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...


  1. Hey!

    The George Henshaw Furniture Company on the northeast corner of this block was owned by my ancestors! Here is some info on George:

    George had 4 sons all of whom I think worked in the furniture business, but one of them, Edward moved to College Hill and was Mayor of College Hill at some point. Edward's son Albert was the superintendent of the Ohio Military Institute (OMI) which would be a great one for you to do a column on. It was on Belmont in College Hill where Aiken High School is now (the land was given to CPS when the OMI closed). Here is a site with a photo of the buildings and an aerial view of the site.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Any information about a French Bauer glass globe? I own one. Can't find anything about it.

  3. I have a old milk container from before they used jug with tops. Does anyone know if it's worth anything?

  4. My father worked at French Bauer in Cincinnati when I was a child


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