Monday, November 28, 2022

Not Theda Bara's House?

 Often identified with the Cincinnati girl turned silent film star Theda Bara, this house stood at the corner of Ledgewood Drive and Victory Parkway from 1924 until 2011. But did you know there is no evidence that she ever owned or resided here?

Deed records show the lot was purchased by May Droesch in 1923, and plans for the Spanish-style home were made shortly after. Droesch was a real estate investor, but also had a connection to the film industry, as she owned a chain of theaters in the area along with Ignatz and Julius Frankel. Her parents, Joseph and Mary Droesch also lived in the home. Mary died at this home in 1929, and May left to live in Atlanta, Georgia in 1932. Her father continued to live here until the following year, moving to Atlanta as well, until his death in 1945. May died in Atlanta in 1949.
Cincinnati Commercial Tribune January 20, 1924 p6

Owners between 1933 and 1968 include Raymond and Lorene Frankel (1933-1942), Coleman Harris (1942-1949), Lillie Goldsmith (1949-1953) Lillian and John Lutz (1953-1956), and Ida and Clifford Schaten (1956-1968).
Cincinnati Enquirer; July 28, 1968; p. 2K

In 1968, Xavier University professor, Dr. Joseph Link, purchased the home. He also had previously purchased a Tudor-style house next door in 1955, and had built additional buildings in this area including Manor House Apartments, University Apartments, and the present-day Jesuit Residence. In 1979, Dr. Link agreed to sell all the buildings to Xavier University in 1989. Once acquired by the university, the Droesch house was used as housing for religious sisters, and later as a residence for honor students. At the time of demolition, it was said the stucco was falling from the house. Xavier stated that they had removed historically significant parts for preservation.

So there is really no connection to Theda Bara. I dug through city directories and newspaper articles to see if it was ever mentioned that she stayed here on her visits to or through Cincinnati, but nothing was ever mentioned until it was sold in 1968. So perhaps she did visit May Droesch or Raymond Frankel between 1924 and 1942, but this was not her Cincinnati home.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Cincinnati Deaconess Hospital

Do you remember the Deaconess Hospital, that was at the corner of Clifton Avenue and Straight Street? Did you know the hospital was actually started in Liberty Street (now Liberty Hill) in the Over-the-Rhine/Prospect Hill neighborhood?

Google Street View; July 2022

Founded in 1888, the hospital was located in one half of a two-sided single family home. The home was built in the late 1850s for the Nulsen and Wagner families (Anton Nulsen and Philippina Nulsen Wager were siblings.). As the hospital expanded, they purchased both portions of the house. It was so successful, that plans were made in 1899 to build a new structure in Clifton Heights. It was completed in 1903, and the Liberty Hill houses were converted into the Ohio Maternity Hospital until it was sold in 1914 to a private owner.

Sketch of the hospital to be built at Clifton Avenue and Straight Street.
Cincinnati Enquirer; March 17, 1902; p. 5

The Liberty Hill houses were converted in apartments, conveniently called "The Liberty". Plans were made to convert the homes into condos in the 1980s, but funding fell through. It recently sold, and the new owner ordered a history report so they could learn the stories behind the hospital rumors.

The Deaconess Hospital buildings at Clifton Avenue and Straight Street were demolished in 2019 to make way for a mixed-use facility, with student and community-based housing planned. However, the lot currently remains undeveloped.

Clifton Avenue and Straight Street; Google Street View July 2022

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Auto Laundry? Maybe not what you think...

 A follower recently reached about a curious-looking building on Court Street, seemingly out of place as compared to the surrounding buildings.

Google Street View Nov. 2020

It clearly is different from the typical Italianate style that is more common in downtown and Over-the-Rhine. I took a look at the Sanborn Insurance Maps from 1891 and 1930, and discovered some significant changes:

1891 Map
Address prior to 114-116 West Court
Three-story in front, two story in back, brick building

1930 Map
Address covers 16 to 20 West Court Street
One-story brick building.

The  1887 and 1891 maps show that the building standing at that time was a three-story brick building. A look through the city directories showed it was used for commercial purposes, with businesses such as a china, glass and queensware dealer, a commission merchant, a wholesale confectioner (mmm, candy!), the American Toilet Supply Company, and the Troy Laundry Company.

In 1919, the building was sold, and renovation plans were made:

Cincinnati Enquirer;
Nov. 30, 1919; p. 15

Cincinnati Enquirer;
Dec. 2, 1919; p. 10

Harry Hake is a noted Cincinnati architect, who also designed many buildings on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, and other notable works.

So this building was originally designed to be a car wash, and not an automatic laundry for clothes! I was unable to locate any images of what the interior of this building looked like, however I did discover this image:

In this era, a car wash was based on the assembly line, where a conveyor, often manual, would pull the car down the line, where workers would perform a task in stations as it went down the line.

Cincinnati Enquirer
Jun 20, 1920; p. 4

The Quick Service Auto Laundry & Garage sign is visible above the delivery truck in this photo from 1928.

1968 Hamilton County Auditor

By the mid-1930s, the car wash had closed, and the building became a service garage. and by the 1950s, it was used as a parking garage. As of today, it appears to still be used as a private parking garage.