Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Many Names of 1221 Vine Street

Where now there is a empty lot for parking, once stood a beautiful theater. This is a story of  "Lost Cincinnati", buildings that should still be with us, but are not...

Before the renumbering of streets in 1896, 1221 Vine was 437 to 441 Vine. The Williams' Cincinnati Directory in 1878 lists the Loewen Garden, a saloon at 437 Vine. But by 1880, this location (437 to 441) became the Coliseum Theater and Fred Buchmann is the proprietor. Another change in 1881 to Thomas E. Snelbaker as proprietor and then in 1882, the famous theater owner, Hubert Heuck is the proprietor.


Under the Coliseum Opera House name, a sad and historic even occurred on November 30, 1882. The play "Si Slocum" was  being performed by Frank Frayne and his company. In part of this play, Si has to shoot an apple off Ruth Slocum's head, backward over his shoulder using a small mirror. The part of Ruth was played by Miss Annie Von Behren (Frank's intended wife) and on this night, the shot that had happened perfectly many performances before failed due to a snapped spring in the gun. Miss Annie fell dead on the stage. Frank Frayne was taken to the police station where his $3,000 bond was paid by Hubert Heuck.(1) On December 2, Frank was cleared of a manslaughter charge. (2)

Hubert Heuck also owned the Heuck's Opera House at the corner of 13th and Vine, starting around 1878. In 1884, he renamed this theater the People's Theater and the Coliseum became Heuck's New Opera House.While the People's Theater played "Varieties and Burlesque" and eventually just burlesque, Heuck's New Opera House was presented as a "first class" house. (3) But in time, Heuck's played vaudeville and "blood and thunder melodramas and 'horse opera'"(4) and eventually high-class burlesque as well.

Peoples Theatre, 13th and Vine. While the theater portion of this building is gone, the front that was the lobby and saloon is now Venice on Vine, a pizza restaurant that gives on the job training to inner-city residents.  Credit
1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing both the People's Theater and Heuck's Opera House. Source

Hubert Heuck died in 1907 but his Opera House continued operation, run by his sons, until moving pictures became the fashionable entertainment. Over-the-Rhine was also beginning to change at this time, as German immigrants began moving up the hills and new immigrants from around the country and world moved in.


By the publication of the Williams' Cincinnati directory in 1931-1932, 1221 Vine Street became the home of the Rialto Theater, showing second-run movies. It remained until it was condemned and demolition occurred in 1959. It remains a parking lot today.


(1) New York Times, December 1, 1882
(2) New York Times, December 3, 1882
(3) Cincinnati, the Queen City, 1788-1912 Vol. 3
(4) Cincinnati: a guide to the queen city and its neighbors


  1. so I guess we need to make an adjustment to the story we tell at 13 and vine? how much do you know about the Lackman building?

  2. I will see what I can find on the Lackman building soon.

    I also just found a great resource on Herbert Heuck, written by one of his descendents, Robert Heuck II, called "Hubert Heuck and His Opera Houses". It's available from The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. There are some amazing sketches of the interior of the theater.

  3. At 13th & Vine, maybe the saloon,was there a place called Dermody?
    I have a silver semi square flat token that says "Good for 5 cent drink 'Dermody' 13th & vine".
    Looking to verify its origin. Thanks


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