Growing up Riverside, I was never much aware of the historical significance of so many of the homes. If so-and-so lived there it was their home and was not known by the name of previous or early owners. However, I did at some point become aware and now realize how much architecture makes Riverside what it is.
Let’s look at the Coonley Estate on Bloomingbank Road, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright around 1908.
Growing up we referred to it as the Kroehler estate. The Kroehlers, I believe, had something to do with furniture. At some point when the property was for sale there was talk of it being razed by a developer and the property subdivided for development, not a good idea.
While the property was subdivided and homes were built on the new, vacant parcels, the main building was saved, divided by a fire wall.
After the Kroehlers, there were more names to add to the list of owners. I am familiar with the Shepros; the James and Joan Dublinski family, who lived in the part of the residence on Scottswood Road and the Sahlas family who lived at the Bloomingbank address.
Owning a house of this significance can be a burden to owners. One resident told of people looking in their windows or knocking on their doors. It was not uncommon for requests to use the home for meetings and events, even though the owners were not eligible for membership in the organization.
So it was no surprise when the estate was granted national landmark status in 1971 that no one wanted the plaque to be affixed to their structure. Those of us on the Riverside Historical Commission settled the problem by placing a stone with the plaque in a small park on Scottswood Road.
A small dedication ceremony was held much to the satisfaction of the residents, since it prevented more intrusion on their home and property.
The estate has survived a fire, renovations, modifications and personal changes, some not to the liking of purists of Wright homes, but one thing is certain all owners have taken pride in ownership.
The story of the Coonley Estate continues with new owners being added to the list of those who have enjoyed owning a home of significance. While it is now always called the Coonley Estate, for those growing up Riverside it also is remembered by those we knew who lived in one of Riverside’ architectural jewels.