Section: Features

‘Red Wing’ house remains notable Gambier relic

‘Red Wing’ house remains notable Gambier relic

Photo by Jia He

Walking down West Brooklyn Street, away from Gambier’s college-town feel and into a lovely residential neighborhood, one house in particular stands out: the “Red Wing,” a home with a red-brick exterior, green shutters on the windows and a yellow alcove around the front door.

Florence Short has lived in Red Wing for 45 years, and appreciates the house’s connection with Gambier and Kenyon. As Short prepares to move to Vermont, however, a couple from California  will become the house’s new owners. The sale has been made and, according to Short, is due to be closed at the end of June.

“My children, grandchildren and friends have quite a lot of partying to do here before I leave,” Short wrote in an email to the Collegian.

William Tinsley, the architect of Ascension Hall and Quarry Chapel, built Red Wing between 1862 and 1863 for Marcus Tullius Cicero Wing. Wing, then-treasurer at Kenyon and a clergyman with Harcourt Parish, was the first of many Kenyon-affiliated people to call the house home. Before Short bought the house, Peter Reeves, late professor of English, and his wife, also named Florence, lived in Red Wing beginning 1910. During their time in the house, the Reeves filled the ground floor with books and turned several rooms on the main floor into libraries.

According to Short, Florence Reeves told people her husband “sold her into slavery to buy all his books.” Many of the books remain in the house.

The Reeves played an active part in the Kenyon community. According to Short, Florence Reeves liked to tell the story of the poet W. B. Yeats spending a night at Red Wing in 1914.      

After Reeves’s husband died in 1945, she continued living in the house until 1968, when she sold it to Short in an auction.        

“The College wanted to buy it, and I outbid them,” Short said. She did not say why the College wanted to buy the house, but speculated they wanted it to house faculty.

By the time of the house’s sale, the walls’ plaster had cracked and the wallpaper that remained had peeled and curled away. “It was in very bad disrepair when I got it,” Short said.

Within a year, Short had renovated the four-bedroom, three-bathroom house. She mended the plaster, added tasteful details to the molding and papered the walls with three different patterns that complemented one another. Short converted the entire ground floor, once a kitchen and library, into a bedroom, bathroom and sitting room.

Upon entering Red Wing today, visitors find themselves in a green-wallpapered foyer filled with natural light that leads them in one of three directions: a living room with an electric fireplace on the left side of the house, a library with a wood fireplace on the right side and a staircase to the second floor and ground floor.

The house is tastefully furnished: mahogany mail tables support oriental vases, and an iridescent copper-colored lamp hangs from the ceiling. Moving through the house, it is easy to see how Short has maintained the house’s “Victorian revivalism and eclecticism.” The hardwood floors are covered in Oriental rugs, and molding frames the windows and doorways.       

As Short plans her move from Red Wing and Gambier, it is unclear if the house’s style will endure; whether the new owners will choose to embrace the home’s refined ornamentation or take the décor in a new direction remains to be seen.

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