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Memories of Downtown Cincinnati

Cincinnati's Downtown

Roebling Suspension Bridge and panoramic view of downtown Cincinnati's shoping and business district

The above picture is the view one would get from above the Kentucky shore of the Ohio River looking Northward into downtown Cincinnati, Ohio.

Click on any picture for a larger view.

Some points of Interest

1 The large buff colored building in the upper left corner of the picture is the Carew Tower.

2 The building across 4th Street from the Carew Tower is the Central Trust Building (white colored building).

3 The Dixie Terminal Building, a large brick building, is east of the Central Trust Building across Vine St. The bridge ramp ended there.

4 The smaller tower in the upper right corner of the picture is the Cincinnati Gas and Electric Building.  It is also on 4th St.

5 The street in the center of the picture is Walnut St.

6 The Roebling Suspension Bridge was the first bridge across the Ohio River.

Points of Interest Details

The western elevations of the Carew Tower and Central Trust Building
The western elevations of the Carew Tower and Central Trust Building

 

5th Street, Fountain Square and the eastern elevation of the Carew Tower and Central Trust Buildings
Cincinnati Museum Center photo

5th Street, Fountain Square and the eastern elevation of the Carew Tower and Central Trust Buildings

1. The Carew Tower was the tallest building in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio from it's completion in 1930 through the rest of the 20th century.  The 1/64th scale model stands seven feet tall.  It takes up an entire city block between 4th and 5th streets (south to north) and Vine to Race Streets (east to west).  There is a hallway through the middle of it that is wider than many small town's Main Street.  Midway through this hallway was a large arcade area and around the arcade was a balcony that extended around three sides.  The ceiling in this area was about three stories above the floor.  Another attribute of this area was that it had very good acoustics.

When I was a boy, downtown Cincinnati was a wonderful place at Christmas time.  On the balcony of the arcade an area would be roped off and an organist and choir would perform.  They would usually performed classical Christmas pieces from Handel and others plus sing Christmas carols during the lunch hour every week day.  The performances always drew a standing room only crowd and it was usually difficult to go from one side of the hall to the other between the department stores.

The H.& S Pogue Co. department store was on the east side of the Carew Tower.  The street car next to the Carew Tower in the picture at the left is approximately in front of one of its entrances.  I enjoyed the music  in the Carew Tower's arcade, but my favorite spot was the       H & S Pogue Co.'s toy land.  Every Christmas a large area was set aside for American Flyer and Lionel toy trains.  I spent many happy minutes watching the display and day dreaming about what new American Flyer train item might be under the tree on Christmas morning. 

The other department store was Mabley & Carew.  It marketed mostly quality clothing and dry goods.  Beside the two department stores in the Carew Tower, there were other small shops, a hotel, an  under ground parking garage and office space. 

The wide area in 5th street east of the Carew Tower is a park known as Fountain Square.  It has a large fountain and two flag poles at each end of its area.  The large red brick building to the left of the fountain was the Albee Theater, part of the RKO theater chain.  It was a real treat for my family to go to the movies.  I saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Walt Disney's first full length animated feature, and Alice in Wonder Land there.

The roof of the building in the lower right corner of the picture belongs to the Federal Building.  It housed the U.S. Post Office.  Its lobby had several large government murals painted on the ceiling and walls. Note the flags on the roof.

2. The Central Trust Building has a gold colored roof in the picture at the left.  The roof on the prototype building is clad in copper that has tarnished to a green color. This building was the main office of the Central Trust Bank, one of Greater Cincinnati's largest financial companies.

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The western elevations of the Carew Tower and Central Trust Building
Roebling Suspension Bridge and rear of the Dixie Terminal Building.

 

3. The Suspension bridge ramp ended at the Dixie Terminal building which had two levels where the Dixie Traction Co.'s, The Green Line, street cars and later busses would circle through this building. The street cars or buses  discharged and picked up passengers to transport them from and to Northern Kentucky.  The Licking River joins the Ohio River opposite downtown Cincinnati.  Passengers entering the terminal from Covington, KY and towns west of the Licking River entered the upper level of the terminal building from the suspension bridge.  Passengers entering Cincinnati on the Green Line from Newport, KY and towns east of the Licking River crossed a different bridge and entered the lower level from 3rd Street.  (Not visible in this picture).

My family lived in Fort Thomas Kentucky until I was almost eight years old.  To go shopping in downtown Cincinnati we would board a Number 11 street car and ride down to Newport, Kentucky and over the bridge into Cincinnati.  Due to Cincinnati codes and regulations the street car had to stop after it crossed the bridge at Main Street.  The motor man would then exit the car and go to the rear and raise a second trolley boom that connected to the double trolley cable system that Cincinnati's street cars and trolley buses used.  The motor man would then return to his station and the car would then proceed north up Main Street, west on 4th street until it reached Walnut Street.  The car then proceeded down Walnut Street (south) where it made a right turn onto 3rd Street and another right turn into the Dixie Terminal Building.  On the return trip, the car proceeded east on 3rd Street to Main Street where it turned south.  Before the car crossed the bridge back into Kentucky, the motor man exited the car and restored the second trolley boom to its storage position before he could proceed.

Panoramic view of the main business and shopping district of Cincinnati, Oh.
Panoramic view of the main business and shopping district of Cincinnati, Oh.

5. Note the elevation difference on Walnut Street between 3rd  and 4th Streets.  The change in elevation is equivalent to the height of a three or four story building.  It is this level of detail that makes this exhibit so amazing!  (This detail can be better observed by clicking on the picture at the left.)

6. The Roebling Suspension Bridge has always been an attractive landmark.  As I noted above, it was the first bridge to be built across the Ohio River. For more information visit; cincinnati-transit.net/suspension.html.

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Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. corporate office building.
Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co.
corporate office building

4. The Cincinnati Gas and Electric building that is now owned by Duke Energy is another attractive landmark on the Cincinnati skyline. It is located at the corner of 4th and Main Streets. To get to the main entrances and lobby that faces 4th Street, one must go through a large porch that extends almost the length of the building and is about forty to fifty feet deep. Massive plate glass windows that start about two feet above the pavement and extend almost to the height of the tall columns separate the porch from the lobby.

This was another one of my favorite places at Christmas time.
Every year since 1946, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, now part of CSX Transportation Inc. and Cincinnati Gas and Electric Co. set up a large "O" scale or "HO" scale railroad display that alternated through the '50s.  The "O" gauge display measures 36 feet by 47 feet long and there is still plenty of room around it in the building's lobby.  The "HO" display was slightly smaller and is no longer displayed in Cincinnati. I would enjoy the display so much that I could watch it for hours while my mother did her Christmas shopping.
In 2011 the Duke Energy Company donated the Holiday train display to the Cincinnati History Museum.

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