Saturday, November 7, 2015

John Mears Home - Mount Washington

My photographer friend, Tim Jeffries, took this picture a few weeks ago and I just had to learn more about this home.
Heis Avenue, Mt. Washington by Tim Jeffries
I found this home was mentioned as being recently restored in the Mount Washington Comprehensive Plan. They also called it the "Mears House" so this gave me some information to start with. The Hamilton County Auditor lists the year built as 1833! So I went to check my maps to see what I could find.
1847 Map of Hamilton County, Ohio by attorney William D Emerson, C. S. Williams and Sons publisher (No. 5 W. 4th St.), includes property owner names, inset maps and detailed legend
The 1847 Map of Hamilton County shows the land and quite possibly the house were owned by J. Gallagher. A little searching in the deed records revealed that James Gallagher purchased this land circa 1830 and then sold it to John Mears in 1854.
1856 Hamilton County by A.W. Gilbert
This map had not caught up with the sale of the property to John Mears in 1854.

1869 Titus Map - Anderson Township

1884 Map of Hamilton County, Ohio, by Geo. Moessinger & Fred. Bertsch

John Mears was a well-known farmer and renowned for his strawberries as mentioned in this article from the Farmers’ Home Journal, Sept. 25, 1879.
The average yield of strawberries will run from fifty to sixty bushels per acre, but in many instances over 100 bushels are obtained in field culture. During the years 1860 to 1865, Mr. John Mears, of Mount Washington, was the most extensive grower of strawberries in the State, having about twenty-five acres under cultivation. These were the years of highest prices, and Mr. Mears realized from six to ten dollars per bushel for his crop, his berries being exceptionally fine and salable. During the year 1864, Mr. Mears gathered 316 bushels from a patch a trifle less than two and a half acres. Mr. Mears may be justly termed the strawberry king.
John passed away at the age of 87 on April 15, 1904. He had married once at the age of 67 to Marie who was 22 years younger than he, but they had no children. After his death, the property was sold to John Weld Peck, who became a federal judge and the namesake of the Federal Building in Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati Enquirer; Thursday, May 23, 1912; p. 13
1914, Hamilton County atlas: containing plats of townships, incorporated towns and villages, and map of greater Cincinnati

Judge Peck sold the property in 1921 to Frank G. Menke and it was sold again in the 1940s to the Clarabeth Heis. The Heis family created the Heis Realty Company and subdivided the land. The home became a multi-family property over the years. Between 2003 and 2007, the home underwent a conversion back to a single family home. The Mount Washington Community Council approved this decision in the following article from the Comprehensive Plan for Mount Washington in 2007:
Residential Zoning Changes: Numerous areas of the neighborhood currently zoned for multi-family use should be rezoned to single family zoning designations to reflect the current use of the property and to reduce the potential for future multi-family expansion. These areas include properties around the intersection of Oxford Avenue and Crestview Place, around the intersection of Heis Terrace and Beth Lane, and along the north side of Corbly Street west of Oxford Avenue. These areas contain mostly single-family homes. The properties in the Heis Terrace/Beth Lane area do contain existing multi-family buildings but should be rezoned to a single-family district to encourage this area to revert back to a single-family area over time. The recently renovated Mears house on Heis Terrace, which had been broken into multiple units and was restored to a single family home, should be preserved as a single residence and the properties immediately surrounding it should be encourage to be redeveloped with single-family homes.
2015 CAGIS Property Map, identifying the Heis Realty Company subdivisions. The location of the Mears Home is outlined in red.
The current owners attempted to sell the home in 2013. The property was described as:
Rare 3600+ square feet plus lower level, 12 ft ceilings, wood floors, elaborate moldings, updated mechanics, stainless appliance, granite counters and more. Historic John Mears Mansion. 
It seems to be a small miracle that this house has survived since the 1830s and was not demolished in the 1940s-1950s when the other neighborhood houses were built. Thanks to the Heis family, we get to enjoy a surprise piece of history.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How To - Find Pictures

Finding old pictures of your property can be quite difficult, unless your property is located near a landmark, owned by a famous Cincinnatian or located in a prominent neighborhood. There are a few websites worth searching just in case.

If you do not find any success, try locating living family members of former owners. Perhaps photos were taken of the home and are hiding in someone’s attic. Using the information collected from your research, try an internet people search and make contact with the relatives. It cannot hurt to ask!

Cincinnati History Library and Archives
The Cincinnati History Library is located in the Cincinnati Museum Center. Their website offers access to some pictures that have been scanned and indexed, but many more are available at the Museum Center. They also offer many books in their library of local interest and also have archives of materials related to Cincinnati history and Cincinnati families. It is worth the trip to their library to see what information they may have to offer.

This is a large collection (over 12,000) of postcards and photographs of Cincinnati. A search page is offered and images are nicely categorized. The author of this site has also provided a lot of research of buildings which is extremely helpful.

Greater Cincinnati Memory Project
This site is a continuing effort being made by the Greater Cincinnati Library Consortium to make available to the public the large collection of images that these libraries hold in their collections. Initially, almost 6,000 pre-1940 images were scanned to preserve and share. More from post-1940 are being added and more institutions are joining the Project, making this a wonderful resource even better.

University of Cincinnati Digital Resource Commons; UC Libraries – Historical Records
The University of Cincinnati’s Libraries has a variety of historical records on-line, including many photographs of streets that were repaired from 1920 to 1956. These were obtained from the archives of the City of Cincinnati’s Engineer Office. Homes along these streets are often also photographed. Within this collection are photographs of the construction of the rapid transit system, commonly called the subway, which was never completed.

Other Photograph Resources
Library of Congress:
Old Photos of Cincinnati Facebook Group:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Apotheke Building - 1833 Vine Street

Another repeat client recently adopted this building from OTR A.D.O.P.T. He wanted to know more about the history of the building that has stood at this corner of Vine, Findlay and McMicken for more than 160 years.
Google Streetview, August 2014
Commonly known as the Apotheke Building, because of the sign that was saved on its south facing facade, it appears from my research that it was built in 1851 for George Wurth. He leased it that same year to William Boettger, the first apothecary (Apotheke in German) to live and work in this building. William remained in business here until his death in 1878.
Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); Jan 16, 1878; p. 8; ProQuest Historical Newspapers
1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
The apothecary business carried on with Julius Greyer, who was in business here until 1900. He was well known in the pharmacy business and as a chemist, created some products of his own.
1899 William City Directory - Source
The Cincinnati Enquirer; Sunday, May 30, 1897; p. 3;
From 1900 until 1914, William Scheidt took over the pharmacy business. In 1915, however, the storefront changed business entirely to a billiard and pool parlor. The upstairs apartments continued to be rented to various families through these years. The pool business did not remain for long. By 1920, Arthur Ehrmantraut and other fellow optometrists and opticians took up shop here. In 1925, Edwin Enz had his doctor's office here as well, delivering over 5,000 babies during his 48 years of practice. In 1930, a dentist was also added to the mix, although part of the storefront at 1835 Vine Street became a shop for Howard Cleaners.
1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Circa 1925 - Source
Because Ehrmantraut had his business here for so long and purchased it from the Wurth family in 1924, it was called the Ehrmantraut Building in city directories. By 1959, 1833 Vine Street was vacant and 1835 Vine Street had the Westendorf Men's Shop. Otherwise, the rest of the building no longer had tenants of any sort, either residents or offices.
Hamilton County Auditor; 1999-2003
In 1999, the building to the south was demolished, revealing the Apotheke sign. When this building was repainted, Don Heinrich Tolzmann, a local German history expert, encouraged the painters to keep the sign because:
“It's important we don't destroy the evidence and material culture that's here,” he says. “It's an integral part of the community identity. If you erase that, you succumb to historical amnesia.”… - Source
Now with a new owner, the building will return to active use, with commercial space on the first floor and two two-bedroom apartments on the upper floors. With close access to Findlay Market and the famous Schwartz Point Jazz Club just across the street, this old building will soon get a new life and more history to add onto this story.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Casa de Milo - 424 Liberty Hill

At the request of my client, Andrew Howe of Cranewoods Development LLC, I researched the history of 424 Liberty Hill. What seemed to be a typical tenement building turned out to have an interesting history.
Google Streetview; July 2014
This building sits at the corner of Liberty Hill (formerly Liberty Street before it was extended to Reading Road) and Cumber Street. It is just east of the former First District School. Until the mid 1840s, Liberty Street was known as Northern Row, since it was at the edge of the town and section line of the city. North of this line was considered the "Northern Liberties" and outside the jurisdiction of the city laws.

1838, City of Cincinnati From Actual Survey by Joseph Gest Map - Source
Searching the city directories, I found the earliest address for George Hartburn, who was a carpenter, living on Northern Row between Spring and Pendleton in 1843. William T. Hartburn (possibly George's son) uses the same address starting in 1846 and in 1853, he lists his address as 96 Liberty Street, the address of this property prior to 1896.
1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source 
It is hard to determine whether this is the actual structure that William Hartburn lived in from the 1840s until his death in 1859. However, his wife Ann continued to live in the home until 1866. Ownership, as determined by the deed records, shows that William and Ann created a trust in 1851 to protect their real estate investments. The property transferred through the trust until her death in 1896 and then was given to her grandson, William Keever, her only living descendant, since Ann, who remarried at the age of 69 to Henry Daganar, outlived all her children. The Hartburn and Keever families are buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.

1860 United States Census
Ann Hartburn is listed as a gentlewoman with a real estate value of $50,000. She is living with five of her children.
Beginning in 1867, the building became a rental property benefiting Ann. Until the mid 1870s, J. Greiss and J. Stoehr, who were business partners in the wine trade, lived here with their families.
1870 United States Census
Other tenants from the 1800s include Albert Fischer, proprietor of the Star Preserve Works, packers of canned meats, fruits and vegetables; Maria Wooley, a teacher; and Jacob Haeussler, who was given a five year lease beginning in 1887. After William Keever's death in 1899, the property transferred out the of Hartman family and began a series of 19 owners until the present.

Here is a listing of tenants every 10 years, from 1900 until 1940, from the city directories.
Gorsuch Louisa, wid. Lowrey, h. 424 E. Liberty
Long Mary, laundress, h. 424 E. Liberty
Parker Chas. E. ink grinder, h. 424 E. Liberty
Taylor Wm. shoemkr. h. 424 E. Liberty
" Wm. F. motorman, h. 424 E. Liberty
Wiegand Laura, saleslady, h. 424 E. Liberty
“Louis, driver, h. 424 E. Liberty
“R. F. lab. h. 424 E. Liberty

Kummer Theo umbrella repairer h 424 E Liberty
Meister Caroline F dressmkr h 424 E Liberty
—Marianna wid Matthew h 424 E Liberty
Schwienher Addie with The Alms & Doepke Co h 424 E Liberty
—Catherine wid Henry h 424 E Liberty
—Emma seamstress h 424 E Liberty
—Ida forelady W M Norton's 612 Main h 424 E Liberty
—Louis H clk 1218 Broadway h 424 E Liberty

Coffey Wm with The John Shilitto Co h 424 E Liberty
Glassmeyer Herbert J pressfeeder h 424 E Libertv
—John B cutter h 424 E Liberty
James Luzerne clk Union Central Life Ins Co h 424 E Liberty
—Mabel L h 424 E Liberty
Jeffery Jennie timekpr h 424 E Liberty
Sweeney Scott Clarence elect'n h 424 E Liberty
Walke Paul trunkctr h 424 E Liberty
Young Etta saleslady h 424 E Liberty

Buell Roy E ins agt 2d fl 108 W 6th h 424 E Liberty

Doyle Sebastian (Mabel) mach h 424 E Liberty
Gore Dana C (wid Wm) maid h 424 E Liberty
" Duncan wrapper Taystee Bread Co r 424 E Liberty
" Helen slswn Woolworth's r 424 E Liberty
Grover John F (Lucille) mech h 424 E Liberty
Haley Carolyn waiter Mrs Helen Frey r 424 E Liberty
“John J (Louise) lab h 424 E Liberty
Syron Wm H (Vernon) h 424 E Liberty

1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
1950 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Andrew Howe, after his purchase of the building in January of 2015, updated the apartments and has had no problem renting them in this desired area of Prospect Hill. He recently added an addition to the chimney, the bust of a women he has named Venus. He intends to name the building Casa de Milo. I'm sure Venus has an amazing view of the city from her perch on this historic building.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Walnut Hills History Via Maps

I was recently doing some research in the Walnut Hills area, around the former Lane Seminary grounds. I thought my readers might find the map comparison interesting.
1847 Map of Hamilton County, Ohio by attorney William D Emerson, C. S. Williams and Sons publisher - Source
1869 Titus Map - Source
1912 Map of Cincinnati - Source
2015 Google Map
Old maps are especially helpful since they help identify former street names. I made a key to keep track of old/new names for future reference. Happy digging!

1869 Titus Map
2015 Google Map
Chestnut St
Foraker Ave
Sycamore St
Lincoln Ave
Chapel St
Chapel St
Kemper St
Yale Ave
Locust St
William Howard Taft Rd
Vine St
Myrtle Ave
Beech St
Kemper Lane
Maple St
Park Ave
Elm St
Victory Pkwy/Alms Pl
Mulberry St
Monfort St
Linden St / Willow St
Preston Ave

Friday, June 5, 2015

Foundations Exposed - Water Street, Vine to Walnut

The newest portion of Smale Riverfront Park has opened and now we all get to actually walk in the footsteps of history by entering the circa 1840s foundations that were restored and left exposed for seating. But what history was here? Let's take a look...
June, 2015 by Digging Cincinnati History
Although I was not present when the excavation occurred, using maps, deed records and city directories, the history of this location can be determined. This area was part of the first plat of Cincinnati, which can been seen in this map from 1802. The lots at the waterfront were typically 100 feet and the area encompassing Water Street between Vine and Walnut were Inlots 457, 458, 459 and 460. For this project, I concentrated on the area west of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, since this is where the foundations are today.
Plan of Town of Cincinnati, Israel Ludow, 1802 - Source
Early paintings and drawings of the Cincinnati waterfront often shows the Public Landing area between Main and Broadway. Some images are available from the Cincinnati History Library but I am unable to reproduce them here. However, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County does have the 1848 daguerreotype panorama available on-line and with a little sleuthing, I figured out some of the oldest buildings.

1848, Charles Fontayne and William S. Porter daguerreotype panorama , Plate 1,  - Source
The Cincinnati History Library also has some maps available that also helped pinpoint the area. The deed records available also helped with some names of owners and leasees. So using this information, I went off to look at the city directories, looking for people who lived or worked on the south side of Water Street, between Vine and Walnut, and specifically numbers 59, 61 and 63 Water Street, before 1896.
Some prominent Cincinnati names are here including Isaac Burnet in 1825 and John Yeatman in 1834. These locations are vague, since they do not specify north or south side of Water Street.
These locations are vague, since they do not specify north or south side of Water Street.
These locations are on south side of Water Street.
Using deed and lease information, I could begin to determine exactly who lived in the lots in questions. I also determined using present-day maps with the bridge in place, that the addresses of the now-exposed foundations are most likely the western wall of 59 Water Street and the complete basement of 61 Water Street (pre-1896 addresss). In 1846, Issac C. Hull had his carriage making business at 59 Water and A. W & J. Patterson were rectifiers, people who blended raw whiskey to a certain taste, working at 61 Water Street. However in 1848-49 (the time of the daguerreotype), Patterson was running a produce houses and the next year, it was a feed store.

In 1850, the first floor of 61 Water Street became a coffee house, run by Matthew Keegan called the Robert Emmet House until 1863. The 1853-1885 directories show that at 59 Water Street, there was a grocer named John Holon. In 1857, Thomas Emery, who had arrived in Cincinnati in the mid-1840s, moved his candle and lard oil business from Water Street, between Walnut and Main to the southeast corner of Water and Vine. It appears he built new structures when the business moved, however, Thomas died in an accident at this location on December 30, 1857.
The Cincinnati Daily Enquirer (1852-1872);  Jan 1, 1858;  ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Cincinnati Enquirer; pg. 3
Thomas' sons, Thomas, Jr. and John J. Emery continued the business along with the many real estate holdings the family began to acquire. The Emery family began building many apartment buildings, hotels, theaters and landmarks associated with Cincinnati, including Carew Tower. The candle and oil business continued at Water and Vine until 1886, when it was moved to Ivorydale.  
This photo was taken during the construction of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, circa 1866. The buildings to the left of the bridge were located on Water Street. Thomas Emery's candle and oil business was located in the two buildings at the corner of Water and Vine, outlined in red. The area of the exposed foundations are outlined in blue. - Source 
During this time, Emery owned all the land and building from Vine to the Suspension Bridge, but only appears to have used southeast corner for their business, up to 63 Water Street. The building at 59 Water Street was a residence for a variety of laborers between 1857 and 1860. 
After the Emery's moved, a variety of businesses used these buildings (see the maps below), including the J. Weller Company, who were in the peanut and pickle business, the Bodmann's Tobacco Company,the F. A. Laidley Company (pork packers) and a bag company. In the early 1920's the Folz Grocery & Baking Company took over the buildings and in 1928 it was sold to the Kroger Grocery & Baking Company. Emery's continued to own the land and buildings until 1926.  
1887 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source

1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source

1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source

1950 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Kroger owned these buildings until 1960, when they were sold to Hamilton County. Other uses had been considered over the years but many people remember this land as parking lots to attend Cincinnati Reds and Bengals games. Today we get to enjoy our riverfront as a wonderful park, bringing us back to the river, where we can see where Cincinnati began.

Enjoy these images from the past into the present!
1920s Aerial - Source

1996 CAGIS Aerial - Source

2001 CAGIS Aerial - Source

2006 CAGIS Aerial - Source

2011 CAGIS Aerial - Source