Monday, September 27th, 2010

Inspiration Monday: Cincinnati Architecture


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
4 Comments » | Published in Architecture, Art and Artists, Local Design  |  4 Comments

After the election awhile back, I got really sick of hearing the term “flyover states,” so started organizing some of my favorite bloggers from the middle of the U.S. to help me dispel the myth that everything exciting happens on our two coasts. However, then we decided to have an Organization-themed guest blog week and I lost track of my flyover states plans. Thankfully I was reminded of it last week. We’re going to have a series of guest posts from bloggers from all over the country. Having grown up in Cincinnati myself, I’m excited to introduce Maya Drozdz of VisuaLingual, who is going to show us some of her favorite architectural treasures from The Queen City. Take it away Maya!

Four years ago, when I first learned that I would be moving to Cincinnati, I knew almost nothing about the city — I had seen WKRP in Cincinnati, I liked the work of Charley Harper, and I knew that the Afghan Whigs, a band I’d liked in high school, were from Cincinnati. Further research revealed that it’s home to Macy’s and Procter & Gamble, Larry Flynt got his start here, Jerry Springer was once Cincinnati’s mayor, and that there was an anti-obscenity kerfuffle involving an exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs at the Contemporary Arts Center. So, keeping my expectations firmly in check, I moved to this fair city, and discovered that it’s full of interesting and innovative architecture, art and design spanning the 19th through the 21st centuries.

The Cincinnati City Hall was built in 1887 in the Richardson Romanesque style. It was designed by Samuel Hannaford, a prominent local architect. Its castle-like form would be at home on an Ivy League campus or on the set of a Harry Potter movie.

Music Hall, located just north of downtown in Over-the-Rhine, is another Hannaford design. Completed in 1878, it is home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, May Festival Chorus, and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. The $10 symphony tickets may well be the best deal in town.

Memorial Hall, just down the street from Music Hall, was built in 1908 and houses the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and the annual MusicNow festival. Its interior is more posh than you might expect from the Greek Revival facade.

The Dixie Terminal Building was designed by Garber & Woodward and completed in 1921. It served as the streetcar terminal and stock exchange, and is now an office building. You may remember its arcade from the film Rain Man. The entry is decorated with tile made by the Rookwood Pottery Company.

Rookwood was founded in 1880 by Maria Longworth Nichols and quickly gained a reputation for beautiful craftsmanship and technical innovation. Its architectural pottery division started in 1902, and examples can be found in public spaces in Cincinnati and beyond, as well as fireplaces in many older homes in the Cincinnati area.

For 80 years, Carew Tower was the tallest building in Cincinnati. Construction started in 1929, right before the start of the Great Depression. It’s an Art Deco masterpiece but, as you look up the facade, you can see where the ornamentation stops and the plain brick begins. This was done as a cost-cutting measure.

The building now houses the Netherland Hilton as well as offices. The interior arcade features Rookwood tile, of course. Orchids at Palm Court, Hilton’s restaurant, offers great food in an incredible space.

Even more Rookwood tile, on the facade of the old Gidding-Jenny department store, currently TJ Maxx.

The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge spans the Ohio River and connects downtown Cincinnati with Covington, Kentucky. If it looks a bit like the Brooklyn Bridge in miniature, that’s because Roebling designed both using many of the same structural principles.

Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine, opened in 1855 and is Ohio’s oldest surviving municipal market house. It’s located among the largest collection of Italianate buildings in the US. We live just a few blocks away and do a lot of our grocery-shopping here. I really think that our diet has improved as a result!

The Contemporary Arts Center, located downtown, was the first US project by avant garde architect Zaha Hadid. Completed in 2003, it is locally loved or hated, depending on who you talk to.

Across the street from the CAC is a block-long parking garage whose facade is an artwork by Polish Op Artist Julian Stanczak. What would have been an eyesore is instead an animated, colorful installation.

A little-known piece of public art is a mosaic mural by the late Charley Harper, located in the John Weld Peck Federal Building. You just go through security, head toward the elevators, and there it is!

My last bit of Cincinnati inspiration is this Googie pavilion located in Bellevue Hill Park. The pavilion was designed by R. Carl Freund and built in 1955 as a site for outdoor dancing. Cincinnati has an amazing, extensive network of parks, but this little park is my favorite. It offers a great vantage point for viewing fireworks displays over downtown.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little romp through some of my favorite Cincinnati finds. If you keep an open mind, it’s a great little city to visit!

About Becky:
Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!

About Becky

has written 1620 post in this blog.

Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!



  1. Patty Williams says:

    September 30th, 2010 at 8:56 am (#)

    Loved your bit on Cincinnati sites. There is so much more as well. Where did you live before Cincinnati?

  2. visualingual says:

    September 30th, 2010 at 7:57 pm (#)

    Thanks! I was born in Gdynia, Poland and raised in Gdynia and Brooklyn. College took me to Ithaca, NY, and then I lived in Oakland and worked in Sausalito for a while. I went to graduate school in the ‘burbs of Detroit, and then moved to Indianapolis for work, met a boy, and we lived in Boston for four years. When it was time for him to choose a graduate program, he selected Cincinnati, so I followed, since we didn’t see much of a long-term future for ourselves in Boston. We came to Cincinnati for two years and, four years later, we’re still here, so I guess that tells you something, doesn’t it?

    Patty, if you’ve got other things to add, please do! This is not at all a comprehensive list.

  3. galaxiecarol says:

    October 2nd, 2010 at 12:29 pm (#)

    wow. I’ve not been to Cincinnati in years and certainly didn’t appreciate the beauty you’ve shown here. The photos are absolutely wonderful. Thank you for inspiring me to return AND observe the structures around me more often.

  4. A Little Peek Inside the Charley Harper House | Hatch: The Design Public® Blog says:

    March 16th, 2011 at 9:10 am (#)

    […] Inspiration Monday: Cincinnati Architecture […]

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