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If Walls Could Talk⁠—Ours Would Never Stop

 

The Taft Museum of Art (TMA) is one of the finest small art museums in America. Built around 1820, it is a National Historic Landmark, downtown Cincinnati’s oldest wooden residence still in its original location. The house was the home of several prominent Cincinnatians, including Martin Baum, Nicholas Longworth, David Sinton, Anna Sinton Taft, and Charles Phelps Taft.

The house was built around 1820 by Martin Baum, an early Cincinnati businessman, and purchased in 1830 by Nicholas Longworth. Longworth extensively redecorated the interiors and hired African American artist Robert S. Duncanson to paint eight landscape murals, which are now recognized as the most significant pre–Civil War domestic murals in the United States. The Duncanson murals are one of the Taft’s largest works of art, second only to the historic house itself.

After Longworth’s residency, the house was purchased by David Sinton, father of Museum co-founder Anna Sinton Taft. Anna lived in the house with her husband Charles Phelps Taft from 1873 until his death in 1929. In 1908, Charles Taft’s half-brother William Howard Taft accepted the nomination for U.S. president from the house’s portico, adding to its significance in our nation’s public life. The Tafts bequeathed their historic home and private collection of 690 works of art to the people of Cincinnati in 1927. The collection comprises European and American paintings by masters including Rembrandt, Hals, Goya, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Turner, Ingres, Whistler, and Sargent. It also features Chinese porcelains and European decorative arts, as well as one of the greatest Gothic ivory sculptures in America.

In 1932, the home opened as the Taft Museum of Art. In 1976, the house was designated a National Historic Landmark. Between 2001 and 2004, the Taft was renovated and expanded to include a special exhibition gallery, classroom, lecture hall, café, shop, and new work spaces. 

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