Part 1: An interactive look at Over-the-Rhine's past

Then and Now

The following story is part of a recurring series called "Then and Now," where we compare historic photos from Cincinnati's past to images taken today.

This is PART 1 of 2 in our interactive look at Over-the-Rhine.


CINCINNATI -- Arguably, no neighborhood in Cincinnati has as rich a history as Over-the-Rhine.

A mecca of German-American heritage, Over-the-Rhine’s "golden years" were between 1860 and 1900. But in the years that followed, it lost countless residents to the suburbs. What was once an explosion of culture and energy became one of several declining neighborhoods in the city’s ring of slums.

Many thought Over-the-Rhine would eventually disappear, swallowed up by Cincinnati's growing business district.

But they were wrong.

In 2006, Over-the-Rhine was placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of "America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places," and many organizations today are helping to preserve and revitalize it.

In this interactive piece, we examine Over-the-Rhine during the 1920s and 30s and compare it to today to see what has been altered -- and what remains unchanged.

Thanks to preserved photos from the University of Cincinnati's Archives & Rare Books Library, WCPO has opened a window to the past with an enhanced look at historic images.

Each set of photos can be controlled and manipulated with the click of a mouse.

HOW TO USE OUR TOOL: Click and hold the white circular “slider” tool at the center of each photograph. Then move the slider left and right to see “before” and “after.” (Please be patient with longer load times for the interactive photos below. This feature may not be compatible with all versions of Internet Explorer, but works best with browsers like Firefox, Chrome or Safari.)

May 26, 1920: YMCA on Elm Street


The Cincinnati headquarters for the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) is a nine-story brick building at the northwest corner of Elm Street and West Central Parkway. This main branch was completed in 1918 with two gymnasiums, a swimming pool, handball courts, bowling alleys, a cafeteria and 331 rooms for resident men.

Founded in 1848 by Sunday school teachers of Central Presbyterian Church, the Cincinnati “Y” is said to have been the first in the United States, according to the WPA Guide to Cincinnati. The building is known for its educational program, character-building activities and its law school. Former President William Howard Taft delivered an address at the building, and it served as a United Service Organization center during WWII in 1941 for American troops.

Next door was a furniture store listed as The G & Sons Henshaw Co. furniture dealers. And next to that was the Franklin Cotton Mill Company, which had several floors and a machine shop.

Also across the street was a cigar factory called General Cigar Co. and a business called The Pape Bros. Molding Company, which also faced Central Parkway. The Pape Bros. business was completely totaled years before in a fire on July 9, 1891. According to a New York Times article written that same year on July 10, Pape Bros. and another nearby business called M. Steinert & Sons (which sold pianos) “crushed in their middle as if they were egg shells.” Pape Bros. later rebuilt and reopened.


Sept. 15, 1928: Corner of Logan and Findlay Street


This building seen on Findlay Street in 1926 was residential space owned by Louis Kohlmeler, Geo McNutt, Ealph Wrisley, Pauline James and Luella Miles. Today, the building is abandoned and only half of it remains standing.

Sept. 17, 1926: Northeast corner of Sycamore Street and Central Parkway


In September of 1926, Sycamore Street and Central Parkway were under construction. The building shown here was vacant at the time, but a year earlier, a man named Edgar Bettman used it to run a shoe manufacturing shop called Bettmann-Dunlap Co. In 1929, it was listed as home to the company Parke-Davis, a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Today, the youth education center Value Learning and Teaching Academy occupies most of the building.

Sept. 17, 1926: Northwest corner of Sycamore Street and Central Parkway


Shown here near the intersection of Sycamore Street and Central Parkway in 1926 is a corner shop of the eight-story Alms & Doepke building. Founded in 1865 by William F. Doepke, William H. Alms and Frederick H. Alms, the core of the Alms & Doepke Dry Goods Company was erected in 1878 and designed by Samuel Hannaford. The building would later be expanded in 1886, 1890 and 1906. By the late nineteenth century, Alms and Doepke had about 800 people on its payroll and was the region’s leading seller of dry goods. The business closed in 1955 after 90 years of operation. The building was later listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Today, the Hamilton County government owns the commercial building and its rooms are used as offices for Job and Family Services employees.

Nov. 13, 1926: Corner of Main Street and Central Parkway


Here’s a wider photo from the corner of Main Street and Central Parkway in 1926 of the Alms & Doepke building, where fabric, thread, clothing and other similar merchandise were sold for 90 years.

Nov. 13, 1926: West along Central Parkway from corner of Sycamore Street


Looking down Central Parkway in 1926 provides another angle of the Alms & Doepke Dry Goods Company building (right side of the photo). In the building next door were the offices of locksmith Elijah B. Nickoson and a tinner named Bernard Moore. Also there was the Hogan Shoe Company, two vacancies, the chemical company Ackley & Brink and the Model Laundry Company. Today, a new building owned by the Salvation Army sits in that spot.

The adjacent building in 1926 housed a soap business called The Fry Bros Co. and The Ohio Mechanics Institute. That building, which remains today, is now a mixture of residential space and Coffee Emporium.

Across the street from Alms & Doepke was and still is the Hamilton County Courthouse (left side of the photo). The mammoth six-story limestone structure was completed in 1919. The courts and county offices are here -- and one of the most complete law libraries in America is on the fifth floor. An earlier version of the courthouse was destroyed in the Cincinnati riots of 1884. Today, the courthouse is connected via skybridge to the Hamilton County Justice Center where inmates are held. The Justice Center was built in 1985. In 1926, that spot was home to the Large & Roomy clothing factory and The Walworth Co., which sold plumbers’ supplies.

May 25, 1927: 15th Street east of Central Parkway


In 1927, this portion of Central Parkway near 15th Street was under construction. The building with the arch-framed doorway (right side of the photo) belonged to the United Jewish Social Agencies, which was part of a city-wide system for Jewish education. The organization's president at the time was Dr. Samuel Rothenberg and its superintendent was Kurt Peisr. Today, this building is home to the Metropolitan Baptist Church.

Surrounding the United Jewish Social Agencies building in 1927 was residential space and apartments owned by John Stoffel Jr., John W. Naegel, Fred BIchsel, Annie Levy, Chas
Stiles, Jos
KeUer, Arthur A. Springmyer and John Harasa, among others. Across the street (the left side of the photo) was the Demeo Erminie Grocery. Next to that was Ebner John Bakery and Peerless Athletic Club. Farther down 15th Street was a fire department repair shop.

July 8, 1932: Logan Street south from Findlay Street


The immediate series of buildings on the left and right of this view of Logan Street in 1932 were apartments and residential spaces owned by Prank B. Hanls, Thos J. Eoehrich, Bessie Younger, Marie Humer, Nicholas Eleder, August Budneck, BU Globerson and several others. The first two buildings on the right and a few on the left have since been demolished. The tall building that still stands today (right side of the photo) was known as the Procter Apartments. Across the street was a heated garage that could hold up to 20 vehicles.

Much farther down the road (right side of the photo) was The General Machinery Co., a three-story building that had a massive cold storage unit and an area for beef and hog killing, as well as sausage making. Across the street from that was Mowhawk Laundry and the Sanitary Towel & Apron Supply Co.

July 9, 1932: Dunlap Street north from Findlay Street


The building after the fence (right side of the photo) was furniture maker The Jos Scheid Sons Co. The business Plymetl Products Co. also had an office there. At five stories, the building had an elevator and an attached lumber shed. Today, the words “The Jos Scheid Sons Co.” and “Furniture To You” are still written on the front of the building in faded letters.

Down the road was residential space owned by Rosa Butts, Richard Ronan and Chas Leppia. Across the street from the furniture company was an empty lot and next to that was a large garage with steam heat and electric lights. Down the road a bit was The Rollman & Sons Company, a general store founded by Isaac Rollman. From Vonhausen, Germany, Rollman settled in Cincinnati in 1847 at 21 years old. His sons later took over the business.


Check back soon for PART 2 of our "Then and Now" interactive look at Over-the-Rhine.

To see our past "Then and Now" interactive pieces -- including a look at downtown Cincinnati in the 20s and 30s -- CLICK HERE.

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