Charlton Wallace House (Baumgartner Residence)
Former Catholic Monastery with an Underground Railroad Connection
Built between 1840 and 1849 as a Catholic monastery, the Charlton Wallace House (also known as the Baumgartner Residence) is the oldest residential structure in East Walnut Hills. According to the 1975 application to the National Register of Historic Places, “A room located under a rear porch is believed to have been used for underground railroad traffic.”
Now a private home, the French Provincial building was constructed by a group of French-born Catholic monks who made each brick by hand. As a nod to their heritage, they brought the elaborate wrought iron up the Mississippi River from New Orleans.
Surrounded by the original brick wall, the symmetrical front façade is distinguished by a balcony and a pair of arched French doors. The exterior paint colors are inspired by Monet's house and gardens at Giverny.
Around 1850, St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church was built next door, and this building became the parish house and later the original location of the Catholic school. That church building is no longer standing.
The current church, designed by Francis G. Himpler, was built in 1879 on the nearby corner of Woodburn Ave. and Madison Rd. The church continued to own the Hackberry St. property until 1926, when it was sold to private owners, and it has remained a private home since.
The Wallace family purchased the residence in the 1930s. Charlton Wallace spent his career as a journalist with the Cincinnati Post-Times Star and the Cincinnati Post. While renovating the home, the Wallaces discovered a room under the rear porch that once connected to the church next door via a tunnel. This is believed to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad, where escaping slaves had been hidden.
Later owners, the Baumgartners, found a small collection of handmade wine bottles in the attic, thought to be a remnant of the French monks who were the original residents.
Another former owner was the Murray family. Michael Murray, considered one of the early leaders of the Regional Theatre Movement, was the Artistic Director of nearby Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park from 1975 until 1985.
This unusual home is located at 2563 Hackberry St.