Somerset Hall (Closson House)

Somerset Hall is the second oldest home still standing in the city. The home was constructed in 1832 by George Kenner, a wealthy Louisiana planter who wished to have a summer home in the upper south. This was common among southern planters. Summers in the deep-south were very hot and uncomfortable. They could also be dangerous due to the many outbreaks of yellow fever and other diseases.

George Kenner purchased 42 acres of property and Elmwood Hall from his brother-in-law, Israel Ludlow Jr. On this property, the Kenner family built a grand home, which was named Somerset Hall. The home was designed to face the Ohio River and was built in the Federal Style with a central square plan. A 44’ long hall provides access to the four principal rooms on the first floor (18 x 22’ each). A detached kitchen, built to the south of the main structure, provided sumptuous meals for the family and their guests.

Every summer, the Kenner family traveled to present day Ludlow. They brought a number of slaves with them to act as house servants. Over the years, a number of Kenner’s slaves escaped across the Ohio River to freedom.

Kenner sold the home to Thomas Keevan of Cincinnati in 1852. Two years later, Somerset Hall was sold to Richard Clayton, another Cincinnatian.

In 1885, Asa Burton Closson purchased the building. The family lovingly preserved the original beauty of the structure. During the Closson era, Closson Court was constructed to the rear of the building. In c. 1890, an 11-bay, 120 foot long porch was constructed on the south side of the home facing Closson Court. At this time, the official main entrance was switched from the north side (Ohio River) to the south side. The small portico on the north side of the home was added in c. 1900.

The house remained in the Closson Family until 1925, when it was purchased by the Unity Lodge No. 478 F & AM. The Masons made a few modest alterations to the structure so it could be used for lodge purposes. A declining membership and the age of the building brought numerous challenges to the Unity Lodge. In the 1970’s, lodge officials began discussing the demolition of the hall and the construction of a modern lodge building. At this time, Unity Lodge member George Marksberry, wrote a number of articles concerning the history of the hall for the News Enterprise. Marksberry’s efforts were credited with saving the building.

More recently, the Masons sold the home to the Steve Chapman family.

Kenton County Historical Society Bulletin, June 1990; Local History File, KCPL; Cincinnati Enquirer, January 15, 1973.

 

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