Friday, April 5, 2013

OTR Ghost Sign Reveals Shadows of the Past

The inspiration for the post came from a picture of a "ghost" sign that was uncovered when renovations began at 1504 Race Street in Over-the-Rhine.
Source - Urban Expansion
I could make out just enough of this sign to start digging. I see the name "Burton" and "Furniture"...
1504 Race Street before the ghost sign unveiling.
Source - Urban Expansion
According to the Hamilton County Auditor's website, this building was constructed in 1895 but it appears by checking the Sanborn Insurance Maps that it existed by 1887. At that time, the address was 534 Race Street.
1887 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
It is interesting to me that the building is labeled as a tenement, since tenement buildings are usually three or more stories tall. The city directories helped me date the building to around 1875 when the address first shows up. At that time, H. Meyer, who was a merchant tailor, lived here and along with Henry Baer, who was working as a clerk.

1880 US Census - click to enlarge
Source -
From the above census record, you can see by 1880 the Gentert/Guentert family lived here. The father, Edward, from Baden (now a part of Germany), is listed as a notions & candy storekeeper, although in the same year, the city directory lists his occupation as a "cutter". His daughter, Josephine, is also working as a saleslady in a notions store and the city directory lists her job as a confectioner - a candy maker. The Gentert family has a total of eight persons, with six children between the ages of 3 and 18 years old.

Also living in the building was George Maurer, born in Ohio of parents of German descent,  and his wife, Catherine Barbara, born in Wurtemberg. George worked as a presser for a tailor, but they are not listed in the city directory for this address.

1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Well, no "Burton" in the 1880's, so I kept on digging...

Meyer Fred, driver, h. 534 Race

Parker John, janitor, h. 534 Race

Koll Emil, piano tuner, n.e.c. 4th and Elm, h. 534 Race nr 15th

Bolz Fred, piano tuner, h, 1504 Race
Cattau August, merchant tailor, 1504 Race
" Henry, tailor, h. 1504 Race

Cattau August mer tailor 1504 Race
—Henry tailor h 1504 Race
Smith Robt C (Ryan & S) 234 W 3d h 1504 Race

1900 US Census - click to enlarge
Source -
Starting around 1910, Carl Heger began selling sewing machines from this location but he did not live here until he shows up in the 1920 census. The living spaces continued to be rented to various families through the years.

Heger Carl sewing machines 1504 Race
Smith Robt C plumber 1504 Race

Adams Maria wid Robt h 1504 Race
Heger Carl sewing machines 1504 Race res Norwood
Smith Robt C plumber h 1504 Race

1920 US Census - click to enlarge
Source -
 Heger Carl sewing machines 1504 Race
" Chas, U S N h 1504 Race
Smith Robt C clk rm 303, 528 Walnut h 1504 Race

1504 Heger Carl sewing machine
1504 Smith Harriet

Cincinnati Enquirer; Dec 28, 1913;

1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
1504 Richter Robt S plumbing supplies
1504 Volz Walter J plumber
1504 Metz Edward A

1504 Strohmaier Edward (Hertel & Strohmaier) 1500 Race h 1504 Race (Hertel & Strohmaier was a  restaurant)

Finally, in 1940, "Burton" finally reveals his identity: Oscar Burton is listed in the city directory as running a used furniture store at 1504 Race Street. Taking a look at the other "ghost sign" on the left side of the building, it appears he also did some moving and hauling for his clients.
Source - Urban Expansion
The third "ghost sign" in the middle reveals that 1504 Race Street had also once been a thrift shop, but I am unable to pin down the exact dates for it.

Meanwhile, this building is being rehabbed by Chris Reckman of Urban Expansion and by the looks of the pictures, it has been one heck of a job! (Thanks for the use of your photos, too.)

Thanks, Chris, for saving and renovating another treasure of Over-the-Rhine. I can't wait to see the finished product!

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