Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Dennison Hotel

I am so sorry for the bit of a sabbatical. I have been busy keeping up my Facebook page and researching for clients. However, it was recently brought to my attention that the Dennison Hotel building on Main Street with its iconic ghost sign was sold with the intent for possible demolition. So I was asked to dig into the history of the building to see when and why it was constructed.
Rearview of the Dennison Hotel building
Source - UrbanUp
The building was originally constructed in 1892 for the G. B. Schulte Sons Company. They were in the iron and steel business, making springs, axles, wood work, blacksmiths' and wagon makers' tools, carriage and wagon hardware, according to their listing in the Williams' City Directory. The company purchased the land in 1891 and demolished the prior two-story building.
1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
The address in the article is an error. It was the current address of the company, not the future one.
Cincinnati Enquirer; Nov 22, 1891; p. 10; ProQuest Historical Newspapers
This article also has a typo in the company name. There is no E. B Shulte's Sons Co. in the directories.
Cincinnati Enquirer; Mar 31, 1892; p. 12; ProQuest Historical Newspapers
The G. B. Shulte Sons Company remained in business at this location until 1930,when it evidently closed either from the Great Depression or the increase in sales of the automobile. In 1931, Globe-Wernicke Service Company and Kelsall-Voorheis Inc, both office furniture companies, announced they would be using the first three floors of the building. The rest would be converted into a hotel, originally called the Main Hotel until 1933, when it was changed to the New Dennsion Hotel. The original Dennison Hotel had been located at Fifth and Main Streets and was demolished in 1932.

Cincinnati Enquirer; 01/14/1931; p. 26

By 1940, only Kelsall-Voorheis Inc. and the hotel remained. The hotel became known as a place for affordable housing for the less fortunate. Housing rates in 1999 were $30.63 per day and $88.40 to 110.50 per week.

In 2011, it was announced that the building had been purchased by The Model Group and, with help from 3CDC and the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, the building would get a renovation to 63 studio apartments, but continue to serve as low income housing. Entitled the Ironworks Apartments, Talbert House was to provide supportive services for the residents and a storefront cafe for a place for residents to gain job experience.
Rendering of Ironworks Apartments - Soapbox Media
However, these plans did not come to fruition, and in July, 2013, the building was sold to CBD Holdings Inc. for $1,277,473. Just one month later, the building was sold again to the Columbia Oldsmobile Company for $744,431. There has not been a public announcement for the reasons for the sale, but word on the street is that the newest owner plans to demolish this building. Observers noticed this week that dumpsters were in place, but the workers at the building declared they were just removing leftover bedding and other items that could be a fire risk. The Cincinnati Preservation Association is aware of this possible demolition and have put it on their watch list.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

George F. Sands Montessori School

It was recently announced that the former George F. Sands Montessori School is to be converted into apartments for seniors. I decided to find out a bit more about the building and its history.

Construction was started in 1910, after demolishing the second school building to stand on this lot. The first was built in 1851 and was replaced in 1862 with a three-story building.
Built in 1862, this was the second school building. - Source
1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
1904 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Cincinnati Enquirer; March 31, 1911; p. 2
George F. Sands - Source
The school was named for George F. Sands, a long-time teacher and principal of the 14th District and First Intermediate Schools. He was also a baseball player, serving as president of the Buckeye Townball Club in 1863 and president of the National Association of Baseball Players in 1867. A large bronze memorial was installed on the building in his honor. Dedication of the school occurred on May 24, 1913, with former students as far back as 1864 attending the ceremony. The school was built to educate children kindergarten through high school.
The building became Sands Montessori in 1979, after several existing Montessori programs combined to create one school. While the building had maintenance issues, including crumbling terra cotta, windows falling out and peeling paint, it remained open until 2002, when the school moved to Mount Washington.

1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Google Aerial
The building was auctioned in 2012 and after remaining vacant, will become housing for seniors 55 years and older. TWG Development plans to convert the rooms into 65 apartments, including studios, one- and two-bedrooms. The auditorium, along with other structural elements will remain. Perhaps former students will now become residents, much like the former First District School on Liberty Hill.

Cincinnati Enquirer; May 25, 1913; p. 11
Cincinnati Enquirer; Sept. 5, 2001

Saturday, February 14, 2015

History of 412 Liberty Hill – School House Condos

A regular client of mine recently purchased a condo in this building and he wondered about the full history of the building. It is widely known that it was a school house, however he wanted to know what other uses the building had before its conversion to condos.
Annual Report, Volume 39 (Google eBook); Cincinnati (Ohio). Board of Education, Cincinnati Public Schools; 1868 – Cincinnati, Ohio
According to the Annual Report of Cincinnati Public Schools, written in 1868, construction on the school building began in November, 1866, after David Sinton sold the lot of land on Liberty Street. The architects were William H. Stewart and William Walter and the building was finished in August, 1868. The total cost of construction, including the lot, was $90,045.

The annual report includes a detailed description of the building:
This building is 66 feet wide by 112 in length all the exterior line of the walls; is four stories high above the cellar on the front and west sides, three stories high above the coal cellars, for two rooms in length, on the east side of the hall. It has six outside entrances; has one principal stairway from each of the main entrances, and one flight of stairs from the west side to the first main floor. The stairs are of iron, supported in the walls, and have neat hand-rails on each side. The building has 21 school rooms, and an office for the Principal. The front rooms in the fourth story can be thrown into one by means of a rising partition. The Janitor has three rooms. All the school-rooms, but the three in the basement, have wardrobes, which are entered from the rooms only. Two rooms marked" C," on the basement plan, are for coal and changeable furniture. There is a cellar beneath all but the two last named rooms. Seats are provided for 1,200 pupils.
The heating is done by JOHN GROSSIUS’ “New Patent School-house Stove,” supplied with a cold-air flue taken into the heater between the joists of the room, lined with zinc. Provision is also made for warming by "indirect" radiation by steam-pipe coils in chambers, or by furnaces. Each room has two flues, 8 by 16 inches, lined with tin, furnished with 10 by 16 registers, to convey the warm air, should this method of warming be used-one ventilating flue, 12 by 21 inches, in the walls, lined with flooring, and neat pannel work in the rooms, finishing on the roof with Emerson's ejecting ventilators. In the rooms these flues connect with platforms that have neatly perforated risers for the exit of the air at the floors in cold weather, and have sliding valves moved by cord and pulley at the ceiling of the room for the escape of the warm foul air.
Fourteen school-rooms have light from their two external walls, seven school-rooms have one outside wall, and receive the light from one side only. The walls from the bottom of the water-table are built with brick. The dressings and weatherings are of free-stone, cornice of galvanized iron; the roof is of Vermont slate, flashings of lead, lightning rods of copper. The plastering on the walls is finished under the float, and colored and blocked to imitate granite. The surface of the lot, inside of the fence walls, equals 1,700 square yards, and is paved with brick. The surface of the lot in the rear of the house is elevated nearly fifteen feet above Liberty street, and is reached by flights of stone steps, as shown on basement plan. - 
Annual Report, Volume 39 (Google eBook); Cincinnati (Ohio). Board of Education, Cincinnati Public Schools; 1868 – Cincinnati, Ohio
 The report also included the following drawings of the building:

1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
A fire occurred in the school on April 11, 1911, luckily during the lunchtime break and it was noted in the Cincinnati Enquirer article that few students were in the school at the time. All students and teachers who were in the building escaped without injury. The fire was suspected to have started in a defective flue and spread quickly because of the large ventilation shafts throughout the buildings. The shafts allowed burning embers to travel down to the lower floors and basement. One of the classrooms on the third floor fell down upon firefighters but all were uninjured, except for some cuts and bruises. The entire roof in the front of the building was destroyed along with six classrooms and estimates of total damage were $5,000 to $8,000. Classes continued in other parts of the building while repairs were underway.

In 1914, the Rothenberg School was ready to accept all the students from the First District School. However, the building did not remain vacant for long. It became the Boys' Special School, used for vocational training. In 1918, it was used to house soldiers training for World War I.
Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); Jul 25, 1918; pg. 9; ProQuest Historical Newspapers
Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); Sep 10, 1918; p. 5; ProQuest Historical Newspapers
The building remained as a vocational high school until the early 1940's. Various plans for the building were considered, including using it as office space for the Recreation Commission. In 1945, it was auctioned and conversion began into 24 apartments for veterans returning from World War II.
Cincinnati Enquirer; Dec. 1, 1945; Sec. 2, p. 1
Cincinnati Enquirer; Dec. 1, 1945; Sec 2, p. 1
Cincinnati Post; Apr. 20, 1946; p. 9
In 1978, the then-vacant building underwent conversion from apartments into condominiums as the Prospect Hill neighborhood underwent a renaissance, By 1980, the conversion was just about complete, after finding difficulties in financing the project.
Cincinnati Post; Apr. 4, 1980; p. 1B
The condos are successful today and some of the 1980 original buyers are still living there. It is a testament to how vision and hard work can turn around a vacant 100+ year old building into desirable housing today.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

South Side of Government Square - Then and Now

I came across this photo while researching for a client. I was curious what happened to this block of buildings. These photos come from the Hamilton County Auditor and were found not long ago by their office. They have done an amazing job of digitizing and making them public. Some are even tied to current parcel numbers on the Auditor's website.
South side of Fifth Street between Walnut and Main, circa 1966 - Source
These were such a great collection of classic architectural styles, but I wondered why they were demolished and what took their place. After doing some map hunting, I realized their location, on the south side of Fifth Street, between Walnut and Main. These buildings became a gated park for the Cincinnati Office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, which constructed their building at Fourth and Main in 1971.
Cincinnati Office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Hamilton County Audior
But why? The 1960's were a time of urban renewal throughout the country and this also impacted Cincinnati. Buildings like these above were considered outdated and unsuitable to "modern" uses of the Space Age. An article from the Cincinnati Enquirer shows how the city was divided into blocks slated for redevelopment. A 1962 city ordinance allowed for the use of federal urban development dollars to replace "dilapidated business buildings in blighted areas of Cincinnati ...with fine, new, privately-owned buildings, with the help of private industry" Source

While it is hard to determine the exact age of each of these buildings, all but one appear on the 1887 Sanborn Insurance Map. The following maps document the changes in the block for 127 years.

1887 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
1950 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
2014 CAGIS Property Maps- Source
A view of this block from the early 1920's
A view looking east on Fifth Street from Fountain Square, showing the change in the block.
And here is the view today, courtesy of Google Street View Maps:

Today, the preservationist realize how the urban development plans of the past allowed for the demolition of much of our city's historic structures. They work to develop a balance of recognizing the city's architectural past and the need for modern facilities. However, it seems a private park on prime central business district real estate was a mistake for the demolition of these structures.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Story of an OTR Tiny Row House

The owner of this home contacted me for the history in preparation of the first Over-the-Rhine Holiday Home Tour. This self-guided holiday home tour is the first annual fundraiser for Future Leaders OTR. So off I went to dig up some big information for this cute, little home.
Photo Source –
This tiny row house was built circa 1845 for Joshua Yorke along with the other five houses surrounding it. The original street name was Madison Street, named for the President of the United States. Other streets in the neighborhood were also named for former presidents. The street was renamed Magnolia in 1890, when it was determined there were too many street named Madison within the city, five in total.
These buildings were originally constructed as rental property by comparing the ownership information to the city directories. Mr. Yorke retained ownership until 1864, when he sold the entire strip (except for 217 Magnolia) to George Moessinger. In the same year, Mr. Moessinger sold 219 Magnolia to H. P. Seibel, who had purchased 217 Magnolia in 1858.
1887 Sanborn Insurance Map, property outlined in red - Source
Mr. Siebel was the owner and landlord of the home until 1873, when he sold it to Phillip Kling, who continued as landlord. The Kling family were the owners for 40 years, selling it in 1913 to Emelie Francis, who in turn sold it in 1920 to John Breier.
1887 Sanborn Insurance Map, property outlined in red - Source
In 1924, Mr. Breier sold the building to Arthur and Henrietta Kerber, who were the first owners to also make the house their permanent residence. They owned the home until 1951, when it was transferred to Henrietta’s son, Myron Carstens, and then back to Henrietta in 1954. Mt. Healthy Savings & Loan took ownership in 1965 and sold it the same year to George Gamzu and Max Szyka. In 1979, Upgrade Construction Company purchased the home and remained owners until 1994. Gladys O Neal took ownership in 1994 and sold it in 2005 to Paul Graves, who sold it to the present owner in 2013.

The tenants of the home for approximately 79 years had a wide variety of occupations. Starting with the 1849-50 city directory, the south side of the street had at least 11 families listed. It is impossible to determine which one lived in this home, but you can tell that it was a popular location to live. Definite residents start in 1853, with the previous address of 21 Madison appearing in the directory for the first time. Some of the occupations listed are piano manufacturer, editor of a German newspaper - The Cincinnati Freie Presse, teacher, tailor, foreman, blacksmith, engraver, printer, cutter, fireman, machinist and salesman.
Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); Jan 18, 1920; pg. 33
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Cincinnati Enquirer (1841 - 1922)
One newspaper article mentions the 1919 arrest of Bettie Reeves, a garment worker who was striking in the 1920 Garment Workers’ Strike in Cincinnati. While picketing with others, she tried to convince a  nonunion garment worker not to deliver coats made by nonunion workers.  Bettie Reeves was charged and convicted with accessory to robbery after one of her fellow picketers stole the coats from the nonunion worker. Clarence Darrow (the famous attorney from Chicago) represented Bettie in an appeal for a new trial in 1920, arguing her only intent was to prevent work being done by a nonunion worker and “robbery must include intent to take something of value.” Ohio Governor James M. Cox pardoned her on his last day in office in 1921. One wonders whether he’d have done so if he’d won the Presidential election months earlier. Cox lost the race to another Ohioan, Warren G. Harding, despite having future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as his running mate.
As can be expected in Over-the-Rhine, the first residents came from primarily Germany, according to the census records for 1850. In 1860, the tenant and his wife were born in Virginia. Owner H. P. Seibel, born in Bavaria, did live for a short time at this house, but primarily lived next door at 217 Magnolia. By 1920, the demographics of Over-the-Rhine were changing to new immigrants from the southern states. In the census for this year, the residents were born in Kentucky.  This remained the same for the 1930 and 1940 censuses as well.

This tiny row house has been lovingly updated by the present owner, who added her own touches to this little house with lots of history.



The following photos were taken by Mikki Schaffner after renovations were completed this year.