The owner of a historic Dayton mansion, once the residence of James M. Cox, is willing to give it away to the right buyer.

Historic Dayton mansion Gov. James M. Cox once lived in could be free to a new owner

New owners wanted who can take on a major restoration challenge to turn home into ‘showstopper.’

The owner of a historic Dayton home — once the residence of James M. Cox — is willing to give it away to the right buyer. 

This home at 815 W. Grand in Dayton, was leased by James M. Cox from 1905 to 1911 with the stipulation he would paint and decorate it and install a first-class hot water system and build a stable for the home. The current owner is searching for someone to donate it to. LISA POWELL / STAFF

The Cox Mansion, built in 1905 near the intersection of Grand and Salem avenues, is part of a neighborhood of sprawling houses once home to Dayton’s elite. Cox lived there from 1905 until he moved to Columbus to become governor in 1913. 

 

This home is not to be confused with Gov. Cox’s estate, a sprawling mansion and grounds known as Trailsend, at 3500 Governors Trail Road in Kettering. That home was built in 1916-1917 and was Gov. Cox's primary residence until his death on July 15, 1957.

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Governor Cox was founder of the Dayton Daily News and eventually launched Cox Enterprises, which includes Cox Media Group products including WHIO.

>> 7 things to know about James M. Cox

An open porch on the third floor of the Cox Mansion, topped by a polygonal tower, offers view of the surrounding neighborhood. LISA POWELL / STAFF

“If they are the right buyers, they can get a free house,” said Fred Holley, president of the Dayton View Historic District, who is overseeing the search for a new owner. “It is very fair to say this is rare or has never happened before in Dayton.” 

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ABOUT THE MANSION

Built in a combination of Queen Anne and Shingle styles, the mansion is a unique structure all the way around. 

The first-floor exterior is made of granite boulders precisely fitted together. Above, shingles that swoop down and curve — a design to help water run off the sides — circle the second story. 

An open porch on the third floor, topped by a polygonal tower, offers view of the surrounding neighborhood. 

Inside, the original unpainted woodwork still exists on the first floor and the hard wood floors have been protected by carpeting. The multiple fireplaces are also intact and have “beautiful mantles,” Holley said. “It has the potential to be a real show-stopper.” 

A view from the front door of the interior of the home at 815 W. Grand Ave. which was once the home of James M. Cox before he became Ohio governor. LISA POWELL / STAFF

The home was used by Hawes Realty for nearly 30 years until the owners retired. It sat vacant for seven to eight years until a buyer from upstate New York purchased it last year. 

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WANTED: A NEW OWNER READY TO TAKE ON A MAJOR RESTORATION

The new owner didn’t realize he bought a home in a historic district and didn’t have the resources needed for renovation. He told Holley if he could find someone to take the property, he would donate it. 

“I told him I would certainly take the challenge on,” said Holley, who also sits on Dayton’s Landmarks Commission, which is responsible for oversight of the city’s historic districts. 

“We are looking for someone to restore it, and our priority is for it to be owner occupied,” Holley said. “We want someone who can demonstrate they have the resources available to them to do a true restoration on the exterior at least.” 

Holley said the mansion needs “major, major” work including a new roof, heating and air conditioning, updated electrical work and new kitchen and bathrooms. 

The first-floor exterior of the Cox Mansion, 815 W. Grand Ave., is made of granite boulders precisely fitted together. LISA POWELL / STAFF

“I estimate to do the basics you’re probably talking about a minimum of $120,000,” Holley said. “But given the fact the owner is willing to give it away at no cost, I believe the house would be significantly higher in value when finished.” 

The neighborhood would welcome a cottage-style business, for example an office for a doctor or architect, whose owner would live in the home and “have some skin in the game.” 

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Holley said there are numerous benefits to encourage someone to take on this restoration challenge. “You’re not going to find better neighbors than we have here, and they would be the owners and caretakers of the Cox Mansion.” 

Holley said he’s had almost a dozen inquiries about the home in recent days. Anyone interested in the Cox Mansion can contact Holley at fwholley@gmail.com.

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