Architect Abrom Dombar: 1912-2010

The beginning of this week witnessed the passing of local architect Abrom Dombar. It is possible that the name might not immediately leap into your mind. I assure you that if you are, or have been, a student of the culture of architecture in Cincinnati that the name, Abrom Dombar, has landed in your ear at some point. His accomplishments are briefly detailed below in a piece written by his family following his death.

The Original Design for the Sugar-N-Spice on Reading

Dombar’s name landed in my ear not too long ago because a coworker of mine owns & has been has been renovating a house that Dombar designed. Abrom Dombar was most productive during the era that we now associate with the term  ‘Mid-Century Modern’. A period in architectural history that is either vilified or lionized depending on who is doing the talking. I have a suspicion that Cincinnati has developed a kind of  aversion to ‘modern’ architecture over the years.  We have  a fair amount of highly published ‘contemporary’ buildings but the overall discourse appears to be limited to contemporary architecture or historical preservation and the city’s ‘modern’ heritage gets overlooked. I believe that my focus & interest in the architecture of the city of Cincinnati has been unnecessarily Over-The-Rhine centric. I know that I am not that the only person in the city that thinks that way either. In focusing so narrowly I have overlooked an era of architectural history in Cincinnati that is deep & rich with significance for today’s architects. I want to thank Chris over at Cincinnati Modernation for broadening my architectural horizons.

The following is a piece written by his family:

Abrom was born April 27, 1912, in North Vernon, Indiana, after his parents emigrated from Odessa, Russia (now Ukraine) in 1905. He graduated from Hughes High School in Cincinnati and attended the University of Cincinnati’s school of design, art and architecture before joining Wright and one other at the newly founded Taliesin Fellowship as a founding member in 1932. In Mr. Dombar’s second year of college, he was awarded the autobiography of Mr. Wright after being voted the most talented student of the year. Yound Mr. Dombar snuck into a speech being given by Mr. Wright where he learned of Wright’s dream to have a fellowship. It was months later that Dombar joined Wright, Edgar Tafel, William Wesley Peters and John Howe to establish the now-famous Taliesin Fellowship. As accounted in the book The Fellowship by Roger Friedland and Harold Zellman, Wright had wanted Dombar to take over the Fellowship at Taliesin when Wright retired, but Dombar chose to return to Cincinnati to begin his own architectural design practice. While at Taliesin, Dombar went on to live in Bear Run, Pennsylvania where he was the first foreman at Fallingwater, perhaps Wright’ most famous work. Abrom Dombar was a Lieutenant in the Army in WWII serving three years stationed in both France and Germany. During Abrom Dombar’s career as an architectural designer he created both commercial and residential properties, always staying true to his creative nature. Architecture may have brought Dombar some noteriety, but his real passion was as a family man. He was happily married for 67 years to Sarah Penso Varon, who passed away in 2007. He leaves behind a son David Dombar, daughter April Davidow, four grandsons and their wives, and six great grandchildren.”

Benjamin Residence

“Most persons back away almost immediately as soon as they hear the term ‘modern architecture.’ They get a mental picture right away of some flat or oddly-shaped house. That, however does not properly define organic, or modern, architecture. Modern architecture is a building to suit the climate, landscape, and various conditions and to have the house natural to the materials used.”

– Abrom Dombar, 1937

One Response to “Architect Abrom Dombar: 1912-2010”
  1. andreaslangeyaif says:

    Thanks for posting this. What a great talent. I especially like the subtle point mentioned in the Enquirer article about the comparison between Dombar and Strauss. While Strauss seemed to (and still seems to) consume the spotlight of local Midcentury Modern design, he did so by pleasing very wealthy clients. Dombar, however, focused on more “blue collar” efforts, less expensive jobs, and more elegant designs for everyday life. Nothing really captures this better than the image you posted for the “Sugar and Spice” restaurant.

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