Cincinnati was the first town in the American heartland with aspirations to equal the great cities of the East Coast. By the 1830 census Cincinnati, which had been settled in 1788, had already cracked the Top Ten of most populous United States cities and would remain there for the remainder of the century.
Along the way Cincinnati picked up a host of nicknames. There was the “City of Seven Hills” for the progression of protrusions between the Miami River and the Little Miami River in which the early settlers nestled. There was “Porkopolis” which the town earned in the 1830s when pigs roamed the streets and Cincinnati was packing more hogs than anywhere on earth. Most of the pork was shipped south to New Orleans and, in the days before railroads, sold in markets back up North.
The most enduring nickname was “Queen City” which arose in the mid-19th century as outsiders began to sing the praises of the Ohio River town. Even English author Charles Dickens who was miserly with his commendation of American cities on an 1840s tour wrote favorably of Cincinnati as “a place that commends itself...favorably and pleasantly to a stranger.”
Nothing remains 170 years later in downtown Cincinnati that Dickens would recognize but our walking tour will investigate if the spirt of his words lives on and we will begin at the city’s spiritual heart...
East 5th Street between Vine and Walnut streets
The square was originally deeded to the city as a market place and was proclaimed a public square in 1870. To hold title to the land the mayor of Cincinnati would come to the Square each year and purchase a flower from one of the women’s civic clubs located here at the time. The centerpiece is the Tyler Davidson Fountain that was dedicated in 1871. Funding was provided by Henry Probasco who was given a job in Davidson’s hardware store in 1835 at the age of 15. He later became Davidson’s partner and married his half-sister as the concern became the largest hardware business in Cincinnati and erected the town’s first freestone store. After Davidson died in 1865 Probasco traveled to Europe where he found Ferdinand von Miller in Munich who had years earlier designed a grand fountain with artist August von Kreling that had never found a patron. As a memorial to his mentor, Probasco commissioned the casting of the 42-foot bronze allegorical fountain. He added an additional four figures with animals that would act as drinking spouts, which Miller’s sons created. The fountain is turned-off for the winter months and turned-on again in time for the first home game of the Cincinnati Reds, which for decades marked the opening of the major league baseball season each spring.
THE LAGE RECTANGULAR BUILDING ON THE EAST SIDE OF THE SQUARE IS...
Fifth Third Bank
511 Walnut Street
The tallest building on the square is the 32-story International Style office tower constructed by Fifth Third Center in 1969. Now among the largest money managers in the Midwest, the financial institution traces its beginnings to 1858 when the Bank of the Ohio Valley opened its doors.
EXIT THE SQUARE ON THE SOUTHWEST CORNER AT THE INTERSECTION OF VINE STREET AND 5TH STREET. WALK WEST ON 5TH STREET.
441 Vine Street at southwest corner of Fifth Street
This was the tallest building in town when it was constructed in 1930 and held the title for 80 years. Until it was eclipsed by the Great American Insurance Tower the 574-foot tower made Cincinnati the only major league city in America to have its tallest building constructed prior to World War II. The Art Deco skyscraper rose over the grave of Joseph Thomas Carew’s office block. Carew was a Canadian transplant who came to America in 1869 at the age of 21 to join in the clothing firm of English immigrant Christopher Richards Mabley. Mabley opened a chain of haberdasheries across the Midwest and Carew became a manager and partner in the Cincinnati operation. When Mabley died in 1885, Carew was the sole proprietor. Mabley & Carew Department Store grew into a prominent downtown shopping destination before Carew’s death in 1914. This complex, with over a million square feet, housed the department store, offices and a hotel. You can get to the 49th floor to an observation deck and the most spectacular birds-eye view in the city.
35 West 5th Street
The Netherland Plaza was constructed in 1931 as the hotel part of the Carew Tower complex. It stands as the town’s highest hotel and one of the world’s finest examples of French Art Deco. Architect Walter W. Ahlschlager, who was coming off his triumphant Peabody Hotel in Memphis outfitted the Netherland with rare Brazilian rosewood paneling, indirect German silver-nickel light fixtures and soaring ceiling murals.
TURN LEFT ON ELM STREET.
205 West 4th Street at southwest corner of Elm Street
Cincinnati’s bustling garment industry was scattered around its traditional Third Street core throughout the 1800s. In a progressive concept at the turn of the century cities began attempting to centralize industries in single buildings. The 213,000 square foot, 12-story Textile Building was constructed for that purpose in 1906. Local architect Gustave W. Drach provided the plans in a Renaissance Revival style. Drach, a Cincinnati native trained at the M.I.T. School of Architecture, was one of the town’s most versatile architects with works ranging from elegant residences to large utilitarian structures.
TURN LEFT ON 4TH STREET.
137 West 4th Street
Samuel Hannaford, one of Cincinnati’s busiest Victorian architects, used red brick and limestone to create this Romanesque-flavored building in the 1890s. The heritage structure was completely renovated in the 1980s.
Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce Building
101-105 West 4th Street
The Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce organized in 1839 for the promotion of “mercantile interests.” After a peripatetic existence for many years the Chamber was ready to move into its own quarters in the 1880s. A design competition was staged with Henry Hobson Richardson of Boston, America’s foremost post-Civil War architect submitting the winning plans. Richardson died shortly after working up the sketches and never saw the completion of one of Cincinnati’s most important 19th century buildings at the southwest corner of Fourth and Vine streets in 1889. The landmark was destroyed by fire only twenty-two years later in 1911. In 1972 University of Cincinnati students collected 84 tons of carved pink granite salvaged from the Chamber building and constructed a monument in Burnet Woods. This Neoclassical incarnation of the Chamber home came along a block away in 1927.
15 West Fourth Street
George W. McAlpin opened his first store in downtown Cincinnati in 1852 and moved here in 1880. Over the years McAlpin’s spilled over into two adjacent buildings. One, constructed in 1859 by James McLaughlin who designed the Cincinnati Art Museum, was for the John Shillito Company and the other housed the Robert Mitchell Furniture Company. It was designed by James Keys Wilson. The George W. McAlpin Company was ensconced in the Renaissance Revival buildings by 1925 and remained in operation until the 1990s. The McAlpin has since been re-adapted for residential use.
1 West 4th Street
Cass Gilbert had some experience in building tall skyscrapers. His Woolworth Building in New York City was the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1913 and remains a Gothic icon of American architecture a century later. Gilbert designed this tower, that was topped off the same year, for the Union Central Life Insurance Company. It was the fifth-tallest building in the world and the second tallest building outside of New York City. Gilbert used fine-grained Vermont marble on the rusticated lower floors and white terra-cotta on the upper floors to fashion the 495-foot Neoclassical tower. During its reign as Ohio’s tallest building the tower was brown; it was painted white in the 1940s.
2 East 4th Street at northeast corner of Vine Street
The American Society of Civil Engineers has designated 254 landmarks around the world as Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks. There are only a handful of buildings on the list and the Ingalls Building is one of the rare honorees. Before its construction in 1902 the tallest reinforced concrete structure in the world was six stories high. Anything more than that, it was believed, would collapse under its own weight and instability. Melville Ezra Ingalls, who made his money in railroading, and his engineer Henry N. Hoper believed Ernest Leslie Ransome’s technique for reinforcing concrete with twisted iron rods could be used to construct higher buildings with the less expensive and fireproof concrete. For the 15-story Ingalls Building in 1903, exterior walls eight inches thick were used to construct the world’s first reinforced concrete skyscraper. The Beaux Arts Classical exterior is covered on the first three stories with white marble, on the next eleven stories with glazed gray brick, and on the top floor and cornice with glazed white terra cotta. When the high-rise was completed one newspaper reporter was said to have kept a vigil all night so as to be the first to deliver the news when the structure collapsed. But over 100 years later the landmark Ingalls Building still stands.
Fourth National Bank Building
18 East 4th Street
The Fourth National Bank was chartered in 1863 and moved into this handsome Daniel Burnham-designed home in 1902. The Chicago-based Burnham designed four skyscrapers in Cincinnati, all of which survive. The bank ,however, was placed in voluntary liquidation in 1923 and its assets absorbed by the Central Trust Company of Cincinnati. The heritage structure has been re-adapted into a mixed-use building with retail on the ground floors and living space above.
49 East Fourth Street at southwest corner of Walnut Street
This two-building complex was designed in 1921 by Frederick W. Garber to operate as a streetcar terminal, stock exchange and office building. The main ten-story north building was accessed through an exuberant barrel-vaulted entrance. The ornamental tiles were fabricated locally at the Rookwood Pottery that was founded in 1880, creating high-quality glazes of colors not previously seen on mass-produced pottery. Inside, an elaborate shopping arcade was decked out in marble and gold leaf.
Union Trust Building
24 East 4th Street at northwest corner of Walnut Street
Daniel Burnham, one of the fathers of the modern American skyscraper, took the train from Chicago to design four high-rises in Cincinnati and this was the first, in 1901. The building was the tallest in the city at the time and exemplifies the Chicago Style with its emphasis on function rather than excess ornamentation.
AT WALNUT STREET TURN LEFT AND WALK UP A FEW STEPS BEFORE THE SKYWAY.
414 Walnut Street
Forty-five local merchants and clerks, including future United States President William Henry Harrison, founded the Young Men’s Mercantile Library Association in 1835. Soon the founders raised $1,800 in subscriptions and bought 700 books which they located in the Cincinnati College building on this site. After the building burned in 1845 the Mercantile Library Association helped the college rebuild in exchange for a perpetually renewable 10,000-year lease. This 12-story brick building is the fourth structure on the site, erected in 1910. The lease, for the 11th and 12th floors, is still in effect with more than 9,998 years to run.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO 4TH STREET AND TURN LEFT, CONTINUING TO THE EAST.
105 East 4th Street at southeast corner of Walnut Street
Daniel Burnham built his tallest building in town in 1904. At 241 feet it lasted as the city’s tallest building until 1913. The tower was completed for the First National Bank but is best known for Ohio Clopay, a company that had started in 1859 as the Seinsheimer Paper Company, selling paper products and other related items. The name “Clopay” was developed in the early twentieth century as an acronym formed by the contraction of the words “cloth-paper.” Today Clopay Building Products is best known for their garage doors.
Cincinnati Gas & Electric Building
139 East 4th Street at southwest corner of Main Street
Local architects Frederick W. Garber and Clifford B. Woodward began their partnership in 1904 and were known around the area for their classically flavored buildings, especially during a burst of school building in Cincinnati. Here they teamed with John Russell Pope, famous for his Beaux Arts creations around Washington, D.C. which would later include the Jefferson Memorial, for the headquarters of the Cincinnati Gas & Electric Company in 1929. The Neoclassical tour-de-force is capped with an obelisk crown that is illuminated at night. The utility has gone through numerous name changes in the past 80 years but is still housed here.
The Great American Tower at Queen City Square
301 East Fourth Street at southeast corner of Sycamore Street
Cincinnati’s tallest building opened in January 2011, carrying a price tag of $322 million. The Great American Insurance Company began writing property and casualty policies in 1872. The building was actually financed by the Western & Souther Financial Group with financial roots reaching back to 1888. The architect, Gyo Obata, designed the 660-foot building to include a top inspired by Diana, Princess of Wales’s, tiara.
TURN LEFT ON SYCAMORE STREET.
250 East Fifth Street at northwest corner of Sycamore Street
Chiquita, the name that today is synonymous with bananas, began in 1899 as the United Fruit Company which was formed when a Boston fruit distributor hooked up with Minor Cooper Keith who controlled railroads and shipping in Costa Rica and the Caribbean. This world headquarters was constructed in 1985 and is supposed to look like a banana when viewed from the top. The building’s top originally functioned as a weather beacon, draped in differing colors depending on the forecast.
TURN RIGHT ON FIFTH STREET.
Cincinnati Masonic Center
317 East Fifth Street
The Freemasons began buying up property for this Neoclassical center in 1916. Architects Harry Hake and Charles H. Kuck put together the facility that includes the Taft Theatre in 1928. The lower half of the structure is composed of rusticated stone below a sextet of Ionic columns. Look up to see etched symbols of Masonry embedded in the facade.
ACROSS THE STREET, IN FRONT OF YOU, SPANNING THREE BLOCKS, IS...
The Procter and Gamble Company
Procter and Gamble Plaza
In 1837 the new brothers-in-law James Gamble and William Procter were in parallel businesses; both were buying animal fats from the great hog butchering centers of Cincinnati. The two men joined forces to form the Procter & Gamble Manufactory. Procter managed the office and sales and Gamble directed operations in the factory. In busier times they wouldn’t see each other until Saturday night when business notes could be compared. At the time 18 other local firms in Cincinnati were making soap and candles. Procter & Gamble gained a reputation for fair dealing - “Suppliers of fats and oils could take a signed order from Procter & Gamble and pass it along in lieu of cash,” reported one newsman - and by the Civil War the business was the largest in town. Shrewdly the partners planned for hostilities by buying rosin by the boatload at $1 a barrel. When war broke out and rosin prices leapt to $15 a barrel Washington authorities visited the Procter & Gamble plant. Impressed with the operation the partners were rewarded with an order to supply all Union encampments with soap and candles. A thousand cases of supplies a day rolled out of the factory. Each was stamped with a distinctive half moon and a cluster of stars stamped on the top to identify its contents for the many illiterate dockworkers and quartermasters. Procter & Gamble crates served as chairs and tables in Army camps and when troops scattered across the country after the war they knew the name and symbol of the Cincinnati soapmaker. The Procter & Gamble world headquarters began assembling in 1916 in the Duttenhoffer Building at 6th and Sycamore streets. The block-long Executive Headquarters came along in the 1950s and spilled across to the post-modern towers in the garden setting in the 1980s.
WALK TOWARDS THE TWIN PROCTER & GAMBLE TOWERS. AT BROADWAY STREET TURN LEFT.
Cincinnati Times-Star Building
There were Hannafords designing buildings in and around Cincinnati for the better part of 100 years. The patriarch Samuel Hannaford was born in Devonshire, England in 1835. He became the best-known and most prolific of the town’s 19th century architects with over 300 buildings to his credit, and perhaps more than 1,000, given the difficulty of documentation. This monumental complex was the masterwork of Hannaford’s grandson, Eldridge. Completed in 1933, the Art Deco limestone building has 16 stories and is awash in decorative flourishes depicting the printing and publishing businesses. Look up two hundred feet above the street to see corner pillars that represent patriotism, truth, speed, and progress. The Times-Star was the province of Charles Phelps Taft, brother of President William Howard Taft. Charles Taft, who was married to an heiress to a pig iron fortune, began editing the paper in 1881 and used the Times-Star to launch a media empire. The paper would be bought by the Cincinnati Post which ceased publication in 2007.
TURN LEFT ON 8TH STREET.
224 East 8th Street
This heritage commercial building is a prototypical example of the brick structures that once populated this Cincinnati East Manufacturing and Warehouse District. Built in 1903 on plans from Harry Hake, the 10-story high-rise was originally home to textile firms. It was taken out of commission in 1996 but dodged the wrecking ball to live on as apartment space.
Underwriters Salvage Corps Building
110 East Eighth Street
The Underwriters Salvage Corps began in 1886 as an organization to assist fire departments at the scene of a conflagration. As fire companies became more professionalized and sophisticated the Underwriters Salvage Corps evolved into a clean-up crew and was disbanded in 1959. This red brick Queen Anne Victorian structure dates to 1897 and was Station 1 of the Salvage Corps.
St. Louis Church
29 East Eighth Street
A Catholic church has stood on this site since 1847. This Florentine-styled building dates to 1928. For over 60 years the church staged a Printers Mass at 2:00 o’clock in the morning for the benefit of workers at the Cincinnati Enquirer a couple of blocks away on Vine Street.
AT VINE STREET, CROSS OVER INTO GARFIELD PLACE. LOOK TO YOUR RIGHT, UP VINE STREET, TO SEE THE TOWER OF...
1014 Vine Street
Bernard Kroger was making a good living selling sugar, coffee and tea on the road for the Great Northern and Pacific Tea Company before opening a small store with a friend. The Great Western Tea Company greeted its first customer on July 1, 1883. Two weeks later Dan, his delivery horse, was killed and his wagonload of goods smashed in a railroad crossing accident. Then one of Kroger’s brothers died and he had to assume funeral expenses. A month later the Ohio River overflowed and flooded the store. Yet, by year’s end the store was established with not a debt outstanding. Kroger bought out his partner for $1500 and by 1885 he was stocking four stores. In 1902 when he owned 40 stores and was the first grocery store to bake its own bread he changed the business name to The Kroger Company & Baking Company. In 1928 Kroger sold his shares in the company for $28 million. His life became one of golf in the morning and cards in the afternoon. When the market crashed he bought much of his stock back but retired from business for good in 1932. His last six years were devoted to philanthropic interests. When Bernard Kroger died in 1938 he operated 4,844 stores. This 25-story headquarters was erected in 1954 as the first major commercial high-rise building to be built in Cincinnati after World War II. No other important corporation settled so far - 10 blocks - from the Ohio River.
19 Garfield Place
In an architectural partnership that spanned more than half-a-century Rudolph Tieteg and Walter H. Lee worked basically in Beaux-Arts Classical and other traditional styles for institutional, commercial, and residential buildings. Here they took a side-step and provided the Cincinnati streetscape with one of its rare late Gothic Revival buildings in 1923. The eight-story brick building is faced with terra-cotta. It was the only place in town constructed solely to provide office space for physicians. Look up to see a small penthouse suite on the roof.
Cuvier Press Club
22 Garfield Place
In the 1800s Garfield Place was lined with fine homes. Most are gone a century down the road but this sparkling Italian Renaissance Revival residence from 1862 remains. Samuel Hannaford was the architect and Marcus Fechheimer, a wholesale clothier, was the client. The stone cube is wrapped in corner quoins and the front side windows are draped in elaborate window hoods. In 1938 the Cuvier Press Club, a social club created in 1911, moved into the residence.
Piatt Park Center/Cincinnati Club
30 Garfield Place at Race Street
This majestic limestone building began life in 1924 as a former hotel and private club. Its Neoclassical design came from the firm of Frederick W. Garber and Clifford B. Woodward. In its heyday the club offered members bowling alleys, billiards rooms, a Turkish bath and some of the finest dining in the city. The Cincinnati Club shuttered the building in 1985 and it has since re-opened as the Piatt Park Center.
TURN RIGHT ON RACE STREET.
812 Race Street
The Phoenix was built in 1893, and is Cincinnati’s finest example of Italian Renaissance architecture, compliments of architect Samuel Hannaford. It was originally known as The Phoenix Club, the first Jewish Businessmen’s organization in this region of the country. The winding Grand Staircase, crafted with imported German white marble, is considered to be one of the finest of its kind in North America. The Phoenix Club was purchased in 1911 by the Cincinnati Club, located around the corner on Garfield Place, as a sports annex. The building was closed in 1983 when interest in private clubs dwindled.
TURN LEFT ON 9TH STREET.
Saxony Apartment Building
105-111 West 9th Street at southwest corner of Race Street
In his long and industrious design career Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford demonstrated a facility in a wide range of Victorian styles and he seems to have pulled a bit out of most of them for this composition, completed in 1891. The five-story brick building features brick pilasters and projections, a three-story bay window on each side of the symmetrical main facade, semicircular balconies, and many stone pieces, such as pediments, keystones, and stringcourses. Hannaford gave both the narrow elevation on Race Street and the much wider elevation on 9th Street individual facade treatments. The Saxony was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 thanks to its well-preserved details after a century of occupation.
Brittany Apartment Building
100-104 West 9th Street at northwest corner of Race Street
Thomas Emory was the leading real estate developer in town in the 1880s when he constructed four large, ornate apartment complexes. Only two, the Lombardy and the Brittany, have survived to the 21st century. Architect Samuel Hannaford outfitted the six-story brick building with sandstone trim, brick pilasters and corbeling, massive chimneys and prominent bay windows.
140 West Ninth Street at northeast corner of Elm Street
This building began life as an Elks Club Lodge before Powel Crosley moved in during 1942. Cincinnati native Crosley came of age dreaming of building an affordable American automobile. At the age of 21 in 1907 Crosley began pursuing that dream in Connersville, Indiana with the Marathon Six but wound up finder greater success in inventing car parts. When his son asked him for a new-fangled radio in the 1920s Crosley was stunned by the high prices so he and his son built their own radio. Soon Crosley was mass manufacturing radios and started his own radio station. Crosley, who also owned the Cincinnati Reds, moved his WLW broadcasting operations here, powered by the country’s most powerful radio transmitter. WLW was truly “the Nation’s Station,” producing many hours of network programming every week, including the first “soap operas.” With the invention of television, Crosley Square became home to WLWT TV in 1948. For 57 years, hundreds of entertainers, star athletes, political leaders and celebrities passed through Crosley Square until the last broadcast here in 1999.
TURN LEFT ON PLUM STREET.
Cincinnati City Hall
801 Plum Street
The Cincinnati government has operated from this site since 1852. The first building here was demolished in 1888 and $1.6 million poured into its replacement. Architect Samuel Hannaford tapped the brawny Richardsonian Romanesque style that was all the rage at the time for American civic structures. Hallmarks of the style include multi-colored stone, powerful arches, prominent gables, turrets and a corner tower. The exterior stone was quarried in Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri and Indiana; marble for stairways and interior detailing came from Italy and Tennessee; and the granite for the columns was shipped from Vermont. It all came together in the four-and-a-half story confection with a nine-story clock tower that was dedicated on May 13, 1893.
Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral
325 West Eighth Street at southwest corner of Plum Street
Saint Peter in Chains was begun with the laying of its cornerstone on 20 May 1841, under the direction of then-bishop―later archbishop―John Baptist Purcell, and formally dedicated on November 2, 1845. Its six-stage spire, which soars to two-hundred and twenty feet above street level, was the tallest man-made structure in the city for many decades, and is constructed of pure white limestone.
Isaac M. Wise Temple (formerly the Plum Street Temple)
720 Plum Street
Built by members of the Lodge Street Synagogue and dedicated on August 24, 1866, the Plum Street house of worship is among the oldest synagogue buildings still standing in the United States. Architect James Wilson Keys tapped an architectural style that had emerged in Germany in the nineteenth century, combining Byzantine and Moorish styles, hearkening back to the Golden Age of Jewish history in Spain. It is believed only one other similarly styled synagogue still stands in America.
TURN LEFT ON 8TH STREET.
204 East 8th Street
Garfield Place was populated with multi-unit apartment buildings towards the end of the 19th century including the Saxony (1881), the Brittany (1885) and this 8-story picturesque building, the Norfolk, now the Waldo, in 1891. Prolific architect Samuel Hannaford blended classical elements and a Richardsonian Romanesque entrance with a French Chateauesque roofline to devise this confection. After a million-dollar makeover it continues to serve its original purpose as apartments.
Covenant-First Presbyterian Church
717 Elm Street at Eighth Street
Covenant-First Presbyterian is the heir of the heritage of both First Presbyterian and Covenant Presbyterian (formerly Second Presbyterian of Cincinnati) churches, which merged in 1933. First Presbyterian was organized October 16, 1790 in the cabin of its first pastor, James Kemper. The current Gothic sanctuary was dedicated on April 11, 1875, constructed of handcut stone from the quarries of church member Colonel Peter Rudolph Neff.
CROSS THE STREET TO GARFIELD PLACE AGAIN.
William Henry Harrison Monument
Piatt Park,Garfield Place at Elm Street
Brothers John and Benjamin Piatt donated this land to the people of Cincinnati in 1817. It was originally used as a marketplace, one of many so in 1868 the ground was dedicated as the city’s first park. It became Garfield Park after James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States and an Ohio native, was shot and killed after only 200 days in office. In 1940 the park was named for the donors and the surrounding area evolved into Garfield Place. At the west end of Piatt Park is an equestrian statue of the first United States President from Ohio, William Henry Harrison, whose home was just west of Cincinnati in North Bend. Harrison made his reputation as a general in the War of 1812 and an Indian fighter on the frontier. Elected as the 9th President at the age of 68, Harrison died of pneumonia after only 32 days in office - the only term shorter than Garfield’s. The bronze statue was executed by Louis T. Rebisso and sits on a granite base; it was dedicated in 1896.
TURN RIGHT ON ELM STREET.
Cincinnati Bell Telephone Building
209 West 7th Street at southwest corner of Elm Street
Architects Harry Hake and Charles H. Kuck worked together from 1915 to 1947, and saw a bunch of trends come and go. In the 1930s the Bell Telephone Company enthusiastically embraced the Art Deco style for its massive downtown switching stations and operations buildings around the country. Hake and Kuck put together this 14-story monolith for the Cincinnati Bell headquarters. Look up to see relief sculptures of telephones carved into the decorative limestone frieze.
TURN LEFT ON 7TH STREET.
southwest corner of 7th and Race streets
This was the residence district of Cincinnati until John Shillito moved his dry goods house from 4th Street to this location in 1878 where he constructed the town’s first department store and one of the country’s most extensive emporiums. The business had been started by Shillito and William McLaughlin back in the 1830s. The Shillito’s store was the first building in the city to be constructed in the Chicago commercial style and featured a grand, six-story Victorian atrium, modeled on Paris’ fashionable Le Bon Marche. James McLaughlin, son of the co-founder and Cincinnati’s premier Victorian architect, designed the new store. In the 1930s the landmark building was given the Art Deco facelift seen today by the F&R Lazarus Company which kept the Shillito name until the 1980s. The Art Deco shell was executed by George Roth with Pre-Columbian Mexican inspirations. Roth’s work became as admired as McLaughlin’s had been sixty years earlier.
704 Race Street at northeast corner of 7th Street
Coleman W. Avery, a member of a prominent and wealthy Cincinnati family, built a legal career in private practice and eventually wound up as the 85th Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio. Avery invested heavily in commercial real estate, including this building then known as the Commercial Arts Building. The properties returned little income during the Depression, sapping Avery’s financial position. In 1938, suffering from the effects of a recent heart attack and increased alcohol consumption, Avery murdered his second wife and committed suicide in his Cincinnati mansion. The Groton Lofts, with prominent arches on its rusticated base, have been cobbled together from two buildings. Look up to see some of downtown Cincinnati’s finest brickwork.
632 Vine Street at southeast corner of 7th Street
Harry Hake, who spawned a line of three generations of architects who would practice in Cincinnati for 80 years, added this Renaissance Revival building to the streetscape in 1909. Hakewas educated in Cincinnati and trained at the Ohio Mechanics’ Institute and the Cincinnati Art Academy. In the 1890s he worked as chief draftsman for three of Cincinnati’s finest architects in the last decade of the century - William Martin Aiken, Lucien F. Plympton, and George W. Rapp - before opening his own shop. This 11-story heritage skyscraper was the home of grocery magnate Bernard Kroger’s Provident Savings Bank & Trust Company, which later was called Provident Bank.
TURN RIGHT ON VINE STREET.
617 Vine Street
Fans of Dr. Johnny Fever, Les Nessman and Venus Flytrap and WKRP in Cincinnati will recognize this building as the home of the struggling fictional radio station from 1978 until 1982. The 14-story skyscraper was constructed in the 1920s for the Cincinnati Enquirer which had been running presses on this site since 1866. The newspaper moved from the limestone structure in 1992 and it has been redeveloped as residential space.
Palace Hotel (Cincinnatian)
601 Vine Street at northwest corner of 6th Street
When it opened in 1882, the French Second Empire-style Palace Hotel was the tallest building in the city and offered its most spectacular guest accommodations. Cincinnati’s go-to Victorian architects for major projects, Williams Trebilcock Whitehead and Samuel Hannaford provided the design. The Palace boasted 300 guest rooms and a shared bathroom at either end of each corridor. The lobby was appointed in rich walnut and marble and guests were whisked upstairs in one of Cincinnati’s earliest elevators. One hundred years later the tired hotel, re-christened the Cincinnatian a few decades earlier, was facing the wrecking ball but a $25 million facelift in 1987 converted it into a boutique guest house instead.
TURN LEFT ON 6TH STREET. AT WALNUT STREET TURN LEFT AND WALK UP A FEW STEPS.
609 Walnut Street
The Metropole Hotel opened in 1912 as one of Cincinnati’s grandest hotels, springing from the pen of busy local architects Joseph G. Steinkamp & Brother. The Metropole was where Cincinnati Reds’ star centerfielder Edd Roush first learned about the 1919 Black Sox scandal, in which the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series, giving the Reds their first championship. Like many of its big-city brethren the big hotel fell on hard times in the 1970s and was converted into low-income housing.
RETURN TO 6TH STREET AND TURN LEFT, CONTINUING TO WALK EAST TO THE NEXT BLOCK AT MAIN STREET.
northeast corner of 6th and Main streets
The Gwynne Building was developed in 1914 by Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt, daughter of Abraham Gwynne, a powerful Cincinnati lawyer and judge, and wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, grandson of the one-time richest man in the world. Alice had a penchant for using her money to construct lavish palaces; she built the largest private residence in an American city in New York and the standard bearer for Newport, Rhode Island “cottages,” The Breakers. In her hometown she retained New York architect Ernest Flagg to design this office building in his trademark Beaux Arts style. The Italian Renaissance flavor is carried on nearly every inch of the structure from the arcaded ground level up through the metal casement windows to the fanciful cornice. The Gwynne Building rose on the location of the first shop of William Procter, a candlemaker, and James Gamble, a soapmaker. Procter & Gamble leased space here when the building opened and then purchased the property in 1935. The soap conglomerate stayed until 1956.
TURN RIGHT ON MAIN STREET. TURN RIGHT ON 5TH STREET.
Potter Stewart United States Courthouse
100 East Fifth Street at northwest corner of Main Street
This is the town’s fourth Federal Building, created in the stripped-down classicism typical of government buildings during the Great Depression. When it was completed in 1939 the building was home to 51 federal agencies, an indication of how much the government had expanded. The 1885 building it replaced was built to harbor 27 departments. The block-swallowing building features limestone walls set atop a dark granite base. In 1994 the courthouse was named for Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart. Stewart’s father was a prominent Republican who served as a mayor of Cincinnati and later as a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court. Yale educated Potter Stewart came out of private practice to appointments to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and then the Supreme Court by Dwight Eisenhower.
432 Walnut Street at southeast corner of 5th Street
This is the last of the four Cincinnati towers designed by skyscraper pioneer Daniel Burnham, constructed in 1903 as the offices of the Cincinnati Street Railway Company. The 15-story building exemplifies the thinking of the day in erecting high-rises in the image of a classical Greek tower with a defined base (the over-sized ground levels), a shaft (the unadorned middle floors) and capital (the decorative upper floors).
WALK A FEW MORE STEPS TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT IN FOUNTAIN SQUARE.