Thursday, February 20, 2014

They Put Up a Parking Lot - Central Parkway, Court and Walnut

Having done quite a bit of research of the Hamilton County Recorder's Office lately, I am familiar with the parking lot at the corner of Central Parkway, Court and Walnut. However, I wondered what was there before...
CAGIS, 2011
This was once a crowded half-block of buildings. With the courthouse just to the east and the Court Street Market House to the west, business flourished. It was purchased by the United States Bank, prior to 1838.
1869 Titus Map - Source
The 1887 Sanborn Insurance Map shows just how many buildings once stood here - six fronting Canal Street (Central Parkway), five fronting Walnut Street and four fronting Court Street, with many subdivided into multiple shops and tenements.
1887 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
There was grain storage, the Ohio Nation Guard Armory Hall, vinegar manufactures and various offices. At the corner of Court and Walnut stood the Bavaria Building, constructed in 1882-1883. This building also contained some county offices with its location near the courthouse.
Cincinnati Enquirer; Oct 1, 1882; pg. 9
Cincinnati Enquirer; Aug 31, 1883; pg. 7
Cincinnati Enquirer; Apr 5, 1884; pg. 8

The year 1891 shows few changes in the block but the rising interest in electricity is shown by The Jones Bro's Electric Company. The vinegar factory is still in business along with a broom factory, printing shop, warehouses and offices. The Bavaria Block is clearly marked at the corner.
1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Many changes occurred in Cincinnati between 1904 and 1930, including the construction of Central Parkway (with the Rapid Transit Tunnels underneath), the demolishing of the Court Street Markethouse, and a city-wide street resurfacing project. However, not much changed for the buildings at Court and Walnut, except their businesses.
1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
The Bavaria Building is still standing and within the half-block there is a plumber, a print shop, Fry Bros & Co., selling laundry supplies, along with a box factory and seed storage.
1926, S. Canal Street, Frey Bros. Warehouse - Source

South side of Canal Street, looking west, Nov. 13, 1926 - Cropped from the original, Source

North side of Court Street, looking west, Oct. 3, 1929 - Cropped from the original, Source
By 1950, the block is starting to change. With the automobile becoming the primary source of transportation, service stations were needed in convenient locations and parking needed to access the county offices. However, the buildings facing Court Street remained, with one becoming a bowling alley.
1950 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
One by one, the buildings came down for more parking until 1968, when only the Bavaria Building was standing. By then is was called the Rose Exterminator Building, and as a Facebook follower said it was known for "miles and hours of parties, people and love"!

In 1996, the only remnant of this past busy block came down, with no explanation in the newspapers, just a photo showing its demolition.
1996 CAGIS - Source
Cincinnati Post; July 4, 1996; pg. 2
Thanks to Amy, a Facebook follower, for sharing the following pictures. Many more can be seen on her page, including interior pictures before demolition.

Growing up in Cincinnati with all these flat parking lots, it is hard to imagine just how dense and busy downtown used to be.


  1. A quick aside regarding the bowling alley on Court:

    If you look up the lot to the south at 9th and Walnut, it is shown on the Auditor as being owned by "MERGARDS DOWNTOWN BOWLING LANES INC." This is inaccurate--the Mergards have since sold the property. But these buildings were purchased in the 1940's by Herman Mergard, who owned the bowling alley on Court and wanted to expand it. The buildings were torn down, but the new bowling alley was never built. Ironically, they couldn't figure out how to build enough parking for it.

  2. Mergard's relocated to a new building in E. Walnut Hills at the corner of E. McMillan and Woodburn. There were 20(?) bowling alleys, a pool room with about 8 tables (with an attendant to rack your balls) and a restaurant/grill. I used to hang out there after school in the early 60's.

  3. My dad used to live in that corner building (Rose Brothers) when he came to Cincinnati. Very sad to to see that vacant parking lot there now.

  4. Saturdays were Bowling Day at Mergards, and Allowance day(25¢). My Brother an I always got a chocolate ice creme cone with it. Our Bowling Team was the 1964 Ohio State Bantam League Champs. Great memories of Mergard's.

  5. Saturdays were Bowling Day at Mergard's and Allowance Day (25¢). My brother and I always got a chocolate ice cream cone. Our Team was the 1964 Ohio State Bantam League Champs. Fond memories of Mergard's.

  6. I grew up in this building and my mother lived there for 23 years and both my grandmother and my great-grandmother lived here as well. Some of the best years of my life.


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