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.


  1. I love that strip of Cincinnati from OTR to the river rendered in tile. Its a cool little touch!

  2. fascinating labor history from 94 years ago - Clarence Darrow, no less; thanks

  3. Wonderful to get the history of this most interesting TRH (Tiny Row House). And what gorgeous pictures of your remarkable restoration of this very special home. Bravo!


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