Revitalizing Neighborhoods: Over-the-Rhine

June 21, 2012 8 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville visits what is believed to be the largest most intact urban historic district in the United States: Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine



Over-the-Rhine has been praised for its collection of historic architecture. The New York Times described the neighborhood as having "a scale and grace reminiscent of Greenwich Village in New York." When Arthur Frommer, founder of the Frommer's travel guides, visited Over-the-Rhine he described it as the most promising urban area for revitalization in the United States, and claimed that its potential for tourism "literally could rival similar prosperous and heavily visited areas."  Most of Over-the-Rhine's ornate brick buildings were built by German immigrants from 1865 to the 1880s. The architecture of Over-the-Rhine reflects the diverse styles of the late nineteenth century—simple vernacular, muted Greek Revival, Italianate and Queen Anne.

Findlay Market is the oldest continuously operating farmers' market in Ohio.  It was among the first markets in the United States to use iron frame construction technology and is one of the very few that have survived.

Washington Park is bounded by West 12th, Race and Elm Streets in Over-the-Rhine. The park is owned and operated by the Cincinnati Park Board. The nearly six acre park was a Presbyterian cemetery before it was acquired by the city in 1855. The park has an old-fashioned bandstand and many trees. Several American Civil War cannons and busts of Civil War heroes Frederick Hecker and Colonel Robert Latimer McCook, who commanded the German 9th Ohio Infantry (Die Neuner) are in the park. There is also a bronze tablet (1931) given by Sons and Daughters of the (Die Neuner) 9th O.V.I.  The Centennial Exposition of the Ohio Valley and Central States was held here in 1888 with great success. It was, in addition to the celebration of Ohio's remarkable progress, designed to celebrate the settlement of the Northwest Territory.

Cincinnati Park Board and nonprofit 3CDC are starting renovations for Washington Park in August. The renovations are estimated to cost $46 million. This includes expansion of the park from 6 acres to 8 acres and construction of a parking garage beneath it for up to 450 cars. In a similar renovation of Fountain Square, 3CDC used profits from parking to pay off loans it took out to develop the project. Construction is expected to take up to 18 months to complete.

Music Hall, completed in 1878, is Cincinnati's premier classical music performance hall. It serves as the home for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, May Festival Chorus, and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. In January, 1975, it was recognized as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The building was designed from the start with a dual purpose - to house musical activities in its central auditorium and industrial exhibitions in its side wings. It is located at 1241 Elm Street in Cincinnati, Ohio across from historic Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine, just minutes from the center of the downtown area. Music Hall was built over a pauper's cemetery, which has helped fuel its reputation as one of the most haunted places in America.

The School for Creative and Performing Arts.  In 1996, a group of local benefactors led by Erich Kunzel, long time Maestro of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, formed the Greater Cincinnati Arts and Education Center (GCAEC) to, in Kunzel's words, "transform the area around Washington Park into a unique arts community that would include a new School for the Creative and Performing Arts." The GCAEC committed $31 million, the Cincinnati Public Schools $34 million, and the State of Ohio $7 million, to combine SCPA with the Schiel Primary School for Arts Enrichment in one building to create the first public kindergarten through twelfth grade arts school in what the GCAEC called the "nationally unprecedented public school system – private sector partnership".

In 1890, Cincinnati was the 3rd largest beer producer in the country by population, annually producing 4.2 barrels of beer per resident and shipping it across the country and around the world.  

The brick breweries were typically designed in the Romanesque Revival style, and larger complexes often covered multiple city blocks. To produce the lager style beer common by 1860, typically very deep basements were dug or tunnels were cut into hillsides for the lagering process. At the height of production, 18 of the 36 breweries in greater Cincinnati were operating in Over-the-Rhine and the West End. Prohibition in 1919 closed most of the breweries permanently.

Dating back to 1933, the Red Top Brewing Company (left) was the 14th largest brewery in the country around 1950, but by 1957 had gone out of business and closed the last operating brewery in Over-the-Rhine, at the time.  The Red Top facility along Central Avenue and Dayton Street was housed in the former Hauck Brewing Company's brewery.  Founded by Cornelius Hauck in 1882, Hauck ceased operations in 1927 after failing to make a profit selling near beer during Prohibition.

The Red Top Brewing Company, like many others, ceased operations when the market saw increased infiltration from national brands such as Schlitz, Pabst, Blatz and Budweiser. Today, the neighborhood is home to a Samuel Adams Brewery, which is housed in the former Hudepohl-Schoenling brewery and the recently opened Christian Moerlein Brewing Company.

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