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Behind the Building: Kofenya

<p>Ezra Bourne and his staff posing with the horses they care for. </p>

Ezra Bourne and his staff posing with the horses they care for. 

At the corner of West High and North Beech Street sits a building with a history of horses, hardware and hot drinks. Kofenya Coffee House, located at 38 West High St., is frequented by Miami University students and professors alike.

The building we see today was constructed at the turn of the century in 1900, but where the building stands was once one of Oxford’s first businesses. Ezra Bourne, a live-stock dealer, made his living there trading and taking care of horses until his death in 1909. 

The horse stable flourished for many years, with a picture of the original wooden structure dated 1897 showing men proudly showing off their horses directly outside.

There is also an original sign reading “E. Bourne. Livery and Feed Stable,” where the horses owned by people in Oxford would have been kept and cared for by Bourne. This was a vital business for the growing city, allowing it to accommodate both visitors and permanent residents.

Photo by Provided by Smith Library of Regional History | The Miami Student

Ezra Bourne's horse stable.

The Italianate-style building we know today was built soon after, presumably to accommodate the large number of horses. The architectural style is apparent in the symmetry of the building: the stepped gable front roof creates sharp angles and the red brick. 

Details of this style have long since been altered or removed altogether. The original brick is covered in stucco and painted white, the decorative trim has been removed from the gable roof and the copper awning on the first floor has been present since at least 1978. However, the small circular window and the curved tops of the other windows from the original design can still be seen on the second floor.

The building soon became the Oxford Hardware store, originally owned by William Umstead. Though it is unclear exactly when the store opened, we can get a rough estimate from Warren “Bud” Roudebush’s interviews about growing up in Oxford from 1920-30.

Roudebush worked at the store during his teen years meaning the store had to have been open by the end of the 1920s. Roudebush said that it “was an awfully important store in this essentially country town.”

The hardware store was later owned by Eldon Sizemore and Maurice Corso during the 1970s until it eventually closed. 

Finally, in 2004, Kofenya as we know it opened its doors. Owned by Kathryn Marsman, the coffeehouse has been a staple of Uptown for the last 20 years and even pays tribute to its long past with several historical photos of the building hung up inside.

So next time you get a coffee, take a look at the walls of the store and take a moment to appreciate the stores that came before.

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