Monday, June 25, 2012

Lost Cincinnati - The Albee

There are times when I wish I was born about 2 decades earlier so that I could have seen buildings in Cincinnati that are lost to memory and pictures. When I see what the Albee theater once was, it is one of those times.
For those unfamiliar with the Albee, a brief history:
Design by Thomas Lamb, noted architect of many vaudeville and film theaters, The Albee was completed in 1927 at a cost of $4 million. It was considered the best of all the "movie palaces" in Cincinnati. It was located on the south side of Fifth Street, across from present-day Fountain Square where the Westin Hotel is.
Source -
The Albee received its name from the builder, E.F. Albee, noted vaudeville theater owner and a relative of the playwright, Edward Albee. The theater held 3,500 seats and the first film to be shown was "Get Your Man", starting Clara Bow. Live shows were also part of the Albee's schedule but this waned in the 1950's. Films still played until 1974.
Source -

While efforts were made to save the theater, the Albee met its demise in 1977 to make way for the Westin Hotel. Luckliy, portions were saved, including the organ which went to the Emery Theater and then to Music Hall. The iconic marble arch on the front of the building was eventually incorporated into the Convention Center.

I stumbled upon these great photos while researching another building and I just had to share. Most of these were taken from slides owned by the Cincinnati Preservation Association and digitized by UC's DAAP.

Demolishing the Albee
Demolishing the Albee
Proposed design by UC students that incorporated the Albee arch

The Albee arch at the Convention Center - Source
I hope to follow up in a few days with articles about the Albee from the local newspapers. This one is a recent and great read - Albee Theater Set Standard


  1. This is an oustanding blog! I was just downtown yesterday doing the "tourist" thing with my girlfriend and talking about the old Albee! Rich in history and so sad that they couldn't incorporate the arch into the Westin. It seems like we were not so interested in perserving and highlighting these locations as we are today. I wonder what happened to the neon sign. Nevermind....I think I can guess. :-\ Passing your blog on to other people I know who would appreciate it!

  2. Really enjoyed reading your RKO Albee blog! I have great regard for this old theater & so little is written about it. My husband & I saw many movies at the Albee when we were dating in the 1960s & we were in awe of her fabulous interior architecture every time we went there. The staircases & restrooms alone were worth the price of admission! Our last visit was on December 7th, 1967 to see "Our Man Flint" starring James Coburn. Afterward, my then boyfriend was sworn into the US Navy & left Cincinnati for basic training. We were so saddened when they tore down such a rich piece of Cincinnati history. :-( What on earth were they thinking!?!

    1. Oops! Make that December 7th, 1965! lol..

  3. I had the delightful pleasure of seeing/being in the Albee theater when I was a child. My mother took me to see The Sound of Music there I believe the year the movie came out in 1965. I was only 9 years old then, so although I remember how huge and pretty the theater was inside, I was sadly too young to totally appreciate it's magnificent beauty and splendor. It was sadly torn down just 3 years after my high school graduation, but being a teenager, I still didn't appreciate it the way I would in my life now, but my memories of it and so much of Cincinnati (my birth city and home for 35 years before moving to the South), are memories I now cherish more than I have words to express. I had bought a large marble floor tile back around that time and was told it was 1/4 of a full square pattern and from a building downtown that was being torn down. I am now wondering if it may have been from the Albee. It is a predominately greyish white background with green and black design lines running through it. If anyone reading this might know where a floor tile like this may have come from, I would love to know. It is currently in storage or I would share a pic of it.

  4. When I was a little boy we saw The Music Man there. There was an intermission and people walked out on to the Square to smoke!!