical Society.

She’s an active member and provided material for the History of the City of Blue Ash, Ohio 1791-1991, published last year to commemorate the bicentennial.

“When this house came to me, I knew how much it had meant to my dad, and I just couldn’t part with it,” Betty says. “My husband took early retirement, and we moved fromPennsylvania.  We thought we were making the biggest mistake of our lives, starting out all over again.  But, we really like the place and we’ve put so much into it.  I can’t imagine selling unless we had to.

“And my mother never thought we’d come back to live here.”

 

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