Tour: Greening a Frank Lloyd Wright home

ChuckLohreBoulter House, FLW Boulter House LEED Project, FLW Boulter House Tour

Thanks to Carrie for her June 3, 2015 article on

Twelve years ago, Chuck Lohre was determined to make the Boulter House, a home built by Frank Lloyd Wright, his own.

Lohre had discovered the Usonian style house in Clifton was going to be auctioned off a mere three days before the sale. Being a long time admirer of Wright, Lohre felt compelled to try to buy it. So he and his wife Janet Groeber crunched and calculated their net worth, including the equity in their little home in Pleasant Ridge, and decided on a number.

Come auction day, Lohre’s realtor didn’t show up and Lohre found himself tongue-tied. He made a bid, but his head spun as the action between the other bidders unfolded quickly and, before he realized it, the property had sold for less than he and his wife had agreed on.

He left, stunned.

“I was devastated,” the silver-haired Lohre told a group of visitors on a recent tour of the home, standing in its great room constructed of concrete block, plate glass and mahogany.

Somehow, Lohre knew it wasn’t over.

He called the winner, a young man who had been there bidding for someone else.

“He bid the number he was told,” Lohre told his guests, “but he didn’t know you add 10 percent.”

The young man’s buyer wouldn’t pay that much.

Lohre offered him the sale price plus an additional 3 percent. The young man agreed.

“The next week, we were owners of the house,” Lohre explained while showing the home as part of the marketing professional’s series of green home tours, which he started in November.

Lohre hosts the tour to show people what is possible with green construction. Lohre is sort of obsessed with sustainable design. His office in Over-the-Rhine even has a sawdust pellet stove.

So far, homeowners in Northside, OTR, Mount Airy and Mount Carmel have opened their doors to strangers to explain how solar and geo-thermal heating and cooling systems and other green methods work, how they save money and help the environment. In one of the homes, a system collected rainwater to flush the toilets.

The tours are an outreach of the Cincinnati regional chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and sponsored by the Sustainable Partnership of Cincinnati, a group of businesses that offer sustainable products and services for homes and offices.

Still coming this year are tours of a tiny home in Over-the-Rhine and a farmhouse in Verona, Kentucky. The free tours are held roughly once a month and limited to 20 people.

Lohre has recently added a potluck tour in late July at a home in Columbia Tusculum and many more tours into 2016. To see a full list, visit the Cincinnati chapter’s website.

Lohre is doing his part to one day see the Boulter House certified by Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards. That’s no small feat.

“We pumped insulating foam into the concrete block walls and that decreased the energy bills by 15 percent,” Lohre said. “We’ll need to add high-efficiency interior storm windows. We’re saving up for that now. Later on, we have geo-thermal and solar panels on the list. And maybe even a wood pellet boiler.”

It’s a lot to do, but living in and preserving a piece of art, is worth it, Lohre said.

The story behind the Boulter House

This two-story home on Rawson Woods Circle was designed by Wright and completed in 1956 for Patricia Boulter and her husband Cedric, Greek scholars on staff at the University of Cincinnati. Patricia Boulter’s parents had earlier commissioned the Neils House in Minnesota, and Wright promised to design a home for Patricia when she married. Its second owner, David Gosling , was a noted urban planner in Sheffield, England, who only joined UC’s department of architecture when this original Wright design became available