Monday, August 27, 2012

The Aragon Theater(s)

This week's blog post returns to requests from Facebook followers. Bill asked about the Aragon 2 Theater at the corner of Wheeler and Warner Avenues in Fairview Heights. I found out with a bit of sleuthing that Bill also happens to own this building, so I am sure he has been very curious about its history.
Source - Google Street View
If you look carefully at the photo above, you can see the "ghost" lettering "ARAGON 2" on the left of the building. Well at least Bill knew it was a theater, so I went off hunting for more information on Aragon Theaters, knowing there had to be at least a number 1.

While the Hamilton County auditor dates the building above as being built in 1937, it was actually opened as a theater in 1916. The first Aragon Theater, located at 2108 Vine Street, opened in 1913 with Frank Wendelstein as the proprietor.

By 1919, the Aragon Theater chain, then run by William Gervers and J E Strietelmeier, had expanded to five locations:

No 1 - 2108 Vine (Mount Auburn, present-day Rothenberg Academy)
No 2 - sw corner of  Wheeler and Warner (CUF, photo above)
No 3 - 1829 Elm (Over-the-Rhine, present-day New Prospect Baptist Church)
No 4  - sw corner of Warner and Flora (CUF, present-day Fairview Baptist Church)
No 5 - 1136 Belvedere (Mount Adams, now converted into condominiums)

In 1922, there were just four locations under the Aragon name run by William Gervers and in 1924, just the theater at Warner and Flora remained open until 1935.
Enquirer Sep 3 1922
221 Warner Street - 1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
The subject above, Number 2, became an auto repair shop in 1923. Number 1 on Vine Street became a church for a while and then a union Hall. It was eventually demolished for the Rothenberg Academy.
The Cincinnati Post February 5, 1955 p20
Number 5 at 1136 Belvedere first opened in 1914 as The Belvedere Amusement Parlor and after clsoing as a theater, was used over time as a restaurant and storage for WLWT, television station. In the 1970's it was once again operating as a movie theater as the Mount Adams Cinema, showing art and independent films. It closed in 1979, mainly due to a lack of parking. Another story was added to the top of the building and it was converted to condos. Source
The Belvedere - Hamilton County Auditor
So now the stories of the Aragon Theaters have been discovered, all due to a "ghost" sign left on a building from years gone by.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rawson House - Clifton Avenue

While browsing through pictures of Cincinnati homes, this home at 3767 Clifton Avenue caught my eye.
3767 Clifton Avenue - Source - Kevin LeMaster/Building Cincinnati
This home is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Rawson House. I went off to discover just who the Rawson's were and how they came to own such a beautiful home.

My search turned up that the Rawson family was not the first owner. In a newspaper article from 1982, it states that the home was built in the early 1850's but it did not state who that owner was. Jacob Lloyd Wayne, Jr first listed his address as this home in Clifton in 1868. J.L. Wayne, Jr, owned a very successful hardware business with his father, J.L. Wayne, Sr.
1869 Titus Map - Source
Just nine years later, the home was sold to Joseph Rawson, Jr. (1850-1927). He was also employed in a family business, the Cincinnati tradition of pork packing, along with his father, Joseph Rawson, Sr. (1808-1891), who was born in Massachusetts. The Rawson family traced their family line back to Edward Rawson, who first arrived in the United States in 1637.

The following biography was written about Joseph Rawson, Jr. in 1912:
Joseph Rawson, vice president of the First National Bank of Cincinnati, was born in this city December 18. 1850, a son of Joseph and Mary W. (Richards) Rawson. He was educated in the public schools, passing through primary and intermediate grades until he qualified for the Woodward high school, from which he was graduated in 1868. His collegiate course was pursued at Harvard, where he was graduated in 1872 with the degree of A. B. He then returned to Cincinnati, becoming connected with his father in the pork-packing business. The firm of Rawson & Sons consisted of Joseph Rawson, Sr., Warren, Edward, and Joseph Rawson, Jr. After the death of the father the business was conducted by the three sons, of whom Warren died in 1898. A few years before the death of his father Joseph Rawson. Jr.. became his successor as a director of the First National Bank, which office the father had filled from a short time after the organization of the bank until his retirement. In 1893 the subject of this review was elected to the vice presidency of the institution and has since devoted his entire time to his banking interests, his efforts being a potent element in extending the scope of the bank and placing its affairs upon a most broad and safe foundation.
In the year 1876 Mr. Rawson was united in marriage to Miss Lucie Russell, a daughter of John and Mary S. (Ryland) Russell, both of Cincinnati, and they have seven children. The record of Mr. Rawson needs little comment for it is familiar to his fellow townsmen among whom he has spent his entire life. - Cincinnati, the Queen City, 1788-1912
1922 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Around 1900, Middleton Avenue made its way through the Rawson land that once was more than 50 acres. In 1923, Joseph Rawson along with other members of the family donated part of the estate to create the Rawson Woods Bird Preserve. After his death (1927) and the death of his wife Lucie in 1938, the home remained in the family with their daughters Bessie, Martha, Marjorie and Gwendolyn living at the residence until their deaths in 1944, 1956, 1956, and 1973, respectively. The entire Rawson family is buried at Spring Grove Cemetery.

1950 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
In the map above, you can see that another part of the Rawson estate was developed into the Rawson Woods subdivision, known for its modern architecture such as the Boulter House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1956.

After the death of Gwendolyn in 1973, the heirs of the Rawson family, J. Rawson Collins, Allison Bishopric and Warren Woodward, had the home added to the National Register of Historic Places. Then, in 1982, with the help of the Miami Purchase Association (now the Cincinnati Preservation Association), the home was sold. (Update - In 2013, the home was sold to the present owners).

Below are the United States Census records for 1880, 1900-1940. If you ever wonder why I do not post the 1890 census, it is because it was burned in a fire in 1921. I find census records immensely useful and interesting.  I hope you found this story of 3767 Clifton Avenue interesting as well.
1880 US Federal Census
1900 US Federal Census
1910 US Federal Census
1920 US Federal Census
1930 US Federal Census
1940 US Federal Census

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How The Streets Got Their Names - Hyde Park

While I was researching a home in Hyde Park for a client, I saw on a map from 1869 some names that looked familiar.
Click for a larger view. 1869 Titus Map - Source
As you might be able to tell, I had to take two maps and splice them together to get a better view of the area before it was called Hyde Park. In 1869, it was part of two townships, Columbia to the north and Spencer to the south. Observatory Road, then called City Road, was the dividing line.

Starting with the blue box on the left, you can see the name Grandin and the road of the same name to the right. Grandin Road is named for Phillip Grandin:
Philip Grandin was an early resident of Cincinnati. He arrived in the city in the first years of the 1800s. He owned several hundred acres of land near modern-day Grandin Road in Cincinnati. The road was named in Grandin's honor. He was a real estate speculator and sold much of his land for a great deal more than he had originally paid for it. He also partnered with John Piatt in a bank as well as a steamboat business. By the 1870s, Grandin's former land had become one of the finest and wealthiest neighborhoods in Cincinnati. - Source
Moving directly to the right, the purple box had the name, J. Edwards. Jonathan Edwards was a Spencer Township pioneer from the early 1800's and the namesake for Edwards Road.
Stettinius Home - Oatfield; Hamilton County Auditor 1999-2003
Above J. Edwards in the green box is J.L. Stettinius. John Longworth Stettinius was the son of John and Mary (Longworth) Stettinius and the grandson of the wealthy Cincinnatian, Nicholas Longworth. The Stettinius home, called Oatfield, still stands at 3264 Stettinius Avenue. John L. Stettinius' grandson, John Longworth Stettinuis II, was a lawyer and one of the founders of the firm, Taft, Stettinius & Hollister.
It is seldom that men who have opportunities in the business world, turn from these and take up a labor that has its root in a life of humanity and a desire for continuous helpfulness toward others. Such, however, was the record of John Longworth Stettinius, who not only brought to his position as president of The Children's Home of Cincinnati, splendid executive ability and a spirit of enterprise, but a love for the unfortunate little ones of the world that made of his work a success. Mr. Stettinius was a member of one of the prominent old families of Cincinnati, being a grandson of Nicholas Longworth and a son of John and Mary (Longworth) Stettinius, of Washington, D. C. He was born at the home of his grandfather, Nicholas Longworth, on Pike street, in Cincinnati, August 15, 1832. His youthful days were passed in this city, where he attended the Brooks school, while later he became a student in the Miami University at Oxford, Ohio. He served as a member of the commission to rebuild the courthouse, but never sought to figure prominently in public affairs. His activity centered in those interests which seek to ameliorate the hard conditions of life for the unfortunate. He was an Episcopalian and served for many years as vestryman and senior warden of the Church of the Advent in Walnut Hills. Mr. Stettinius was in hearty sympathy with the benevolent spirit of Masonry and on the 10th of June, 1870, was made a Master Mason in Kilwinning Lodge, No. 356, F. & A. M., of Cincinnati. On the 3d of April, 1871, he became a Royal Arch Mason in Cincinnati Chapter. No. r, and in December, 1870, and January, 1871, he took the degrees of the Scottish Rite, including the thirty-second in Ohio Consistory. On the 13th of November. 1873, he became an honorary member of Supreme Council, A. A. S. R., thirtythird degree, and on the 22d of September, 1881, was made an active member. Social pleasures had their part in his life. He belonged to the Union Club of New York city and to the Queen City, Country and Cincinnati Golf Clubs.

On the 15th of June, 1854, in Cincinnati, he wedded Eloise B. Olmsted, a daughter of Henry Olmsted, and they became parents of two children: Mary Longworth, who became the wife of James Handasyd Perkins; and Henry, who married Mary Burnet Foster. - Source
In the white box on the north side of present day Observatory Avenue, is R. Shaw, for whom Shaw Avenue is named. Robert Shaw was a doctor who immigrated from near Belfast, Ireland. He died in 1884 and is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.

The orange and yellow boxes are related, as the came from the original parcel owned by Henry Morten, namesake of Morten Avenue. In the orange is John Morten and Thomas H. Morten, sons of Henry. In the yellow is C.B. Cryer, for Charlotte B. Morten Cryer, daughter of John and is how Cryer Avenue received its name.
Henry Morten and Mary, his wife, came to America from Amersham, which is twenty-six miles from London, England, together with their sons, Henry, John, Joseph, and Richard. They had another son, Thomas, who was the eldest of the family. Coming west from Baltimore in wagons through an almost unbroken wilderness, they located in Cincinnati in the spring of 1809, but preferring farm life settled in Mt. Lookout in the fall of the same year. The son, Henry, married Catherine Armstrong, second daughter of John and Tabitha Armstrong, and settled in Mt. Lookout; they had eleven children: Henry (who was for many years a resident of Covington; he was in the tobacco business before his death, which occurred in 1890; he removed to Mt. Lookout); James, William, Edward, Aaron, Richard, Tabitha and Catherine, all living at the present time. John was married in Baltimore to a distant relative, Nancy Morten, and came to Mt. Lookout to reside; eight children were born to them, of whom four are now living: Mary, Mrs. Sam Leeds, of Mt. Lookout; Mrs. Cryer; Andy, and John. John died in 1879 at the age of ninety-one, his wife surviving him but two months. - Source
Charlotte Morten was born in 1827 and married Thomas Cryer, who served in the Civil War. Thomas died before 1870, leaving Charlotte to raise their four children. She lived in her home at 2891 Observatory Avenue until her death, sometime after 1910. Her home is no longer standing.

Lastly, in the red box, is a name well-known to those in Hyde Park, John Kilgour, namesake of the street and the school.
The Kilgour name is familiar to most Cincinnatians as the name on the fountain in Hyde Park Square. There were two John Kilgours - senior and junior. John, Sr. came to America in 1811 and made a fortune in groceries but is best remembered for his philanthropic efforts in saving The Little Miami Railroad, which was failing. Junior, pictured (below), rose from a clerk in the depot of The Little Miami Railroad to President of the Cincinnati Street Railway Company, a company he created by consolidating the city's many streetcar companies. He was also a founding father of the Bell Telephone Co., which began in Cincinnati. - Source
John Kilgour, Jr - Source
The land was bought in 1818 by James Hey, a wealthy English merchant, who built a three story mansion on his estate named Beau Lieu Hill Farm. John Kilgour, Sr. purchased it in 1863 and renamed it The Pines, for the large pine trees on the estate. More detail of the history of The Pines can be found in the article, Hyde Park linked to The Pines, where you can also find many more pictures of the home, which was demolished in  1966.
The Pines, built 1832, demolished 1966 - Source
That is how at least seven streets in Hyde Park got their names, from the settlers that made Hyde Park their homes in the early days of Cincinnati.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Beauty in Mount Auburn

This week's subject comes from a request from Facebook follower Kevin, asking about the building that houses the Educational Theatre Association at 2343 Auburn Avenue. This one really caught my interest because I was once a Thespian in my high school days. So in my best Nancy Drew character, I went off to investigate...
Turns out investigating wasn't too hard, since only two families ever lived in the home. It was built in 1871 by Isaac Graveson, who was a well-known contractor and in the business of cut stone:
Graveson, Isaac
(Haxey, Lincolnshire, England, 1826-1903)
Graveson, who perhaps considered himself an architect, and his business supplied cut and sawed stone for many of the major buildings in Cincinnati and vicinity from ca. 1850 on, including the old Hughes High School (J. Earnshaw, 1851), the Pike Opera House on Fourth St. (1854-1858), the Covington Odd Fellows’ Hall (NEC Madison and Fifth streets; 1856), the Mitchell & Rammelsberg Block on Fourth St. (now part of McAlpin’s; Walter & Wilson, 1856); the Henry Probasco House, Clifton (W. Tinsley, 1869); probably the Marcus Fechheimer House on Garfield Place (now the Butterfield Senior Center; Anderson & Hannaford, ca. 1863); the Handy-Shillito House, Mt. Auburn (J.W. McLaughlin, 1864); the rebuilt Pike Opera House (I. Rogers, 1867); the A.H. Hinkle House (later Planned Parenthood) formerly on Mt. Auburn (A.C. Nash, 1868); and the Esplanade and base for the Tyler Davidson Fountain, Fountain Square (originally W. Tinsley, 1870); as well as supplying stone and/or building structures in Dayton, Oh., Cairo, Ill., St. Paul, Minn., St. Louis, Indianapolis, Louisville, Memphis, and Canada.
All these and many others, representing virtually every significant architect working in Cincinnati in the Civil War period, plus “the New Chamber of Commerce in Chicago” (1872), are listed on a year-by-year basis in his 1876 biography. Presumably he built his own magnificent Italianate mansion at Auburn Avenue in Mt. Auburn as a showplace for his skills. Many of Graveson’s business papers survive at the Cincinnati Historical Society. - Source
1869 Titus Map - Source
It is not know why, but Graveson sold his beautiful home just four years later to Mordecai  Morris White. What is very curious is that it seems these men exchanged homes:

Graveson Isaac Steam Freestone Works, 86 and 38 Hannibal; Residence, n. w. c. Summit and Auburn Av., Mt. Auburn
White M. M. cashier Fourth National Bmk, h. 420 W. 6th
White M. M. (W., Bro. A Co.) h. 420 W. 6th

Graveson Isaac Cincinnati Stone Works, 30 and 38 Hannibal; Residence, 420 W. 6th
White M. M. cashier 4th Nat. Bank, h. 201 Auburn, Mt. Auburn
White M. M, (W., Bro. 4 Co.) res. Mt, Auburn
Mordecai Morris White, who preferred to be called Morris, was born in 1830 in North Carolina, son of Quakers John T. White and Susan Morris. He was named after his grandfather, Mordecai White, who was a wealthy plantation farmer. In the same year of his birth, Morris' family moved to Washington County, Indiana. Just three years later, his mother died and by 1840, Morris and his younger brother, Francis Toms White, were sent back to North Carolina to live with their grandfather. In 1945, the White brothers returned to Indiana and the next year, their grandfather passed away, leaving his large estate in North Carolina to the brothers and their step-grandmother. They also inherited 2,400 acres in Indiana.

Morris was educated at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana and took a commerical course in Cincinnati after graduation. In 1851, he moved to Philadelphia, trying the mercantile business. During a trip to Cincinnati, he met A.H. Wells, a wholesale grocer looking for a partner with capital to join his business, which came to fruition in 1853. Mr. White is fondly remembered for what occurred in 1855, when he returned to North Carolina and made arrangements for the slaves of his grandfather's plantation to be freed and moved to Raysville, Indiana where he provided them homes, furnishings and jobs.

In 1859, A.H. Wells retired from the grocery business and the White brothers became the sole owners of a successful mercantile business. The White brothers became interested banking, and joined the firm of Hewson, White & Co. This firm was absorbed into the Fourth National Bank where Morris became cashier and then president by 1875. He remained as president until 1908, when he retired and became chairman of the board. In 1892, he was elected to the American Bankers' Association, where he served as vice-president and president.

1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Morris married Hannah Amelia Coffin in 1858, whose father Elijah Coffin, was a well known Indiana banker. They had four daughters: Frances Amelia, Alice Mary, Susan Morris and Helen Lawson. Morris White died in 1913 at his home. His estate was believed to be valued at between $15,000,000 and $20,000,000 at the time. The following memorial was written in his honor:
Mr. White was a manly man in every sense, "standing four square to every wind that blew," and ever commanding the un-reserved confidence of all who knew him. A man of broad views of men and things, he was liberal and spontaneous in his support of all things which to him seemed to be for the general good of mankind. He gave liberally of his means to many institutions, including the Art Museum in Eden Park, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Young Women's Christian Association, the School of Technology, the Children's Home, Union Bethel, and to Earlham. College, which was to him the dearest of all these institutions, he gave one hundred thousand dollars as an endowment fund. Of that college he served for many years on the executive committee and was president of the board of finance of the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Friends. Politically, Mr. White was a life-long supporter of the Republican party, though never a seeker after honors or preferment of any kind for himself.
… A man of simple habits and domestic in his tastes, Mr. White found his greatest enjoyment in his home, where the spirit of genuine old-time hospitality was ever in evidence. His career was dignified and manly and his success was measured by its usefulness, for during his long and active life his influence made for the progress and upbuilding of the community which had been honored by his residence. Mr. White was a great friend of young men and started many a young man off right in life. There was in him a weight of character, a native sagacity, a far-seeing judgment and a fidelity of purpose that commanded the respect of all, and because of his sterling traits of character his memory is to-day honored by all knew him.
Hannah White continued to live in the home until her death in 1934, at the age of 96. The estate, along with all the furnishings, were sold to the American Red Cross in 1935 for its Cincinnati headquarters. The south wing which contained the drawing room, conservatory and dining room were designated as the "Hannah A. White Memorial" and used for special meetings.

Times Star December 27, 1935 - Thanks to the Public Library
By 1950, the Red Cross had moved their headquarters and the home was sold to Family Service of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. When it was sold, it was to be used for office space, but on the map below from 1950, it clearly states the home was a dormitory, either for the Red Cross or Family Service.
1934-1950 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
The home was sold again in 1984 to the Mt. Auburn Partnership and was used as office space. In 1998, then owner, United Medical Resources, sold the home to the Educational Theatre Association for $800,000.  The home then contained 14,000 square feet of space and storage house of 2,000 square feet. ETA has continued to maintain this beautiful home as their offices.