By Thomas Johnson Hall
Crescentia C. Schriver bought the Avenel property from St. Xavier College, October 11, 1886, paying $10,000.00. (Deed Book 42, p. 236) St. Xavier had bought the 50-acre tract from James M. and Mary Southgate on May 18, 1870, paying
$18,000.00. (Deed Book 9, p. 193) The legal description is very complex, as the total tract comprised several separate parcels with quite irregular boundaries. (Plat Book 8, p. 30) I had believe all the property was an the North side of Ft. Thomas Ave., however, there is a record in Deed Book 98, pp. 599 & 600, recording a transfer of two lots from Crescentia and Henry Schriver to St. Andrew's Mission Trustees, H. A. Stegeman, Frank Bigstaff, and C. J. Helm, Jr. Price of each lot was $1000.00. This, of course, is the side of the present St. Andrew's Church, so that at least part of the 50-acre tract was on the South side of the street.
The St. Thomas Parish History states that the Jesuit Fathers of St, Xavier College acquired the property for use as a summer villa where the faculty of the college could recreate and spend some restful hours. A modest farm house on the property could accommodate eight or ten persons. An addition was made to the building in the form of a refectory and a private chapel. The first Holy Mass offered in St. Thomas Parish was offered in this little chapel.
Schriver family legend has it that the priests cultivated a vineyard on the property and made sacramental wine for use in local Catholic churches. When Henry Schriver acquired the property he took out all the wine bottles, full or empty, and smashed them. The original tract encompassed all the area now occupied by Avenel Place, Manor Lane and Glenway Avenue.
From notes made by Aunt Helen after conversations with Aunt Jessie (Justina Schriver, daughter of Henry), it was Henry's intention to occupy the building as his private residence. During renovation, while being painted, the building was totally destroyed by fire. Henry built his own home on what is now Manor Lane, and built the building we now know as the Avenel in 1894. Aunt Jessie eventually took over management of the hotel from her mother.
I have a clear recollection of the exterior of the building and the surrounding grounds. Aunt Helen and Jessie Lee have confirmed this and added additional details of the interior.
The 1895 Williams Directory lists the address of the Avenel as 39 Ft. Thomas Ave., and Crescentia Schriver as proprietor. Approach from the avenue was through two large stone pillars. A lane led up a slight grade to the hotel, a large red brick building with wide wooden porches facing the present Manor Lane and the Ohio River. Jessie Lee has suggested that the hotel may have been built with the same brick used in the construction of the Ft. Thomas Army Post, a project which Henry had under construction at the same time. There were two cottages in the pear orchard in the rear of the building. These were rented to special guests.
The entrance hall, which faced Manor Lane, was flanked by two large parlors, carpeted in red. Each had crystal chandeliers and large gold framed mirrors. Rising from the entrance hall was a wide staircase with a balustrade. Jessie Lee said it was ideal for sliding. The large public dining room was entered from the rear of the entrance hall. There was a large, hay window with a view of the orchard, and a big fireplace flanked by two windows. No food was cooked on Sunday. Cooking was done on Saturday and food served buffet style on Sunday. Dancing and card playing were also prohibited on Sunday. There was a small dining room for family and staff, a big kitchen and an office, also on the first floor.
I have not been able to find out how many rooms were on the upper floors, but l: surmise there were from 30 to 40 rooms.
A large meadow stretched toward the river, with a wide view up and down the Ohio. Near the end of the present Manor Lane was a large open pavilion used by the guests. In the hollow at the foot of Glenway Ave., was a pond surrounded by barns, a chicken coop and a pig sty. A large garden supplied fresh vegetables for the kitchen. Henry Schriver planted numerous fruit trees throughout the acreage. A large pond in a pasture owned by one Mr. Anderson, provided ice which was cut and stored in sawdust to provide ice throughout the summer. Anderson's pasture occupied all the land between Villa Place, Ft. Thomas Ave., and Grand Avenue. Buggies were available for use of the guests, as well as sleighs for use in the winter.
Family meals were taken in the private dining room of the hotel. Aunt Helen recalls that meals with the family were something of an ordeal. Henry read a full chapter from the bible, and followed it with a long, extemporaneous grace. Rather hard on a hungry kid.
Henry's home on Manor Lane was sold to his son George after his death. Later it was the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Brayton, and is now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Graves.
The reasoning for building a hotel of this size in what was the Fort Thomas of that time was not clear to me, but it was a very successful venture and occupation was high. Aunt Helen said there was a large vacation business with guests from Cincinnati and the surrounding area. Some guests spent the entire summer in what was then the country. There was also a good volume of weekend business with people from Cincinnati. Nick Longworth and his bride, Alice Roosevelt, were patrons until Aunt Jessie, outraged by their frivolities, suggested they would no longer be welcome.
On July 16, 1918, Marguerite K. Newland and George B. Newland bought the hotel and 14-4/10 acres. (Deed Book 118, p. 140.) The hotel was later used as a home for nurses on duty at the Altamont Hotel and Shelley Arms, which were convalescent homes for soldiers from World War I.
After this use, Mr. Newland lived there alone until about 1928, when the hotel was torn down and the property became an extension of Avenel Place.
Most of the information in this report has been drawn from the recollections of Mrs. R. T. Pothast (Helen Schriver) and Mrs. Clarence Kress (Jessie Lee Ware), granddaughters of Henry Schriver. Both played in the Avenel as children and lived close by as adults. I also used records at the Campbell County Court House, Newport, Ky., Williams Directories, and an excerpt from "A History of St. Thomas Parish, Golden Jubilee, 1902--1952" Page 5.
The New York Times, July 28, 1900
Kentucky Judge Restrains Landlady from Ejecting a Boarder
CINCINNATI, Ohio, July 27-The Case of Alice R Thoms of this city against Cresentia C Schriver, owner of the fashionable Hotel Avenel of Highlands Ky. for threatened eviction from the Hotel was heard today in Judge Hodge's court-Newport.
The defense maintained that the owner of a boarding house for substantial reasons may object to the presence of any guest, and furnished numerous authorities in support of his claim. He also filed an affidavit that the Avenel is a private family boarding house, and cannot be classed as a hotel; that the plaintiff Alice Thoms, is not a traveler, passenger, or wayfarer, but came to the Avenel for the express purpose of sojourning there.
Counsel for plaintiff held that after his client had been received as a guest she could not be excluded from the hotel. The motion of defense to set aside the order restraining Mrs. Schriver from ejecting Mrs. Thoms from the Avenel was overruled and an appeal to the Court of Appeals was taken. In the meantime Mrs. Thoms and her son remain at the hotel.
Return to Ft. Thomas Index