On August 24, 1929 Thomas Emery's Sons announced a $30 million real estate deal to erect the largest building complex of its kind in the United States. The Emery Hotel, (see hotel pages) and the Carew Building were among the buildings razed for this construction project. On November 11, 1929 excavations began and the construction of the building began on January 8, 1930. The Carew Tower was named after John Carew (1848-1914), co-founder of the Mabley & Carew department store chain, (with the original store located on the opposite corner). The complex included a 48-story office building, a 750 car 28 story garage, department store, arcade, a 800 room 29 story hotel, and restaurants.
Many consider the fully automated 28 story parking garage as the most exciting part of this monumental project. The driver pulled into a parking service bay, got out and locked the car. Automated platforms then would slide the car onto elevators which carried it to a vacant level and deposited it. When the driver came to get their car, they would sit down in a waiting room as the car was returned via the elevator and automated platform. This revolutionary method ultimately failed because of the many shapes and sizes of the cars coming off the production lines in the ensuing years. Also it was not very reliable and broke down frequently. It was also very time consuming for short-term parkers as opposed to employees of the tower or hotel guests who stayed overnight. The automated system was eventually dismantled and replaced by humans who rode the elevators and parked the cars. In the 1980s this portion of the Carew complex was demolished during renovations because of the weakened condition of the structural steel supports caused by road salt eating away at them for 50 years.
Incredibly in 7 months, believe it or not, the Carew Tower was dedicated on July 10, 1930 with the first tenant moving in on October 1. The entire project took only 17 months with the garage being one of the final items to be completed. The primary retail tenant was Mabley & Carew, (Pogue's moved in when Mabley & Carew moved across the street in 1962). The Netherland Plaza opened on the west side of the tower, (see hotel section).
These are not postcards
Carew Tower under construction Brand new building
These 3 cards show the two tallest buildings in Cincinnati (years ago)
So it is only appropriate that the next building is:
THE UNION CENTRAL LIFE INSURANCE
The Union Central Life Insurance Company was founded by the Methodist Church on January 10, 1867. Preachers were encouraged to become agents, with notable success. The company occupied the building below (not a postcard) from 1874 until they moved into the 34 story Union Central Tower at 4th and Vine.
4th and Central
Anyone living in Cincinnati will recognize this building instantly. Built in 1913 it is 34 stories tall and when built it was the 5th largest building in the world and the tallest building outside of New York. The architect, Cass Gilbert, topped the building with a bronze replica of the tomb of King Mausolus of Turkey. (source of the word mausoleum). Located at the southwest corner of 4th and Vine, this is where the home of Reuben Springer the promoter of Music Hall, the Post Office, and then, the Chamber of Commerce had stood. It is now known as the PNC Building.
Lithograph Building Details
In 1926 the Burnet House, (see Hotels), which had stood on this corner was torn down to make room for the addition of an annex to the Union Life Building. All six cards above were produced before the annex had been completed. They all state on the back that only 10 stories were done.
I don't know what the photograph above is showing. At first I thought it was a fire, but then I noticed the bunting hanging down on the northeast corner of the building plus there is a fountain of water shooting straight up from the roof. I now believe that they may be celebrating the completion of the tallest building in the city. The main reason for showing this photo is the rather unusual view of the, at that time, very old Burnet House that was torn down in only a few years.,
Communications in the 19th century in Cincinnati began like any other community, by telegraph. One of the big problems with a telegraph was the need to retain an army of messengers. Charles Kilgour was a banker and transit company investor whose home lay on the eastern side of Cincinnati mid-way up the hill. Kilgour broke his leg when he fell off his horse when it became frightened by one of his steam traction cars. He was forced to work from his home and therefore a clerk named Thomas Bell (co-incidence no relationship) had to relay messages by foot all day long. Tired of running up hill every day he suggested that Kilgour have a telegraph installed in his home. He did and became one of the first to have one installed in a residence. He then formed a company to install the telegraph in other homes and with different branches of a large company. Formed in 1873, it was called The City and Suburban Telegraph Association.
Charles Kilgour House
It was not very successful because all messages had
to be sent in code. In 1877 James Shiras arrived in town with a year old device
that could carry voices by wire. Since Kilgour's company already had wire all
over the city, his company was a natural fit for the new invention. City &
Suburban not only bought the idea but it hired Shiras to sell telephones to the
rest of Cincinnati. Their first sale was to Cincinnati Gas Light & Coke Co.
(later C. G. & E.).
The person Alexander Graham Bell talked to in that first historic call, Thomas Watson, came to Cincinnati to help lay out the new system. The company's name was changed to The City and Suburban Telegraph Association and Telephonic Exchange. In 1878 the city and Suburban signed a contract with Bell Telephone of Boston to be the exclusive agent for Bell in Cincinnati. With 18 subscribers and four telephone lines the Bell Telephonic Exchange opened, in 1878, their first exchange on the 4th floor of the Baker Building located on the southwest corner of 4th and Walnut.
1st Exchange at 4th & Walnut
The company contracted with American Telephone and Telegraph in 1882 for long distance service (100 miles was long distance at that time). In 1891 the first underground cable was laid.
Central Exchange 3rd & Walnut Dapper Installer around 1900
In 1903 the name was changed to Cincinnati & Suburban Bell Telephone. In 1904 the 1st coin-operated phone was installed on 4th Street between Walnut & Main (in front of the Joseph R. Peebles' Sons Co. grocery store). In 1913 a new headquarters building was constructed on 4th Street between Main and Sycamore.
Headquarters on 4th Street
A minor detail I missed telling was that it was Charles brother John Kilgour who became president of the company and in 1912, two years before his death his son, Bayard Kilgour, took over the reins of the company. Below is a newspaper caricature of Bayard.
President & General Manager
In 1915 transcontinental calls began. Conversion to dial service began in 1930 and was completed in 1952. In 1931 the new Telephone Operating Building was opened at 7th & Elm Streets. In 1930 the company began converting to dial service which was completed in 1952. In 1946 mobile telephones were introduced. The two-letter exchange and the five digit number was replaced by a seven digit number in 1962. In 1968 electronic switching and musical beeps were introduced. In 1981 headquarters were moved next door into the new Atrium One. The building above was razed in 1982 to make room for Atrium Two.
Operating Bldg. Largest straight line long distance Recent Photograph
209 West 7th Street switchboard in the world
world's longest straight line switchboard consisted of 88 long distance operators. On
1/23/37 a record 9,722 calls were made. The 3 images above are not postcards.
In 1971 the company's name was changed to Cincinnati Bell. In 1976 a larger building was joined to the building at 7th & Elm at 7th & Plum. On April 20, 1995 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
West exchange 930 York St.
AMERICAN BOOK CO.
317 Walnut 300 Pike St. Back of card on left
The American Book Co.'s first building is shown in the first, non-postcard image, at 317 Walnut Street. In 1904 they constructed the current structure at 300 Pike St. The company is most famous for their McGuffy Readers. It was placed on the Historical Register in 1974. The building was sold in 1980 and converted into office space and serves as the corporate headquarters for The David J. Joseph co. Two of the floors are leased to law firms.
WESTERN METHODIST BOOK CONCERN
220 W. 4th Ad. 420 Plum St
The Methodist Book Concern printed out of the two buildings above over the years although it has different addresses for the 4th Street building, they were changed when the city changed its addressing system in 1897. They moved from the 4th Street building into the Plum Street building sometime in the late teens.
ANDREWS BLDG. ALMS & DOEPKE CO.
s. e. cor. 5th & Race Canal and Main
For more about the Alms & Doepke building, check out the Canals Page on the Transportation main page. The last image is a present day photo.
AMERICAN BLDG. SCHMIDT CO. BLDG. VOGELER DRUG CO.
Central Parkway s. w. cor. 5th & Main 217 East 6th St.
The 3rd image is a present day photo.
JOHNSTON BUILDING TEMPLE BAR BLDG.
s. w. corner of 5th and Walnut n. w. cor. Main and Court
19 Garfield Place
On December 4th, 1986 the Doctor's Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The last two images above are photographs.
MANUFACTURES EXHIBITION BLDG.
These three cards show the Cincinnati Convention Center as it looked when dedicated on August 4, 1967. Consisting of 95,000' sq. feet on the block bounded by 5th, 6th, Elm, and Plum Streets it soon came to be regarded as outdated and too small, it was also considered to be an ugly looking box-like structure with 'no spirit'. An expansion and remodeling program began in 1984 which resulted in an elegant facility with 162,000-square feet of exhibition space, a 30,000-square foot ballroom, plus 43 meeting rooms. The arch from the old Albee Theater was installed over the 5th St. entrance. This new structure was rededicated June 9, 1986 as the Sabin Convention Center in honor of Dr. Albert Sabin who had developed the oral polio vaccine in the 1950s at Cincinnati's Children's Hospital.
GAS & ELECTRIC CO.
139 East 4th St.
The Cinergy Corporation began in 1837 as the Cincinnati Gas Light & Coke to provide street gaslights. The 1st gaslights were lit in 1843 at the corner of 4th & Main Streets for the W. H. Harrison Pharmacy. This location later became the headquarters of Duke Energy Ohio & Kentucky. In 1875 the company began marketing gas for cooking and selling appliances. The company bought Cincinnati Electric Light Co. in 1889. In 1901 10 different electric companies consolidated with the gas company to form Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. 6 Northern Kentucky gas & electric companies combined to form Union Light Heat & Power Co. In 1909 both companies became subsidiaries of Columbia Gas & Electric. In 1946 Columbia Gas & Electric was required to divest CG&E and CG&E's shares were sold to the public. In 1994 CG&E merged with PSI Energy in Indiana to form Cinergy Corp. In 2006 Charlotte N. C. based Duke Energy Corp. acquired Cinergy Corp. The last image is a present day photograph.
West End Power Station Plum St. Power Station
The Plum Street power station was right across from where the canal turned towards the east along what is now Central Parkway.
The Cincinnati Street Gas Lamps are composed of more than 1,100 street lamps scattered throughout the city. The street lamps were added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 22, 1978. They were seen as being historic because they are representative of the application of early- to mid-nineteenth-century technology to daily life. Prompted by a newly founded firm known as the "Cincinnati Gas Light and Coke Company," the city of Cincinnati began to implement streetlights in 1837. Today, perhaps 1,172 gas lights are in place in thirteen of the city's neighborhoods, as well as in certain portions of Columbia Township and Sycamore Township, the oldest of which date back to 1843.
FOR MORE DOWNTOWN BUILDINGS