Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Court Street Center - Central Parkway and Plum

Another Facebook follower clued me into this "dig" at the corner of Central Parkway and Plum Street. I took a look at the building and didn't think it looked very old. Even the Hamilton County Auditor site has the year built as 1983. However, I always check into my leads, like a good detective and found she was on to something.
She remembered it being an older building that was remodeled in the 1980's, so I took a look around at some old maps. Let's start from the most recent and work backwards...
2013 CAGIS Map
The building at this corner presently is called the Court Street Center, since the main entrance faces Court Street, but the address is 1010 Plum Street. It is an office building and the home of Turner Construction. This map didn't help too much so I went back a bit further...
1950 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
 This big black rectangle is a building, but with this scan, the wording cannot be read. However, to the right of the building is a small clue: "Milk Receiving Rm.; Built 1947". Milk? On Central Parkway?
1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Milk! The French Bros.-Bauer Company to be exact. If you look close, you can see that this building was built in 1917, and yes, this same building is the one we see today. So how did a 1917 building get to look so modern? The wonderful people at the library helped me once again with articles from the newspaper archives.

First some history of the French Bros.-Bauer Company. It was started in 1842 by Thomas French, when dairy farmers were still the in neighborhoods of Walnut Hills, East End and some parts of the West End as well. Thomas and his sons had their dairies in Hyde Park, Oakley, Clifton and Newport. As business expanded, they bought milk from other farmers further and further from the basis area of downtown. The French Brothers were leaders in their industry when germ theory began to prove diseases came from bacteria, they transitioned from open pails of milk to putting milk in closed bottles, more than 10 years before other dairies. Many diseases, such as cholera morbis, commonly called summer complaint back then, began to decline because of the purification of milk. The Frenches dairy laboratory with the first in Cincinnati to test and establish standards in the processing of milk.
The Cincinnati Enquirer, 1921
Around 1900, the Bauer Ice Cream and Baking Company was merged into the business. By 1916, plans were underway for the construction of the new plant at the corner of Canal and Plum Street, when discussions of changing the canal into a roadway were also in the works.
The Cincinnati Enquirer; Sep 18, 1916; pg. 10
Baseball Milk Caps sealed the bottles of French Bauer Milk

Business remained good, until 1979, when the company was bought out by H. Meyer & Sons Dairy, which was located in Arlington Heights. The French Bauer named remained, but about 100 employees were left without jobs and the plant was suddenly closed. The building remained empty and was purchased by Robert Chavez of the Parking Company of America. It was initially believed it would become yet another parking lot. However, little did everyone know, that Chavez was an avid fan of architecture and had other plans for the building. He hired top architects of the time, Moore, Grover, Harper, from Connecticut and they came up with a modern design using reflective glass and covered the concrete structure with a plum-colored synthetic material, called Drivet.
Drawings of the renovated building
The Cincinnati Enquirer,; December 3, 1983; pg. D5
But, wait. What was at this corner before the dairy was built in 1917? Well, this is Cincinnati, so it has to be BEER!
1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
The first brewery on this corner was the Eagle Brewery from 1854 to 1866, owned by Joseph Schaller and Johann Schiff. In 1866, Schiff left the company and John Gerke joined in. The name was changed to Schaller & Gerke, Eagle Brewery and they continued together until 1882. The Schallers left the business then to purchase the Main Street Brewery and after the death of his father John, George Gerke continued the business at Canal and Plum Streets.
In addition to the main brewery, Gerke Brewing also had a stable on Court Street to the west and a hops storage area to the east at present day 132 West Court Street. Tunnels still exist under this hops building and can be occasionally toured with the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District. Photos of these tunnels can be seen here, here and here.
Maps of 132 W Court Street. Washington Platform Saloon can be seen at the corner of Court and  Elm. On the 1887 and 1891 maps, "hops" can be seen.
The Gerke Brewing Company remained in business until 1912 and in 1913, all the properties and equipment were put up for sale.
The Cincinnati Enquirer; Aug 17, 1913; pg. 14
And as you know by now, the property at present-day Central Parkway and Plum was purchased by the French Bros.-Bauer Dairy and we have come full circle! Beer to milk to construction! I wonder what other buildings in Cincinnati hold secrets under their modern coverings...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Opera House" Burlesque to Kroger Building

A few days ago, I re-posted a photo on my Facebook page from Vanishing Cincinnati's page of the canal that once ran through downtown Cincinnati. One building in particular caught my eye:
Source - Flickr

Source - Flickr
It has such a curious shape and I just had to know more. The original address of this property was the southeast corner of S. Canal Street and Vine Street, which today is the corner of Central Parkway and Vine Street, where the headquarters of the Kroger Company stands today.

Before 1878, this location was used as a pork packing house, but in that year, the building was leased out and converted into a theater, known as the Vine Street Opera House.
The Cincinnati Enquirer ; Dec 14, 1878; pg. 5
A mention in King's Pocket-book of Cincinnati in 1879 says:
Vine-street Opera-House, southeast cor. of Vine and Canal Streets, a variety-show theatre to which only men are admitted. The Vine street cars pass the door.
The theater was run by a former chief of police, Colonel Thomas E. Snelbaker and headlines were made when he had a run-in with the father of a former mistress, who also happened to be a police officer. The Cincinnati Enquirer also reported on this incident in greater detail (click the link to read the article).
In the early morning of January 4, 1882, fire struck the opera house. The newspaper account notes that the theater has been such a success that it gained the nickname, "The Gold Mine." It had been renovated at least twice since the packing house days, going from 800 seats to 1,400 seats at the time of the fire. The opera house rose from the ashes and was rebuilt and opened again for business on May 14, 1882.
The Cincinnati Enquirer; May 14, 1882; pg. 10
1887 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Competition with Heuck's Opera House, just over the canal in Over-the-Rhine, and "a reputation as unsavory as the odor from the musty canal when the water has been let out of it" (Enquirer, Dec. 2, 1900) took its toll and after the 1887 season, the theater closed. In 1889, it became the German Theater however, by the fall of 1893, it was the barracks of the Salvation Army for the next three years.
1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
In December, 1900, the building once again returned to its theater roots and it was renovated once again. The manager, John Avery, made plans to host burlesque and vaudeville shows but a cleaner version than had been presented previously. Avery also returned to the Vine Street Opera House name. However, his plans were unsuccessful and the theater closed within a week of opening, leaving actors stranded without work in the city.

Plans to revive the theater occurred throughout the first five years of the new century and a commitment was finally made in June, 1905, with yet another renovation for updating and addressing safety concerns. It was renamed The Standard Theater and its first season was noted as a success in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Rudolph K. Hynicka, Republican politician under "Boss Cox", was the manager for many years along with Charles B. Arnold.
1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source

The theater remained open through the 1915 season but closed again, due to the emergence of film entertainment and the decline of vaudeville and burlesque. For a short time it became a motion picture house, The Boulevard and then in 1929, it was The Civic.
The year 1930 brought the demolition of the old theater along with three other buildings that lined the east side of Vine Street from Central Parkway south to Court Street and also included four houses that faced Court Street to make way for a 20,000 square foot parking lot.
1950 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Then in 1957, plans for the present skyscraper came to fruition and what we commonly call The Kroger Building was completed in 1960. It was originally designed with a blue and white pattern but in 1980, it was re-skinned with aluminum.

Photos at left date from approximately 1913 (top) and 1928 (bottom) - Source
Present day Google Earth image on right.
The photo above sums up nicely the changes Cincinnati went through from the days of the canal to the emergence of new technologies which brought new development to the edge of "downtown". From pork to burlesque to grocery headquarters.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Anna Louise Inn - A Look at the Past

With the announcement that the Anna Louise Inn will be moving from its historic location at Lytle Park this week, I decided to do some "digging" and share some newspaper articles from over the years. Click on the articles to be able to read them. Some articles are links to a pdf format. Enjoy!

Photo Source -

Cincinnati Enquirer, June 1, 1909, pg. 15
Cincinnati Enquirer, June 6, 1909, pg. B8

Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov. 13, 1910, pg. B8
Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov. 25, 1910, pg. 12
Cincinnati Enquirer, Dec. 25, 1910, pg. B8
Cincinnati Enquirer, June 1, 1911, pg. 3
Cincinnati Enquirer, July 5, 1911, pg. 2
Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug. 20, 1911, pg. B8
Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov. 5, 1911, pg. C2
Cincinnati Enquirer, Jan. 2, 1912, pg. 7
Cincinnati Enquirer, May 18, 1913, pg. C4
Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov. 2, 1913, pg. B2
Cincinnati Enquirer, Dec. 26, 1914, pg. 5
Cincinnati Enquirer, May 8, 1914, pg. 8
Cincinnati Enquirer, Dec. 18, 1914, pg. 5
Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov. 29, 1916, pg. 9
Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb. 9, 1917, pg. 2
Cincinnati Enquirer, Mar. 30, 1917, pg. 8
Cincinnati Times-Star, Jan. 29, 1934, pg. 15
Cincinnati Times-Star, Aug. 7, 1934, pg. 15

Cincinnati Enquirer, May 3, 1955, pg. 12
Cincinnati Post, Sept. 3, 1979, pg. 11

Cincinnati Post, July 8, 1993, pg. 7B

Cincinnati Herald, Oct. 16, 1999, pg. 6

Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug. 27, 2009, pg. B3
A timeline of the Cincinnati Union Bethel can be found on their website and another book about the history of the Anna Louise Inn from 1909 to 1959 is available at the Cincinnati Museum Center Library. I hope you have enjoyed this look back at the history of the Anna Louise Inn!

This site serves as an educational and historical reference resource. It is intended only for educational use. The stories listed below are copyrighted by their respective publications and should not be used for any commercial purpose. They are provided for private use only.