Here are 9 formerly public buildings that now house restaurants, galleries and cultural arts centers
The preservation movement is in full swing
Brent Coleman | WCPO contributor
7:00 AM, Oct 31, 2016
5:21 PM, Oct 31, 2016
A potent dose of preservation is being pumped into Greater Cincinnati's core every day.
As you read this, old buildings throughout the Mill Creek and Licking River valleys are undergoing total organ transplants while the region's property doctors are diagnosing patients on both sides of the Ohio River and scheduling future surgeries.
"Preservation is benefiting from a national and international movement of people and activities into central cities," said Margo Warminski of the Cincinnati Preservation Association. "There have been earlier back-to-the-city movements, but they've kind of ebbed and flowed. This one is a lot stronger."
The movement is displacing some people and making others money. But no matter what your political position, it's hard not to agree that most of the preservation activity is giving new life to old houses and apartment buildings that have appeared to be ailing for decades.
Trending, too, is the conversion of abandoned civic spaces -- churches, fire and police departments, post offices and public schools -- into cool and well-used entertainment venues, apartments, condominiums, restaurants, offices and art centers. One such spot, the Dent Public School, requires only an out-patient operation, if you will, to become a haunted house every Halloween.
It may feel fresh, but it's not all new.
People are noticing preservation more today than 10 years ago, Warminski said, because historical preservation tax incentives born in the 1980s are being used more extensively now than in the past. And they're drawn to the walkable neighborhoods where it's all happening.
To catch up those of you who might not have noticed how many of Cincinnati's old public buildings are in use again, we present eight examples here that you can see by taking a 30-minute drive around the city and another one inside the Interstate 275 beltway that found a new life 55 years ago.
Let's start with that oldie-but-goodie, the Schoolhouse Restaurant in Camp Dennison. Once an outpost to train Union Soldiers, the little town built this two-story, brick school during the Civil War in the 1860s. It closed in 1954. Today, the Don and Phylis Miller family still spells out the menu on a long black chalkboard and serves the same kind of simple, family-style menu it first offered in 1961. Schoolhouse also runs a general store in an old pole bar.
The Precinct, 311 Delta Ave., Columbia Tusculum
The Precinct was opened by prolific steakhouse owner Jeff Ruby after he moved here from New Jersey 35 years ago. Cincinnati Police Patrol House No. 6 was built by Samuel Hannaford & Sons when George "Boss" Cox's political machine ran the city. There were 52 liens against the building when Ruby bought it with financial help from former Cincinnati Reds Pete Rose and Johnny Bench, and it became a hangout where fans could dine among celebrities.
The Carnegie, 1208 Scott Blvd., Covington
The Carnegie started its life as one of 2,509 public libraries funded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie from 1883 to 1929. It is one of few remaining that have an auditorium, the Otto Budig Theater, which was preserved and reopened in 2008 after being boarded up for 60 years. The Northern Kentucky Arts Council converted the Beaux-Arts building into an art center in 1972. Today it hosts theatrical productions and fine art shows and teaches art in its education center.
Eagle Food and Beer Hall, 1342 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine
The Eagle Food and Beer Hall occupies two buildings, the smallest being Post Station V, which opened in 1911 in the heart of what is now called the Gateway Quarter. It specializes in Southern-style staples such as Amish fried chicken, cornbread and coleslaw. Expect to wait in line to get into this popular place opened in late 2013 by brothers Joe and John Lanni (they own Bakersfield a block away, as well as Currito restaurants).
The Wave Pool, 2940 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington
Skip and Cal Cullen recently opened the The Wave Pool in the former home of Fire Co. No. 12 as an art gallery, studio and workshop. The fire company started closer to Downtown in the old Mohawk neighborhood and moved to Camp Washington in 1876, where it operated for 100 years. The Wave Pool touts itself as a "Contemporary Art Fulfillment Center" with a focus on developing young artists. It is open in the afternoon on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Harvest Bistro & Wine Bar, 3410 Telford St., Clifton
The building that houses Harvest Bistro & Wine Bar has been a restaurant for years, first Tinks and then La Poste. It started as a post office in the first half of the 20th century and is distinct for its large casement windows that run almost the entire length of its facade. Seasonal and local ingredients are the focus of the year-old, farm-to-table restaurant, and the space includes an intimate wine room, which seats up to 30 people.
Clifton Cultural Arts Center, 3711 Clifton Ave., Clifton
Clifton Cultural Arts Center, a 53,000-square-foot neoclassical building designed by Cincinnati architects Shotwell, Dornette & Sheppard, was Clifton Public School from 1906 to 2008. It features blond brick, a clock tower and several Rookwood drinking fountains and has been in continuous public use. The CCAC leases the old school from Cincinnati Public Schools, which has tried to take some of its space back, causing a stir in the Clifton community.
Ladder 19, 2701 Vine. St., Corryville
Ladder 19 took over the 1871 building that housed Fire Co. 19 and Ladder 4 until 1965. For years it was the home of the popular Short Vine restaurant Zino's. Ladder 19 owner John and Lori Levy play up the firehouse theme, offering darts and other games in the upstairs Bunk House and billiards in the Dog House. They invite their patrons to "extinguish their thirst," and participate in their Mug Club as well as Tuesday Trivia.
Fireside Pizza, 773 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills
Fireside Pizza is in the oldest surviving fire station in the city, having opened as Fire Co. 16 in 1870. The Italianate-style building had no roof or second floor when pizza truck owner Mike Marschman bought it from the city of Cincinnati for $1 in 2014. It had stood abandoned for 36 years. Marschman preserved an old mural painted on a brick wall that lists Company 16's 37 alarm box locations by street. His specialties are wood-fired pizza, including a Hanky Panky pie.