Wednesday, December 17, 2014

South Side of Government Square - Then and Now

I came across this photo while researching for a client. I was curious what happened to this block of buildings. These photos come from the Hamilton County Auditor and were found not long ago by their office. They have done an amazing job of digitizing and making them public. Some are even tied to current parcel numbers on the Auditor's website.
South side of Fifth Street between Walnut and Main, circa 1966 - Source
These were such a great collection of classic architectural styles, but I wondered why they were demolished and what took their place. After doing some map hunting, I realized their location, on the south side of Fifth Street, between Walnut and Main. These buildings became a gated park for the Cincinnati Office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, which constructed their building at Fourth and Main in 1971.
Cincinnati Office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Hamilton County Audior
But why? The 1960's were a time of urban renewal throughout the country and this also impacted Cincinnati. Buildings like these above were considered outdated and unsuitable to "modern" uses of the Space Age. An article from the Cincinnati Enquirer shows how the city was divided into blocks slated for redevelopment. A 1962 city ordinance allowed for the use of federal urban development dollars to replace "dilapidated business buildings in blighted areas of Cincinnati ...with fine, new, privately-owned buildings, with the help of private industry" Source

While it is hard to determine the exact age of each of these buildings, all but one appear on the 1887 Sanborn Insurance Map. The following maps document the changes in the block for 127 years.

1887 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
1950 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
2014 CAGIS Property Maps- Source
A view of this block from the early 1920's
A view looking east on Fifth Street from Fountain Square, showing the change in the block.
And here is the view today, courtesy of Google Street View Maps:

Today, the preservationist realize how the urban development plans of the past allowed for the demolition of much of our city's historic structures. They work to develop a balance of recognizing the city's architectural past and the need for modern facilities. However, it seems a private park on prime central business district real estate was a mistake for the demolition of these structures.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Story of an OTR Tiny Row House

The owner of this home contacted me for the history in preparation of the first Over-the-Rhine Holiday Home Tour. This self-guided holiday home tour is the first annual fundraiser for Future Leaders OTR. So off I went to dig up some big information for this cute, little home.
Photo Source –
This tiny row house was built circa 1845 for Joshua Yorke along with the other five houses surrounding it. The original street name was Madison Street, named for the President of the United States. Other streets in the neighborhood were also named for former presidents. The street was renamed Magnolia in 1890, when it was determined there were too many street named Madison within the city, five in total.
These buildings were originally constructed as rental property by comparing the ownership information to the city directories. Mr. Yorke retained ownership until 1864, when he sold the entire strip (except for 217 Magnolia) to George Moessinger. In the same year, Mr. Moessinger sold 219 Magnolia to H. P. Seibel, who had purchased 217 Magnolia in 1858.
1887 Sanborn Insurance Map, property outlined in red - Source
Mr. Siebel was the owner and landlord of the home until 1873, when he sold it to Phillip Kling, who continued as landlord. The Kling family were the owners for 40 years, selling it in 1913 to Emelie Francis, who in turn sold it in 1920 to John Breier.
1887 Sanborn Insurance Map, property outlined in red - Source
In 1924, Mr. Breier sold the building to Arthur and Henrietta Kerber, who were the first owners to also make the house their permanent residence. They owned the home until 1951, when it was transferred to Henrietta’s son, Myron Carstens, and then back to Henrietta in 1954. Mt. Healthy Savings & Loan took ownership in 1965 and sold it the same year to George Gamzu and Max Szyka. In 1979, Upgrade Construction Company purchased the home and remained owners until 1994. Gladys O Neal took ownership in 1994 and sold it in 2005 to Paul Graves, who sold it to the present owner in 2013.

The tenants of the home for approximately 79 years had a wide variety of occupations. Starting with the 1849-50 city directory, the south side of the street had at least 11 families listed. It is impossible to determine which one lived in this home, but you can tell that it was a popular location to live. Definite residents start in 1853, with the previous address of 21 Madison appearing in the directory for the first time. Some of the occupations listed are piano manufacturer, editor of a German newspaper - The Cincinnati Freie Presse, teacher, tailor, foreman, blacksmith, engraver, printer, cutter, fireman, machinist and salesman.
Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); Jan 18, 1920; pg. 33
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Cincinnati Enquirer (1841 - 1922)
One newspaper article mentions the 1919 arrest of Bettie Reeves, a garment worker who was striking in the 1920 Garment Workers’ Strike in Cincinnati. While picketing with others, she tried to convince a  nonunion garment worker not to deliver coats made by nonunion workers.  Bettie Reeves was charged and convicted with accessory to robbery after one of her fellow picketers stole the coats from the nonunion worker. Clarence Darrow (the famous attorney from Chicago) represented Bettie in an appeal for a new trial in 1920, arguing her only intent was to prevent work being done by a nonunion worker and “robbery must include intent to take something of value.” Ohio Governor James M. Cox pardoned her on his last day in office in 1921. One wonders whether he’d have done so if he’d won the Presidential election months earlier. Cox lost the race to another Ohioan, Warren G. Harding, despite having future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as his running mate.
As can be expected in Over-the-Rhine, the first residents came from primarily Germany, according to the census records for 1850. In 1860, the tenant and his wife were born in Virginia. Owner H. P. Seibel, born in Bavaria, did live for a short time at this house, but primarily lived next door at 217 Magnolia. By 1920, the demographics of Over-the-Rhine were changing to new immigrants from the southern states. In the census for this year, the residents were born in Kentucky.  This remained the same for the 1930 and 1940 censuses as well.

This tiny row house has been lovingly updated by the present owner, who added her own touches to this little house with lots of history.



The following photos were taken by Mikki Schaffner after renovations were completed this year.