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.

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