A Monastery of a Home

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Portsmouth Landmark Has New Owners

​On a pretty spring afternoon, hundreds of people gathered on a hill high above Portsmouth, Ohio. The air was filled with the sounds of birds chirping and people chatting as they toured the majestic three-story, 30-room mansion that sits at the summit. Then, precisely at noon, another sound grabbed everyone’s attention.

“Do I hear $400,000?” Norman Allen yelled out.

The Timlin Hill house, which served as a monastery for nearly four decades in between private ownership, and all its furnishings were sold at auction in late April. But not before interested buyers and general gawkers got a chance to tour the spacious home and grounds.

Monastery-thumbnail-picLocal businessman Harry Taylor built the house in 1930 at an estimated cost of $250,000, just $5,000 less than the winning bid that secured the home and its surrounding 3.5 acres for the new owners this spring – 85 years later.

Proceeds from the sale of the home were divided between Shawnee State University and The Ohio State University, per the instructions in the last owner’s will. All the furnishings, which included an 18-foot banquet table and 16 chairs, three bedroom sets, tables, chairs, sofas, lamps, books and more, were left to SSU, and auctioned off separately from the home.

“In 1930, this was absolutely the finest home in southern Ohio,” said Allen, owner of Allen’s Auctions Inc., which handled the sale, “and it can be again.”

In the ‘30s, it was common for a large home to have servant quarters and a separate residence for the chauffeur above the garage, as this one does. The first floor living room and the master bedroom directly above it each measure 19 x 37 feet. The dining room is even bigger. Three fireplaces, three kitchens, seven bathrooms, a large pantry, a walk-in safe, two porches, a built-in swimming pool and stone gazebo are some of the other amenities. There are walnut floors throughout (except for the herringbone floor in the foyer), lead glass bay windows and carved mahogany walls.

In 1952, the property went on the auction block for the first time. The Catholic Diocese purchased it, and it became a monastery for the nuns who worked at Mercy Hospital in Portsmouth. The Monastery of Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration was located there from 1956 until the early 1990s when its residents relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina, and Fred and Charlotte Bennett bought the estate.

Fred Bennett, who hailed from nearby Minford, Ohio, spent about four years renovating the structure back into a private residence. It was during that time that Julie Clark of Portsmouth remembers hanging out there after high school with her friend Jill Callihan, a niece of the Bennetts. “What was really interesting was seeing how the nuns had lived,” said Clark, who attended the April auction, not tobid, but to reminisce. “The mirrors were all covered, I guess because the nuns didn’t use them. There were dents in the wood floor from where they knelt to pray.”

Clark also remembers having suspicions the house was haunted due to rumors that someone had committed suicide there in the home’s early years. “One time, we were in the chauffeur’s room, playing cards, and we heard footsteps and then a door slammed, but no one was there,” she said. “Doors slammed there pretty frequently, for no reason.”

Neighbors William and Anita Daehler, who’ve lived on Timlin Hill since 1954, don’t remember hearing any ghost stories about the house, but said they are pleased that the stately home will once again have a family living in it.

Earlier this year, Compass Community Health of Portsmouth expressed an interest in buying the property and converting it into a maternity ward for at-risk mothers, but abandoned the idea after being unable to obtain the necessary zoning ordinance.

The new owners, Trevor Copeland and Kara Garrison, have big plans for the place. First up, later this summer, will be their wedding. “We were planning to go to Scotland to get married, but we decided if we were able to buy this place, then we would do it here,” Copeland said.

In addition to wedding preparations, the couple and their three kids – two are 16 and one is 11 – are going to be busy with lots of renovations. The pool and gazebo require repairs, as do some leaky ceilings. The long, sloping driveway also needs quite a bit of attention. “We are anticipating having to do $100,000 to $150,000 worth of work to the property,” said Copeland, a systems analyst in Columbus.

Garrison, who is the curriculum director at South Central Ohio Educational Service Center in New Boston, Ohio, and is from the Portsmouth area, said she and her fiance fell in love with the home’s character and beauty, calling it a great mix of both of their tastes. It was clearly one of Portsmouth’s grandest homes inits day, she said, and “our goal is to make it fabulous again.”

Info:
To learn more about the home’s years as a monastery, visit www.stjosephmonastery.com

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Amanda Gilmore

Amanda Gilmore of Wheelersburg, Ohio, is a professional editor for Wastren Advantage Inc. of Piketon, Ohio. She spent 10 years as the community relations coordinator at Boyd County Public Library (another great place featured in this magazine more than once) and another 10+ before that as a writer and editor for The Independent in Ashland. She's a part-time teacher at Ohio University Southern, and loves to travel, eat and hang out with her two awesome kids, Pierce and Kate. You can contact her at ajosephinegilmore@yahoo.com.

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