Updated 01/06/2016 to include interview audio.
The following is an excerpt from the first edition of Kunst Magazine. For the full story, please visit our magazine shop.
Every building has a voice
Words: John Blatchford
Photos: Ronny Salerno
Ron Tisue has renovated historic buildings in Cincinnati for four decades. He does the majority of the work by himself. After starting out with only $10,000.00 for his first project, he has gone on to renovate 23 buildings across the greater Cincinnati area and the Virgin Islands.
Ron is not a native to Cincinnati; his story crosses not only the United States but also Europe and even Antarctica. His eclectic past includes time as a potter, a sailor, and a teacher. The consistent threads through his past are an interest in beauty and an eye for the unusual and the useful.
At one point, despite no previous training in the field, Ron decided to try to save historic structures. He felt especially drawn to the downtown Cincinnati neighborhood of Prospect Hill, which by the early 70’s sat largely vacant and neglected.
“The area was just trashed. Garbage piled up on the sidewalks . . . I would come home after work, and there was all of a sudden an open lot where there was a building before. It was disgusting. The buildings were in bad shape and were being torn down as fast as the city could manage.”
But he was resolute; he wanted to improve the neighborhood.
The business model for Ron was simple: he looked for and bought the building that nobody else wanted—“the dog of the block,” as he says. He learned about the renovation process from anyone who would show him the right way to do something. His abilities grew as did his business – learning from experience each step of the way. “Every building has been an education,” Ron comments, “and I have walked away from every building a different person.”
Elaborating on his development philosophy for old buildings, he details, “My general direction is to make the building as historic as possible through research and what you find, and still have modern conveniences which are kind of subtle.” As Ron describes, “Every building has a voice,” and he makes sure that each one is clearly heard.
Mysterious Bones In The Basement:
How It Started:
Historic But Modern:
Banditos In The Early Days Of The Northern Liberties:
On The Joys Of Working Alone:
Every Step Is An Exploration: