Burns, Betty Remy 2006

Urban housing revivalist Betty Remy Burns graduated from OCW in 1956. Originally from Ft. Cobb, Burns received training in piano and music theory.

When she married in 1960, she joined her husband, Gerry, in Cincinnati and began revitalizing homes in their neighborhood. The Burnses started buying and restoring historic houses in their neighborhood in hopes of attracting new buyers. What began as a restoration plan for a house or two became a neighborhood-wide effort that resulted in Cincinnati’s premiere historic district. Over 10 years, they bought and restored 11 of 14 houses on their street.

Today, the East Walnut Hills Historic District has grown to include more than 160 homes built between 1890-1925, populated mostly by young professional families. The Burnses gained national attention in 1988 when they were featured in “Historic Preservation” magazine.

Burns received two bachelor’s degrees from OCW in piano and music education. She earned a master’s degree in music theory two years later from Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. She followed up with a doctorate of philosophy, music theory and musicology from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music in 1972.

By 1982, the Burnses had begun restoration on a derelict Victorian building built between 1840 and 1860 on the Ohio River. Six years later, they collaborated with the community council and the City of Cincinnati to develop a Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan. The plan culminated in 1992 with the city’s largest community plan to date.

Burns helped initiate a Parents as Teachers program geared toward single, unwed mothers. Nearly all the children involved have graduated high school and some are attending college.

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