Then and Now: An interactive look at Cincinnati's past

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.


There’s a contagious excitement in the air.

It’s the mid-1920s, and the automobile, radio and motion picture are feeding a restless craving for speed and new experiences in Cincinnati.

But that feeling eventually disintegrates.

With the dawn of the 1930s, the Great Depression brings bread lines, strikes, bankruptcies and hardships to the Queen City.

This is just a taste of Cincinnati’s past. For most of us, these blips in time are mere memories or words in a history book.

But thanks to preserved photos from the University of Cincinnati's Archives & Rare Books Library, and help from local “Digging Cincinnati History” blogger and researcher Ann Senefeld (author of the book “Finding Your Home's Ancestors”), WCPO has opened a window to the past with an interactive look at these historic images.

Each set of photos below depicts the 1920s and 30s in Cincinnati, and 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.)

Jan. 1, 1927: Elm Street north from McFarland Street


In 1927, the horse and buggy -- also called a roadster -- was still a popular method of transportation. The roadster sitting at the corner of Elm and McFarland (right side of the photo) most likely belonged to a wealthier Cincinnatian because it was a more elegant four-wheeled model.

Elm Street at the time was known for its lavish shops. In the building behind the buggy was American Railway Express, a package shipping service that used railroads to deliver goods -- a precursor to the United Postal Service we use today. Also in this building was the Joseph Lazarus Co., which specialized in women’s hats. In the building next-door, past the intersection of Fourth and Elm streets, was the People's Bank. Famous Specialty Clothing shop, Schuster Electric Company and another hat shop were also in this building. In this same spot today sits a large parking garage. Across the street (left side of the photo) were more clothing and accessory shops, including the Leather Specialty Company.

If you look very closely, the vehicle next to the horse and buggy has a swastika, a symbol adopted by the Nazi Party of Germany in 1920. Before it was associated with the Nazis, the swastika had a brief surge of popularity as a good luck symbol in Western culture. Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 and incorporated the symbol into the state flag of Germany. Because Cincinnati is home to a large German heritage, it is unknown if the swastika on the vehicle in this photo was associated with the Nazi party.

June 5, 1928: McMicken Avenue east from Elm Street


Once called Hamilton Road, McMicken Avenue was renamed for Charles McMicken, the founder of the University of Cincinnati. In 1928, a typewriter manufacturer called Rapid Electrotype Company covered most of the intersection at McMicken and Elm Street (the left side of the photo). The building’s large windows were later bricked over and the entire second floor was demolished – essentially cutting the structure in half. It now sits abandoned.

Behind that was St. Philippus Evangelical Church, which still stands today under the name Philippus United Church of Christ. Farther down McMicken was HW Meier Lumber Yard, which is no longer there.

To the left of the typewriter manufacturer was Over-the-Rhine's historic Jackson Brewery (not pictured), which later closed. The building still stands today. There are currently plans to convert it into a business called Grayscale Cincinnati -- a potential brewery, 192-seat live theater space and 300-person music venue. Cincinnati natives Scott Hand and Dominic Marino are raising money for Grayscale’s development.

Oct. 7, 1929: Fourth Street East from Race Street


In 1929, Fourth Street -- from Race to Sycamore streets -- was Cincinnati’s financial center. Its tall buildings gave the narrow street the appearance of a canyon, and in this canyon existed most of the city’s larger banks, insurance companies, investment and brokerage houses, utilities offices and more. On this corner (the left side of the photo) was Third National Bank and Gidding Co., which sold women’s apparel. The H. & S. Pogue Company department store was also at this corner. Pogue's was well known by Cincinnatians for elaborate Christmas displays and a miniature train in the store's fourth floor auditorium. In October 1986, Pogue's downtown store suffered when its other locations closed. The building would soon be demolished to make way for Tower Place Mall.

Brewning, King & Company sold clothing across the street (the right side of the photo). Behind it sat The Geo F. Otte Co., which sold carpets. Under the “Electric Shop” sign was Union Gas & Electric Co. The building with the round clock sign in front was McAlpin's Department Store, which is now filled with apartments. And in the way back right with the large vertical sign was Sinton Hotel – the same hotel where Chicago White Sox players are rumored to have agreed to throw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. The hotel was demolished in 1967.

Sept. 19, 1930: Eighth Street west from Elm Street


Almost unchanged in the southwest corner of Elm and Eighth streets (left side of the photo) is the Covenant-First Presbyterian Church. Dedicated in 1875, the building was first known as the Second Presbyterian Church. In 1909, following a drop in members, it was formed into the Church of the Covenant. Behind it was an apartment building that was later demolished to make way for the parking garage you see today.

Across from the church (the right side of the photo) in 1930 was a small café called Delicatessens and Lunch. Today in the same spot sits Marrakech Café, which serves Middle Eastern food. Above Delicatessens and Lunch was a dentist’s office. The dome behind this building was called Temple Court. The rounded brick building was constructed in 1864 as a house of worship for the First Congressional Church. In 1887, the Unitarians that flocked to the church built a new house of worship at Reading Road and Lincoln Street and moved there. The building was then remodeled and housed offices for lawyers and an insurance company. It would later be demolished when these professionals moved to modern skyscrapers.

The clock tower structure behind Temple Court is City Hall, which remains today. The massive red granite building was completed in 1893.

Aug. 10, 1931: Vine Street north from E. Clifton Avenue


Tom Wise, an actor in the 1920s Broadway comedy ''The Old Soak,'' once said there were only three streets in America: Broadway in New York, Market Street in San Francisco and Vine Street in Cincinnati. But there have always been two Vine Streets -- the portion reaching from Fourth Street to lower Central Parkway, and the Over-the-Rhine section running north to the outlying hills.

Pictured above is the latter. In 1931, this part of Vine near the intersection of E. Clifton Avenue was mainly homes. Most of the buildings on each side of the street have since been abandoned or demolished. A machine shop once produced metal goods in a tall building on the left, but that structure was later removed. Across the street (the right side of the photo) were more apartments, a tin shop and a drug store. The house on the hill in the distance was not built yet.

June 30, 1932: Kenner Street East, west of Dalton Avenue


In 1932, Kenner Street on Cincinnati’s West End was mainly split between a parking lot for Union Terminal employees and a leather plant. The round building (the right side of the photo) is part of Union Terminal and remains today. The final touches on the construction of the terminal and its tracks were completed a year later in 1933 at a cost of $41 million.

Historically, people from this area were blue-collar workers, and in 1932 the area had a large African American population. The large row of buildings across from the Union Terminal lot (the left side of the photo) was the manufacturing plant American Oak Leather Co. This plant has since been demolished. In this general area (not pictured) now sits a light manufacturing company.

The tower in the distance is the Our Lady of Mercy High School, which currently houses Cincinnati Job Corps -- a no-cost education and career technical training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor.


Check back soon for more interactive looks at Cincinnati's past.

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