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SSRG is proud to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime job: renovating a Frank Lloyd Wright home. The Gerald B. and Beverley Tonkens House, also known as the Tonkens House, was built in 1957 in Amberley Village, outside of Cincinnati, Ohio.

exterior of historic Tonkens HouseSee another iconic structure in SSRG’s portfolio.

The current owners purchased the unique home in 2015. At the time, the home was thought to be in mint condition except for a small leak in the roof, which had been repaired in 2001. The owners prepared to address the leak by renovating the roof. They worked with Eric Lloyd Wright to create a plan.

In order to take the time needed to repair the roof correctly, the owners constructed a barn around the entire home to protect it from the elements as work progressed. Because this is a Frank Lloyd Wright house—the roof is no ordinary roof. The home is in the style of Usonion Automatic, and the entire home is built from concrete blocks. Even the ceiling. 

Exterior shot of the barn structure protecting the Tonkens house
A barn structure protects the Tonkens House during renovations

The owners’ first attempt at repairs ended in near catastrophe. It both exposed failures of the 2001 renovation, and caused additional damage to the home. After taking time to develop a new plan, the owners brought in SSRG. They found SSRG through HKC Roofing, who previously worked with SSRG on a complex roofing renovation. Meanwhile, the barn-like structure remained to protect the house.

Learn more about the work at Prince of Peace.

Innovation Around Original Intent

Working closely with the owners and with Eric Lloyd Wright, SSRG learned about the specific technique used to construct the concrete block ceiling. The original roof was built out of modular block units. The blocks were laid side by side with rebar placed in a gap between the blocks. Then, grout was poured in the gap to seal the blocks together. The rebar reinforced the structure. The final design features cantilevered overhangs, which limits on how much weight can be added to the structure when repairing and reinforcing. An engineer analyzed the original architectural plans them to figure out how much weight could be put on top of the roof.

Conventional reinforcement methods were ruled out. They weighed too much. Instead, SSRG decided on a bonded structural topping with a carbon fiber grid. The grid allows the team to get over the cantilevers, and provides reinforcement at an appropriate weight. The SSRG team also took time mixing trial batches for the concrete mix. They completed multiple test pours to make sure that all parties were satisfied with the quality and appearance of the mixture.

As of publishing, the team has poured about 50% of the topping slab on the roof. Work continues, with SSRG proud to leave their mark on yet another a local landmark.

Explore SSRG’s portfolio of historic preservation.