Sunday, September 7, 2014

Secrets in Those Brick Walls - 815 Elm Street

I stumbled across this pretty house a few months ago at the suggestion of a reader and I thought it must have been a prominent person's house. I had no idea the stories this house would hold!
Google Streetview, 2012
The Hamilton County Auditor dates the building from 1876, which seems like a good date based on the Italianate style of the architecture. However, this lot had been bought, leased and sold many times before that date, so another structure was probably here before this building was constructed.
Index to 1st Series (1789-1859); Deeds, Leases, & Mortgages; Hamilton County Recorder
The city directories also verify that others lived at this address before 1876. The address before the city-wide renumbering of 1896 was 297 Elm Street.

1839-40
Fitzpatrick, John (0) Cabt-mkr, res, Ws Elm bet 8th and 9th.

1849-50
Phelps Allen E. bowling saloon, s. s. 3d b. Walnut and Vine, h. w. s. Elm, b. 8th and
9th

1853
Bennett Joseph B., agt., 297 Plum (?)

1860
RINGGOLD Fred,, (E, G, Webster & Co,) 297 Elm

1865
Mork Jacob, dry goods, h. 297 Elm

1870
Quinn H. livery stable, s. w.c. Gano and Lodge, h. 297 Elm

1875
Quinn Harry R. clk. s. w.c. Lodge and Gano, bds. 297 Elm

Quinn Hugh, Iivery stable, s. w. c. Lodge and Gano, h.297 Elm

1887 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Around 1876, the lot was purchased by Kate Bennett. Miss Bennett, also known as Kitty, had a quite a reputation in the city, even before she purchased and perhaps had this house built on Elm Street.
The Cincinnati Daily Enquirer; Nov 22, 1869; pg. 7

As you might imagine, this house on Elm Street gained the same reputation. In the 1880 Census, Kitty Bennett is listed as keeping an assignation house, which a quick Wikipedia search revealed was a "more formal, legal and euphemistic term than the synonymous "house of ill repute". Multiple stories can be found in the newspaper archives about incidents involving Madame Bennett and/or her "inmates". 
Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); Sept. 27, 1879; pg. 12
Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); Feb 6, 1885;pg. 8
By 1885, Kittie had "retired" from the business and a new proprietress had taken over, keeping the same last name of Bennett:


1885 City Directory
Bennett Blanche, h. 297 Elm
Freeman Myrtle, bds. 297 Elm (also mentioned in the article above)
Gray Lottie, bds. 297 Elm

Moulton Geo. butler, 297 Elm

Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); Jul 23, 1890; pg. 8
The practice of keeping the Bennett last name with the house of ill-repute continued with Jessie Bennett in 1890 (see above article) and Mabel Bennett in 1895. By 1900, Mrs. S. C. Murray operated the "resort" as it was called in the newspapers until 1911. 

1910 City Directory
Anderson Lula bds 815 Elm
Courtney Helen bds 815 Elm
Davis Josie bds 815 Elm
Hayes Hazel bds 815 Elm
Murray Mrs S C h 815 Elm
Sanders Ada bds 815 Elm
Spillman Minnie bds 815 Elm
Walker Eugenia bds 815 Elm

In 1910, the Enquirer recalled the days of Kitty Bennett, when it was revealed she had died in New York and her name was really Mrs. Helen Smith. A murder had occurred in 1885 in the alley next to the house but Madame Bennett never told what she knew of the story.

Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); Apr 14, 1910; pg. 9 - Click to enlarge

By 1912, the house had lost its ill-repute and became a boarding house. In 1915, 18 people listed this house as their home address. Renting furnished rooms continued into the 1940's and beyond.

1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source

By 1986, the house had a restaurant on the first floor, known as Audrey's Silver Fleet, known for home-cooked meals. However, they closed in 1990.
Cincinnati Magazine; January, 1988
In 1991, CafĂ© Dunderfunk, a coffee house opened but by 1995, Merl's Eatery had taken over for the next year. In 1996, Aralia, a Sri-Lankan restaurant opened and remained there until at least 2001. In 2005, the building was converted into five condominiums, as they remain today.
1968 - Hamilton County Auditor; Building is on the right.
2005, Hamilton County Auditor

2011-2013, Hamilton County Auditor


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Fairview Park and the Home of Isaac J. Miller

I went for a drive to Fairview Park to check out the scenic overlooks when something else caught my eye.
Along Fairview Park Drive - Digging Cincinnati History
This appeared to be pretty old and not made for the park, so I decided to do some "digging" into the history of the area.
1869 Titus Atlas - Source
This map shows the area in 1869, when what is now Fairview Heights had been just started to be developed. The land where the park is today was originally owned by Colonel John Riddle, who served in the Revolutionary Way and came to Cincinnati in 1790. After his death in 1847, a subdivision of the land he owned was created in 1855.

Original Plat Map from the Hamilton County Recorder Office
Click to enlarge

Original Plat Map from the Hamilton County Recorder Office
Click to enlarge.
When the subdivision was platted, streets were added, including Fairview Avenue. At this time, McMicken Avenue was called Bates Road and Browne Road.

In the early 1860's, Isaac J. Miller and his wife Martha N. Miller purchased Lot 219 from Samuel M. Riddle, the youngest child of Col. John Riddle. They built their home on this lot and also made other land investments in the area, including two parts of Lot 218.
From the "Fairview Heights Souvenir", June 1895 - Source
Isaac J. Miller was a well-known lawyer, starting his practice in 1856 and also served his city in various positions. At the time of this publication, he served as one of the Police Commissioners and he also ran for Mayor of Cincinnati in 1894, losing to John A. Caldwell. He also served on in the Board of Councilmen, serving as president in 1874.

From the "Fairview Heights Souvenir", June 1895 - Source
Mr. Miller also fought for streetcar access to Fairview Heights, and was the celebrated champion when Route 23 and the Fairview Incline opened in 1894, allowing easier access to the neighborhood.
Cincinnati Enquirer; Jul 2, 1894; pg. 8
From the "Fairview Heights Souvenir", June 1895 - Source
Isaac and Martha had four children, Isaac, Jr., who became a doctor, Martha, Hester and Edith. Mr. Miller passed away in 1910 at the age of 77, after battling diabetes and gangrene. Mrs. Miller died in 1913 at the age of 75 after a fall at friend's home. Their estate sold the home on Fairview Avenue to Edward H. Hoffeld around 1914.

Edward H. Hoffeld was a manager and then became the president of the Ferdinand Dieckmann Company, sheet metal manufactures. In 1940, he sold the house to his brother, who rented out the house. Amazingly, the house still stands today and is currently rented as a multi-family house!
2367 Fairview Avenue - Tim Jeffries
From the "Fairview Heights Souvenir", June 1895 - Source
So what about that "spring house" on Fairview Park Drive? According to an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, this opening went to a wine cellar:
The cellar belonged to Isaac Miller, who operated a tavern on the hillside and also who was a prominent political figure. In it was kept the wine his patron sipped while admiring the view. The old house was bought with one of the 58 parcels that went to make the park, all for approximately $67,000 and totally 31.126 acres. The Fairview incline traversed a part of what is now the park, doubtless transporting many a guest to the old tavern. - Cincinnati Enquirer, June 20, 1937
Cincinnati Enquirer, June 20, 1937; pg. 6
1914 Topographical Map of Cincinnati - Source
This shows the road the went from Fairview Avenue to the location of the wine cellar and tavern.
And the house on the hill that may have held the tavern was located behind the house on the same parcel, but no longer stands today.
1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Amazing to think the main house has stood on its Fairview hill for over 150 years. If walls could talk, what great stories it could tell!


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Arch Street Houses

In recent news, it was announced that the Lytle Park Historic District had come up for renewal after being in existence for 50 years. Western and Southern Financial Group, who owns many of the buildings within the district, asked for the removal of several of the buildings from the renewal plan. The district with new boundaries was approved on June 18, 2014.
Cincinnati.com, May 26, 2014
This blog highlights the buildings on Arch Street, now removed from the district and are expected to be demolished in the future by Western and Southern.
While the Hamilton County Auditor dates these buildings from 1880, 1860 and 1865, the dates are actually quite different.

The house on the left above is 425 Arch Street. The building was actually constructed around 1870 after the lot was purchased by Henry Werry from Laura Wiggins. See the 2nd Series Index below from the Hamilton County Recorder.
Jacob Guelich had purchased Lots 10, 11 and 12 from the United States, who was the owner of this subdivision.

1887 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
The buildings outlined are 421, 423 and 425 Arch Street from left to right.
The Werry family built their modest brick home and lived there from 1870 until the death of Henry's wife, Elizabeth in 1913 at the age of 84. Henry, who was a blacksmith, passed away in 1875 when he was just 45 years old.
1870 United States Census, showing the Werry and Guelich families living at 425 and 429 Arch Street.
By 1920, the home was owned by William Farrell, who lived there with his mother. They rented furnished rooms in other buildings that they owned. In 1925, John Gibbons, a watchman, lived there with his wife Mary, who continued living there after John's death. It was then purchased by William and Francis Miller, whose family sold it to Western & Southern in 1990.

423 Arch Street, by Bob Schwartz
This home at 423 Arch Street was not the first building on this lot. It appears from evidence found in the city directories that there was another structure here that served as a boarding house from approximately 1857 until 1868. The lot was purchased from Henry Werry by Joseph J. Gest in 1869, who owned the house on Third Street directly behind this lot. Gest sold the lot just two years later to J. G. Hendricks. This is the family that built the house that stands today.
The Cincinnati Daily Enquirer; Sept. 9, 1871; pg. 3
John G. Hendricks was born in Germany in 1814 and came to the United States around 1844. He had a successful tinning business on Front Street which was continued by his son George. In 1880, John owned a gentlemen's and furnishing goods store at Gilmore's Landing. George and his wife Elizabeth had eight children, however three died in childhood and two sons died in roofing accidents. John passed away in 1891.
Cincinnati Enquirer; Dec 9, 1891; pg. 4
Elizabeth lived in the home until her death in 1907. Her estate sold the house to Joseph Falloni, who owned a fruit stand at Pearl and Vine Streets. Falloni had arrived in the US from Italy in 1874 and rented rooms to Julia Castellini and her two children. The building was sold in May, 1921 to Harry Falone, who in turn sold it to Carrie Farrell just one year later. With new ownership, the Castellini family moved out and the Farrell's lived here with Frank Mitchell and his wife until the Mitchell's purchased it in 1929. They continued as owners until 1978. It was purchased by Arch Street Associates in 1986 and Western & Southern in 1997.

1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Some interesting features here include the University Club, 2nd District Police Station (1910), Guilford Public School (1912) and the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History (present day site of parking garage). The former carriage house at 421 Arch Street is marked as a private garage.
421 Arch Street, by Bob Schwartz
While the Auditor dates this blue building from 1865, it took its present appearance around 1911, when it became a funeral home, run by William Fuldner. Prior to this, it was a carriage house, quite possibly built in the 1860's. Fuldner ran his business here until his death, when his son Howard took over until 1978. It was then sold to Arch Street Associates in 1982 and Western & Southern in 1997.

One last bit of information on Arch Street. Why is it named Arch Street? Here is an explanation from 1961.
Cincinnati Post & Times-Star; Sept. 20, 1961; p. 21
More on Fort Washington and its connection with the Lytle Park Historic District will come in another post!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Before Davis Furniture - 1119-1123 Main Street, Over-the-Rhine

1119-1123 Main Street - Source
While most people associate the deteriorating building on the west side of Main Street between Central Parkway and 12th Street with the Davis Furniture Company, the history of the building goes further back than the business' arrival in 1939. Davis Furniture was founded in 1902 and had a store on Sycamore Street until 1931, when they moved to the now-demolished Jefferson Hall at the southwest corner of 12th and Main.

So what businesses did occupy these buildings before Davis Furniture and just how old are they? I went off digging to find these answers.
1869 Titus Map - Source
Parcels outlined in red show where the building stands today.
I started with the old maps available on-line to find the old addresses of the buildings. You see, while we think today of the Davis Furniture Building as one, it is actually two separate buildings. I took a look at maps from 1887 and 1891 from the Sanborn Insurance Company. They used these maps to show the construction materials used in the buildings and noted any special equipment that could help or hinder firefighters. These were then used to estimate premiums for policy holders.  These maps are such a valuable resource that open clues to the past.
1887 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
453, 455. 457 & 459 Main Street outlined in red.
As noted above, these buildings were once address 453 & 455 Main for present-day 1119 Main and 457 & 459 Main for present-day 1123 Main. These maps also show that the buildings standing today were also there in 1887, giving at least a starting date for construction. The Hamilton County Auditor dates 1119 Main at being built in 1870 and 1123 Main build date as 1865. These dates come from old tax records and are a good starting point but not always accurate.

1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
This map was updated annually from 1904 to 1930, with any changes added to the original map.
1950 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
2014 CAGIS Map - Source
The maps give clues about addresses and some information about building uses over time. However, for further information, I then looked through the city directories available on-line with the Public Library. I found one of the addresses in the 1856 Directory:
Kiesewelter Gottfried, (Holzgrefe & Co.)  bds. 453 Main
Lutz Hy, bar. k. 453 Main

Lutz John, cof. house 453 Main
However it seems both buildings weren't completed. Perhaps they were both under construction, since the 1857 Directory shows much more activities at the four addresses:
Holzgref & Co., (William H.& Godfrey Kiecsewetter), mer. tailors, 453 Main

Mueller Jac., lock smith, 455 Main
Mueller v., turner, 455 Main
Siglog John, lab., 455 Main
Bleuler Adolph, paper hanger, 455 Main
GOTTMANN PHILIP, Manuf. and Imp. Paper Hangings, 455 Main
Heuke Chas.H., tailor, 455 Main

LUTZ JOHN, Coff. and Boarding House, 457 Main
Haack Geo.,bar. k., 457 Main
Jung Dar., bar kpr., 457 Main
Lutz Hy., bar k. 457 Main

By 1860, it is clear these buildings are fully occupied by both businesses and tenants:
Flachs Mrs. Mary, embroidery, 453 Main
Goerentz F., portrait painter, 453 Main
Holzgrefe Wm., tailor, 453 Main
Mueller Mrs. M., laundress, 453 Main

GOTTMAN  PHILIP, Paper Hangings, 455 Main
Gester Christian, cab. mkr., 455 Main
Wichmann Geo., painter, 455 Main

KREUZBURG & NURRE (Peter M. K. & Joseph N.) Publishers, Booksellers and Binders, 457 Main and 21 Green
NURRE Joseph, (Kreuzburg & N.,) 457 Main
Vonder A. I. , clk., 457 Main
Von Lint Lambert, bk. binder, 457 Main

LIEBLERT & SON, (Thomas L. & Nicolaus L.) Furniture, 459 Main
Reis Nicholas, grocery ,459 Main
Wempe Jos. A., clk., 459 Main

1890 City Directory Ad for Arnoldt's Doll Manufactory - Source
I typically search the directories every 5 to 10 years, matching up with the census records when possible. I found that the Nurre family, who were book publishers, lived one of the two buildings for over 37 years. Here is a look at some of the businesses at this location over the years:
1870
Osteroth A. F. mer. tailor, 453 Main
GOTTMAN  PHILIP, Importer of Paper Hangings and Window Shades, 455 Main
Piening J. H. furniture, 457 Main
Abel Henry, grocery, 459 Main
Lake B. mer. tailor, 459 Main, h. 23 Woodward

1880
Osterroth August F. mer. tailor, 453 Main
Gottmann Philip, wall paper, 455 Main
Piening J. H. furniture, 457 Main, h. 59 Western Av

1890
ARNOLDT M., Manufacturer of Dolls and Dealer in Toys, 453 Main; Residence, 118 Undercliff Av
Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. 455 Main (& addtl locations)
Boettcher Fred, tailor shop, 457 Main, res. Deer Park
Main Street Furniture Co., H. Franke, manager, 457 Main
Volkerding John C. cigar manuf. 457 Main, h. 59 Western Av

1900
Lynch L. G. propr. Star Shoe House, 1119 Main, res. Norwood
BREWER THOS. E. , Ice Machine and Electric Engineering a Specialty; Satisfaction Guaranteed on all kinds of Machines, 1121 Main
Dine Philip, propr. Dine's Furniture House, 1123 Main, h. 744 W. 7th
Ruboll Henry, tailor, 1123 Main, h. 2725 Scioto
DINE'S FURNITURE HOUSE, Philip Dine, Proprietor; I. M. Helwitz, Manager; Manufacturers and Dealers in Furniture, Carpets, Stoves and Household Goods, 1123 and 1125 Main
Weddendorf Henry W. tailor, 1125 Main, h. 2574 Fenner

1910
Lynch  L G prop Star Shoe House 1119 Main res Norwood
DINE'S FURNITURE HOUSE, Philip Dine, Proprietor; Dealers in Furniture, Carpets, Stoves and Household
Goods, 1123 and 1125 Main

1920
Star Shoe Market Co 1119 Main
Eisendrath Clara (wid Nathan J) millinery 1123 Main h 832 Cleveland Av
Army Store Geo G Wuest mgr 1125 Main
Biederman Reinhart cigarmfr 1125 Main h 2151 Vine

1925
1119 Canfield Piano Co (The)
1121 Unger Harry ladles' apparel
1123 Apple J W threads
1123 Guarantee Shoe Store
1125 Zitzas Chas restaurant
1125 (2d fl) Biederman Reinhard cigar mfr
1125 (3d fl) Brockton Shoe Trimming Co

1930-31
1119 Bragg Shoe Stores
1119 Maiorano Vincent tailor
1121 Unger Harry ladies' apparel
1121 Bateman A G paperhanger
1123-25 Cincinnati Merchandise Co (The) wholesale notions
1123 Mesh's Ready-to-Wear ladies' wear

1935
1119 Frankel Shoe Co
1121 Cummins Fannie E ladies' ready-to-wear
1123 Gordon Nathan furniture

1940
1119 Siegel Marvin B men’s furngs
1123 Davis Furniture Co

For a complete list of all the tenants and businesses, check out this document I put together. The directories didn't identify the owners of the building though. So I checked through the Cincinnati Enquirer articles, also available from the Public Library, and found this:
The Cincinnati Daily Enquirer; May 10, 1871; pg. 3
The building now addressed as 1119 Main Street was for sale in 1871. Then I found this mention of the Nurre family:
Cincinnati Enquirer; Jan 3, 1873; pg. 3
These dimensions and names clearly matched up to the directory information and show that the Nurre family did indeed once own 1119 Main Street. But what about 1123 Main? I decided to dig into the Hamilton County Recorder's records.

The original parcel of land bounded by present-day Central Parkway, Walnut Street, 12th Street and Main Street is called Outlot 26. William McFarland purchased the whole outlot early in Cincinnati's history and subsequently sold pieces off over the years. He divided some into a subdivision, noted in the 1869 Map towards the beginning of this blog post. Another early Cincinnati real estate investor, John Riddle, purchased lots 9, 10 and 11 from McFarland. These remained in his estate until part, including 1119 and 1123 Main Street, were sold to investors, Francis Fortman and Miles Greenwood, who in turn sold them to Joseph Nurre. Nurre purchased them around 1857. Here is an image of the index books, which show the progress of these properties' ownership from 1857 until 1937.
Hamilton County Recorder Series Index Books
As you can imagine, researching in this depth takes time, but now we have a clear picture of these two buildings and their 157 years on Main Street. David Davis and his family eventually purchased both buildings and had his well-know business here for many years, even through the riots of 2001. After his death in 1963, his sons Bertram and Milton took over the business, but business and the health of the owners decline, and in 2004, Davis Furniture closed.
Cincinnati Enquirer; June 18, 2004; pg. A1&A14
According to the recent Cincinnati Enquirer article, the building was sold after David Furniture closed and repairs to the roof were poorly done, allowing water to seep into the buildings. Over the last 10 years, the buildings have suffered from neglect. Scott Stough, owner of the Hanke Building just across the street, purchased the buildings in May, 2013, but found the building in need of many repairs. The Stough family had recently asked the Historic Conservation Board for permission to demolish the buildings. Much outcry has come from the community to keep the buildings, as they contribute to the historic district of Over-the-Rhine. It was recently announced by the Cincinnati Preservation Association that the Stough's have decided to list the buildings for sale.
Here are some pictures of the buildings from the Davis Furniture era, as posted by VisuaLingual:







These are from The Writing on the Walls blog:




Hopefully a new owner can breathe life into these buildings, which have seen so much of Over-the-Rhine's changes over their 157 years of existence!