Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Avondale Athletic Club to Xavier University

As a student as Xavier University, I pass this sign in front of the Cintas Center when walking to class:
Source - Author
So I just had to know what the heck the AAC was. The little sign at the bottom gives a bit more information - AAC was the Avondale Athletic Club, once on the campus of Xavier. But what was this club, where was it located and what happened to it?

The Avondale Athletic Club was founded in 1897. The following article from the Cincinnati Enquirer details more about the club:
The members of the fashionable circles on the hilltops are very much interested in the organization of the Avondale Athletic Club. The clubhouse is now an assured fact, and a large force of men are at work on the grounds purchased by the club from Mr. C.C. Bragg.
The accompanying cut (picture) conveys an excellent idea of the magnificent clubhouse which is being built. The clubhouse is the design of Mr. Matthew Burton, a Cincinnati boy, who has already attained a reputation here and throughout the country as an architect. The Avondale Club is one of the best examples of his ability to combine thorough convenience and comfort with a design entirely artistic and pleasing.
The membership of the club is limited to 200, and already 158 members have signed the club roster.
The club grounds will afford ample facilities for all out-door sports, such as golf, football, baseball, tennis, croquet, bicycling, shooting clay pigeons, and a large swimming pool, which is now being built, will be ample in size to accommodate all who desire to swim in summer and skate in winter.
The entire valley in the back of the clubhouse will overlook the fields on which the out-door sports are to be held.
The club building will have large billiard rooms, four bowling alleys, shower bathe for athletes, lounging rooms, reading rooms, cardrooms for games without stakes, while the second floor will be a large auditorium capable of seating 500 people, and will be equipped with stage, scenery, &c., for entertainments such as lectures, plays, dances, card parties, &c.
A dancing school for children of members will also be maintained.
The by-laws of the club are framed on a liberal basis, and gentlemen in good standing in the community over 18 years of age are eligible to active membership. Each member must own at least one share of stock, par value $50, while the annual dues will be $25, payable semi-annually. Furthermore, sons of members between the ages of 15 and 20 years can enjoy the privileges of the club on the payment of $5 per year, and those between the ages of 20 and 25 on payment of $10 per year.
Tournaments of every description are to be given, and the Avondale Athletic Club’s flag and cups will no doubt be contested for in many future events…
Cincinnati Enquirer; Aug 15, 1897
Cincinnati Enquirer; Aug 15, 1897
The Avondale Athletic Club was the first location of the Cincinnati Master tennis tournament, now known as the Western & Southern Open. It is the oldest tennis tournament played in its original city in the United States.
Unfortunately, the club only lasted for six years and in 1903, it went into receivership after a dispute between the Club's Board of Governors and Mr. C.C. Bragg, who owned the land rented by the club. The clubhouse and the golf course was used by the Avondale golf club until 1911, when St. Xavier College purchased 22.5 acres and the building for $85,000.

The property’s existing clubhouse, built in 1898, was hastily renovated into a makeshift school building, complete with classrooms, a chapel, and a dining hall, while retaining the old bowling alley from the Avondale Athletic Club. Archbishop Moeller dedicated it in December of 1911, christening it Xavier Hall. It opened its doors with 87 students as a replacement for the Branch High School in January 1912, now under the name of Xavier Academy. Though the academy represented a bright hope for St. Xavier’s future, the pre-secondary and college students, as well as many of the high school boys, remained downtown.  "1911: A New Beginning Paper" by Mary Margaret Fletcher Source

Circa 1898 - Source
Financial difficulties and World War I delayed construction of buildings on the Xavier Avondale campus, but finally in 1920, Hinkle Hall and Alumni Hall (now Edgecliff Hall ) were completed.  Over the next 10 years, additional buildings were added to the campus and in 1930, St. Xavier College became Xavier University.
1950 Sanborn Insurance Map. Red box outlines the location of the Avondale Athletic Club building, then used as a dining and recreation hall. - Source

Many more buildings were added, especially in the 1960's and in 1965, the old Avondale Athletic Club building, known as the "Red Building" came down and was replaced with University Center, now know as Joseph Hall. But the memories of the "AAC" live on in the little mural in front of the Cintas Center.

More information on XU's history can be found in this presentation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Bell House - East Walnut Hills

Another find from the wonderful collection of photos given to UC's DAAP program from the Cincinnati Preservation Association.
1869 Titus Map - Source
This home was built on a parcel of the original Scarborough property, between 1902 and 1904 for Charles Walter Bell, son of John E. Bell, the once wealthy owner the Cincinnati Tin and Japan Company. The home was designed by A.O. Elzner and George M. Anderson, prominent Cincinnati architects who also designed the Ingalls Building downtown.
1904 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
The Bell family only remained in the home until 1912, when it was sold to a wealthy bachelor, Jefferson "Jeff" Livingston. It was noted in the papers that it sold for $50,000, the largest amount in the city that year. Articles in the Cincinnati Enquirer documented the beauty of the home:
It is the brick colonial type of architecture and contains about 12 rooms. On the second floor there are five bedrooms and several baths. The improvement is of the three-story type, with a finished third floor, where are located the quarters of the servants. The house is said to be the best equipped for its size in the Cincinnati market… November 30, 1912
 There is no house in town so perfect in colonial architecture as Mr. and Mrs. Bell’s, and its Georgian furniture and superb marble mantel pieces, magnificent types of their period are unsurpassed in this part of the county… Mrs. Bell gave infinite thought to the building and furnishing of the house, and her artistic sense never served her to better advantage, for the result was impeccable, a house so distinctly colonial, its appointments so perfectly in keeping with its period that it stands unique. Some of Mrs. Bell’s splendid pieces of mahogany are heirlooms, others were gathered together from many parts of the country, years of effort being devoted to this delightful mission before the house was built... December 8, 1912
Mr. Livingston, it seems, never lived in the home, and the following year he sold it to John M. Wright for $40,000. Mr. Wright was with the Raleigh Coal & Coke Company. He and his wife, Carrie, and their two daughters, Marjorie and Virginia, took up residence here. Unfortunately, Mr. Wright passed away at the early age of 58 in 1928. Carrie and her daughters remained in the home until 1940, when Carrie sold the home to the Lee family. It remained in their family until 1968. Since that time, there have been just three owners, with the current owners purchasing it in 1989.

The house faces the Cincinnati Tennis Club, which its own unique history is documented here.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Schaller Bros' Main Street Brewery

This brewery came to my attention because of this photo posted on Facebook. The poster asked if the remains in the middle could be part of a brewery tunnel, so prevalent in Over-the-Rhine:
This pic was taken on the vacant lot between Hughes and Rothenburg School. - Urban Properties OTR (Facebook). See their page for a video clip as well!
So I went off digging through the old maps, comparing them to present day maps. First, I checked for any vacant lots near Rothenberg School, a beautiful public school built in 1914, at the corner of Main Street and Clifton Avenue.
Rothenberg School - Flickr User oldohioschools
Check out more detail pictures
2012 CAGIS Map - Main Street Brewey was located at 1622 Main Street
According to Robert Wimberg's book, Cincinnati Breweries, the first brewery was at this site around 1851, and run by John A. Schaefer until 1869. At the time, the establishment was purchased by John S. Schneider and John G. Elsenheimer, with Schneider becoming sole owner in 1870.

Michael Mueller joined the business in 1871 and in 1875 bought out Schneider. At that time, the brewery employed twenty-five men, producings 5,000 barrels per year. August Froekling became a partner in 1879, but in 1882, the Schaller brothers, Michael, Peter and William, bought the Main Street Brewery. Peter left the business in 1891.
1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
In 1900, J. Edward Sohn and his son joined the Schaller Brothers' Main Street Brewery, while Michael Schaller, Jr. also joined the family business. Michael Keck was the brewmaster and developed such beers as "Old Gold" and "Eclipse". Prohibition should have closed the brewery, but they continued to produce beer until legal action closed it in 1922.
1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
The brewery did reopen after the repeal of Prohibition but finally closed again in 1941. It was demolished sometime before 1950. In it's place was built a bake shop, in business until the 1970's.

1950 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
The land and the remaining buildings are now owned by the Cincinnati Board of Education and being demolished for a parking lot for the Rothenberg School.