Section: Features

A Kokosing Homecoming

A Kokosing Homecoming

photo by Henri Gendreau

By Nathaniel Shahan

In the dining room of the Kokosing House, a home perched on a hill above its namesake river, is an oval stained-glass window that lets tinted light into the room. Known as the “bishop’s eye,” the window was designed so its original owner, Bishop Gregory Thurston Bedell, could see the Church of the Holy Spirit from his house.

“He actually kept the trees trimmed … so he would have a really good view,” said Magic McBride, who owns the house with her husband, Don.

The house has a long history with Kenyon. It was completed in 1864 for Bedell, then dean of the Bexley Hall Seminary. Bedell would later raise funds to build the Church of the Holy Spirit and become the third Episcopal bishop of Ohio. (Philander Chase was the first.)

The Kokosing House was designed by William Tinsley, an Irish architect who emigrated to Cincinnati in the mid-1800s.

Tinsley left his mark on Gambier by constructing Ascension Hall. He also built the Knox County Infirmary in Bangs, Ohio. Buildings he designed are scattered throughout the Midwest, with a number at other colleges and universities, including Ohio Wesleyan University and Wabash College in Indiana.

Ascension, the Church of the Holy Spirit and Kokosing House all use Ohio sandstone that comes from the same local quarry.

Bedell lived in the house with his wife until 1889. When he retired, he donated the house to the College and returned to New York City.

According to the Knox County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Bedell intended the house to be the residence of Kenyon’s president, but its distance of approximately a mile from campus prevented this. The house was leased to the Episcopal Church until the 1930s, when Kenyon began using it as a residence for professors. Kenyon sold the house to the late Professor of English and former Kenyon Review editor Galbraith Crump in 1970.

The McBrides purchased the house in 1995, and the house remains connected to the College through McBride’s daughter, Lily Ann McBride ’17. In addition, Magic McBride is an adjunct professor in the music department.

The College has not been involved in the restoration of the house, but the McBrides have researched it extensively in the Greenslade Special Collections and Archives. The McBrides uncovered stained-glass pieces from the “bishop’s eye” and a portrait of Bedell in the basement of one of the academic houses on College Park Street. Kenyon agreed to donate these pieces back to the house. McBride believes the College likely removed both pieces for safekeeping.

McBride said some members of the Kenyon faculty were disappointed the College did not buy the house from the Crumps, as they believed it should have been used for faculty housing. While the McBrides have no intention of selling anytime soon, McBride explained the house’s deed includes a requirement that the College be offered the chance to make a bid.

Students entering Ascension today may wonder why some of the windows extend above the stairway landings, a feature also seen in the Kokosing House. McBride explained that this is a Victorian feature that allowed light to filter onto the stairwell in the days before electricity.

Though the house retains Victorian features, the McBrides did not simply want to fill the house with that epoch’s art and furniture. The house is furnished with many antiques, including a hand-carved chest from Normandy and a clay smoking pipe found in the yard. However, McBride said her family has blended elements of their former Art Deco house with the Victorian style of Kokosing House.

The McBrides have spent years restoring the house, stumbling upon original features such as bookcases and fireplaces while clearing out temporary remnants from when the house was subdivided into faculty apartments before the sale to the Crumps.

“It had been let go,” Don McBride said, “but nothing had been overtly damaged or painted over.”

Twenty years into their ownership, the McBrides may not be done with the Kokosing House, but they have indeed made every attempt to bring out the house’s beautiful historic qualities.

“We’ve really tried to stay true to the house in terms of what we’ve put in it,” Magic McBride said.


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