Thursday, January 28, 2021

You Never Know What Lies Beneath

Local Facebook history groups are talking about this building at 616-628 Race Street, slowly revealing it's hidden history.

Photo courtesy of Scott Beseler

I had the pleasure of the inside scoop on these buildings (yes, actually two buildings, bricked together), when Sara Bedinghaus, of 3CDC, reached out to me last summer to help solve a mystery. The front of the building looked very 1940s-1950s, but the back revealed a different story.

Google Street View 2018

Sara also sent me interior photos of beautiful iron posts and windows that didn't align to the outside.

So clearly more was going on here. So I went off to do some digging, and history began revealing itself.

The deed records show that in 1871 Russell, Morgan & Company, who were in the printing business, bought 2+ lots on the east side of Race Street between 6th and 7th Streets for a new building. There was an existing brick building standing in the way, so in 1872, it was advertised for it to be removed.

Cincinnati Enquirer; March 19, 1872; p. 5
Present day 624-628 Race Street. The streets in Cincinnati were renumbered in 1895-1896.

The building was completed in late 1872, and the Russell, Morgan & Co. moved in as of January 1, 1873, according to their city directory listing:
RIJSSELL, MORGAN & CO., (A. O. R., R. J. M., J. F. Robinson. jr . & J. M. Armstrong) Mercantile and Show Printing House, 20 College; January 1, 1873, will Remove to 258 and 260 Race

By 1883, the business was so successful that they decided to move to another, bigger location on Lock Street, and the Race Street location was listed for rent.

Cincinnati Enquirer; September 19, 1883; p. 8

By 1885, Peter Thomson, manufacturer of toys, toy books, games and also color printing was here along with Cottrell & Sons, who built printing presses. Thomson, along with business partners C. V. VanHamm and Absalom Mattox printed a satirical newspaper entitled "Sam the Scaramouch" between 1885 and 1886.

1887 Sanborn Insurance Company

As you can see, the Peter G. Thompson building is on the map in 1887, but the south building doesn't match up with today's buildings. Let's explore a bit of history on that one.

In 1863 and 1864 August. W. Frank, whose wholesale and retail grocery business was located at the northwest corner of Race and Sixth Street, purchased 2+ lots on Race Street. In 1866, his home was listed at 256 Race Street and can be seen still standing there on the 1887 map. Unfortunately, August died the next year, however, his wife Margaret kept the business running. In 1887, the estate of A. W. Frank, led by Margaret, had the architect firm of Samuel Hannaford design a six-story building of iron and stone to be constructed on these lots. The deed records show that the Russell, Morgan & Co. had to be consulted, as the buildings shared a common wall. 

1891 Sanborn Insurance Map

In 1888, H. Rosenbaum & Company, manufacturers and importers of cloaks, were located in the Frank building on the upper floors (as seen on the 1891 map above) along with Synder & Kolhberg, who sold carpets.

By 1895, the Frank building was leased to Albert G. Erkenbrecher, while in 1892, the A. E. Burkhardt Company, leased space in the former Russel & Morgan building for their clothing and accessories business. A G. Erkenbrecher was the brother-in-law of A. E. Burkhardt.

The streets in Cincinnati were renumbered in 1895-1896 and in 1900, the Robert Mitchell Furniture Company moved their retail to 624-630 Race Street and expanded to 616-622 Race in 1903.

Cincinnati Enquirer; September 7, 1903; p. 5

September 29, 1907; p. 12

By 1910, the furniture company had moved to just the south building (616-622 Race) and the H. S. Hamberger (yep, that's really it's name) was located at 624-628 Race. They were "importers of fancy groceries", but moved to Main Street in 1914. That year, the Miller Brothers took up their dry goods business here and remained until 1927. It was that year that the J J Newberry Company "a 5, 10 and 25 cent business" opened, from 624-628 Race Street, and in 1936 expanded to 616-622, combining both buildings for their retail operation.

1923 by Rombach & Groene Collection - Cincinnati History Library 
Miller Bros. and Mitchells Furniture

1930 Sanborn Insurance Company

1949 by Lawrence Brand
Newberry's with a combined storefront

In January 1951, a fire occurred in the elevator shaft, filling the upper floors with smoke. This fire, along with modernism being all the rage in the post-World War II era, prompted a decision to be made to "update" this building after a lease was made with Butler Brothers of Chicago to open a retail location here. 
Cincinnati Enquirer, January 20, 1951; p. 14

Cincinnati Enquirer, January12, 1951; p. 1

Cincinnati Enquirer; October 8, 1951; p. 28

Cincinnati Enquirer; September 30, 1951; p. 68

Then in 1955, the store was leased to the Schottenstein brothers of Columbus, Ohio, and the Schott's Department Store was here until 1957, when Friedman Furniture arrived, only lasting until the fall of 1960, when the location became part of the Kroger chain of grocery stores.

October 19, 1960; p. 27

1968 Hamilton County Auditor
Note the building to the right of Kroger also was cut down from seven stories to just two.

Kroger closed this location in late 1969, and in the following years, many stores and businesses have come and gone.
Top Value Stamps (continued since it was part of Kroger) until 1971 (?)
Singer Sewing Shop - 1970-1977
Levitation Clothing - 1977-1978
Wurlitzer Organs and Music Shop 1978-1981
Queen Optical - 1982
Citizens Federal - 1983-1984
Willis Music - ? - 1985

In 1993, Chong Nung Kim and Kil Jin Kim purchased the building, having opened their clothing store here in the 1980s. They closed their business to retire in May 2020 and now 3CDC is slowly revealing the beautiful details of these buildings, brick by brick.

Photo courtesy of Scott Beseler

I can't wait to see what the future holds, as they uncover the past to bring it into the present.