College Hill area circa 1900. The Ohio Military Institute in background is on Belmont Avenue, near Laurel Court.
Thomson's College Hill home, puchased in 1884, was to become the site for Laurel Court.
Demolition of the site and construction of Laurel Court began in 1902.
The Thomson's lived in The Oaks during construction of Laurel Court.
The Construction of Laurel Court
In 1884, Peter G. Thomson purchased a house and twenty three acres of land in College Hill. In 1902, that house was torn down and the land cleared to build Laurel Court on the same 23-acre site.
Prominent citizens of Cincinnati were drawn to this area for its rural
setting. College Hill was also the home to many elite schools and colleges,
which many wanted their children to attend.
The family lived in a home across the street, The Oaks, during construction. The Oaks still stands today as another College Hill landmark.
Laurel Court was constructed between 1902-1907. A written account by Peter G. Thomson states that the home was completed July 7, 1907. Laurel Court, designed by James Gamble Rogers, is built in the French Renaissance design of Le Petite Trianon, the Versailles France palace of Louis XVI and home to Marie Antoinette. The home was built on the highest elevation in Hamilton County (Cincinnati) facing due south.
To transport the enormous quantity of materials needed for such an undertaking, a railroad spur was constructed to the home site.
Structures on the site include the main home, two chateau-style cottages, and a large carriage house with a towering steepled roof. The buildings are connected by underground tunnels. The grounds feature a sculpted front lawn and garden, a formal French garden, a woodland garden, a Japanese garden and a swimming pool.
Laurel Court reportedly cost one half million dollars to construct, possibly more when including furnishings acquired on worldwide buying trips. The home occupies an area of approximately 100’x100’. That’s approximately 20,000 square feet on the main two floors, plus a basement and attic. Laurel Court has 36 rooms, including 8 bedrooms and 6 complete bathrooms with showers and porcelain bathtubs.
The home incorporated many advanced construction techniques of the time. The home was constructed with the most advanced fireproofing methods available. The construction is entirely brick, steel, concrete, limestone and granite. The only wood used in construction was the interior trim. The plastered walls and ceilings had a felt covering applied for acoustical value and reduced cracking. Electrical lighting was used throughout the home, a feature rare in homes built in this era. In fact, all electrical wire was run through rigid conduit inside stone walls and concrete floors, the difficulty of which modern electricians can appreciate. An elevator serves three floors of the home. Another uncommon feature was radiant floor heating on the first floor. The mansion is heated by hot water, with underground utilities serving each of the four main structures on the property.
Today, the historic buildings and gardens occupy 7.5 acres within the Cincinnati city limits.
Click here to read a report printed in the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, shortly before the mansion was completed.
Click here to read a later account of Laurel Court (1912) contained in the book “Queen City”.