The Sycamore Street Studio of Theodore Gantz
Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Theodore Gantz at his residence and sculpture studio on Sycamore Street on the border of Over-the-Rhine and the Prospect Hill historic district. His museumlike home, luxuriant gardens, Empire-style collection of statuary that would make the Mercantile Library blush, secret courtyards and working sculpture studio are a few exemplary features of this urban oasis. Upon entering the central courtyard through the substantial wrought iron gates, one is transported to a veritable Xanadu of tropical flora and architectural flourishes. The views from the third-story patio and catwalk remind one of an Italian villa nestled in a German village except this German village is within eyesight of American skyscrapers. The entire property provides a remarkable experience.
The Gantz home was featured in Great Houses of The Queen City: Two Hundred Years of Historic and Contemporary Architecture and Interiors in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The following is author Walter E. Langsam’s description of the studio and residence:
Theodore A. Gantz, a sculptor and art historian, has maintained a successful career integrating sculpture and the decorative arts, usually representational and made of more than one material, including both precious marbles and steel or aluminum, his work is linked to his interest in 19th-century sculpture. He is particularly attracted to American and Italian artists, and the way they overlapped in works designed by Americans like Hiram Powers (patronized by Nicholas Longworth) who lived in Florence, where their models were executed by local carvers. In 1979 Gantz acquired three three-story brick residences around a narrow courtyard at the base of Prospect Hill: a severe Italianate block at the rear constructed for German-born stone-mason and carver Frank Nolte in 1850, a Mansard-fronted late Italianate townhouse built for Nolte and his second wife in 1880, and a more three-dimensional 1890s “Queen Anne”-style house. The last has been partially converted into a studio for the production of sculpture and art furniture.
Gantz lives in the townhouse, where has has given free rein to both a desire for authenticity and an urge toward fantasy. These are combined in the ground-floor library in which the original painted ceiling has been cleaned and restored, the handsome marbelized slate mantel retained, and the windows with their rare painted shades treated in a convincing period manner (the pier-mirror and a statuette belonged to N.F. Baker). An authentic fantail gas-fixture centers the room. On the other hand, many of the furnishing and artworks, the geometrical carpet, and the stunning new bookcases have a Neo-Classical flavor in conformity with the owner’s personal taste. Upstairs, the dining room is ingeniously fitted up as an 18th-century “print room”; the master bedroom is an Adamesque recreation; the kitchen is frescoed in the Italian rustic style; and one of the bathrooms seems caught in the midst of a Vesuvian eruption; classical capitals and fragments of sculpture hang precariously overhead, in what is perhaps a Piranesian parody of certain kinds of Post-Modern decor, or a tribute to Sir John Soane’s Museum in London.
Tomorrow at 2pm Mr. Gantz will present the history of his home at the Main Branch of the Public Library as part of the My Cincinnati Home series. The event is free and open to the public.
Many thanks to Mr. Gantz for giving a wonderful tour and allowing me to share his gorgeous creations on the Over-the-Rhine Blog.