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Step inside this new Over-the-Rhine restaurant to share space with amazing Cincinnati history

Wielert's tied to World Series, CSO, Billboard
MadTree Alcove
Posted at 11:55 PM, Apr 19, 2022

CINCINNATI — When MadTree opened its new restaurant, Alcove, on Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine, it re-energized a building with ties to the founding of the World Series, Billboard Magazine and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

"You get Cincinnati history all in one space," said Brian Powers, a music and reference librarian with the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Public Library. "You've got a chance to talk about sports, you can talk about music, you can talk about politics."

It all started with a German immigrant, injured in the Civil War, who wanted a space where the entire city felt comfortable. Heinrich (Henry) Wielert ran a small saloon at what is now 1410 Vine Street for a few years, expanding with a new building in 1873. The facade featured the date and his initials.

"It was just a special place," said Chris Smith, a reference librarian with the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Public Library. "At that time, Cincinnati had dozens if not hundreds of these establishments. But Wielert's really caught the heartstrings of people."

The cafe grew to include a pavilion and house band. The guests included everyone from the city's most powerful to families from the predominantly German neighborhood. There were many regulars and friends of Wielert.

Inside Wielert's Cafe
A photo of the inside of Wielert's Cafe, taken after Henry Wielert's death when his son was running the business. Provided.

"The obituaries at the time say that his place became so successful partly because of his personality and how good he was at interacting with all different kinds of people," said Carol Trosset, Wielert's great-great-granddaughter.

For years, George "Boss" Cox had a table on the north wall reserved. The head of the city's infamous Republican political machine was known to conduct party business and influence the conduct and decisions at city hall from the cafe.

Boss Cox
George B, Cox, known as Boss Cox, ran his Republican political machine from a table in Wielert's Cafe. Provided.

"He pretty much held court there," said Smith. "He decided political fates and ended political careers [there]."

Members of the popular house band were the first to be recruited for the fledgling group of musicians who would form the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Wielert's Cafe and Pavilion
A drawing of the bustling inside of Wielert's Cafe before Prohibition. Provided.

Among the patrons listening to those musicians, were two local pamphlet magnates — William Donaldson and James Hennegen. Over a beer at Wielert's, the pair reportedly came up with the idea for a trade publication for the emerging advertising business of billboards.

Billboard Magazine grew and the founders grew apart. And, again over a beer at Wielert's, the two sketched a separation agreement.

"Apparently they wrote it down and put it in a bottle and supposedly in the archives of Billboard Magazine is this handwritten agreement," Powers said.

Billboard Magazine founders
Billboard Magazine was founded by local pamphlet magnates James Hennegen and William Donaldson, reportedly over beers at Wielert's Cafe. Provided.

It's been reported that a similar meeting, also over a beer at Wielert's, led to what we now know as Major League Baseball's World Series.

"There are other people who are also known to have spent a lot of time here, including the people who helped found the Cincinnati Zoo," said Trosset, of Andrew Erkenbrecher.

Some of those friends and acquaintances developed the idea for the Altenheim, a home for aging German men that Wielert helped fund and establish. It's one of the things he took most pride in - and his family passes that pride down.

"We heard at least as much about that as we did about his running a successful restaurant," Trosset said.

The saloon passed to Wielert's son after his death in 1892, but it closed during Prohibition. The building was used for a number of purposes after, including a church and teen center.

Henry Wielert obituary
The obituary for Henry Wielert in 1892. Provided.

In the neighboring building, once part of Wielert's, a scrappy fighter named Ezzard Charles was working out for an upcoming run in the heavyweight category. The third floor of the building featured a ring and gallery. "The Cincinnati Cobra" would win the World Heavyweight Champion in 1949.

The old Wielert's building sat empty for years before 3CDC bought the building and Oakley-based MadTree Brewing rented the space for a restaurant, Alcove. It opened in March 2022.

"I think [Wielert] was someone who put a restaurant here so he could build community," said Brady Duncan, a MadTree co-founder. "I think we're trying to honor the history and the intent of how he built this space."

"It's so cool to go have a beer in a building that was started by a German immigrant who served in the Civil War," said Powers. "And then you're in that same space Boss Cox was and Ezzard Charles was in that building. It's just great stuff."

The fifth generation Wielert, Carol Trosset, recently moved back to Cincinnati and connected with Duncan the folks at MadTree to share her family history and knowledge of the building. She and her brother still have some Wielert heirlooms, including the intricate punch bowl Henry was given for his fiftieth birthday.

Henry Wielert punchbowl
A punch bowl given to Henry Wielert for his fiftieth birthday. Provided.

And they look forward to eating and drinking in the same space as their great-great-grandfather.

"History remains important and it can still be part of our lives," Trosset said. "I think a city is richer if it remembers its history."

In many ways, what's old is new again. Who knows what history will be made in 1410 Vine Street this time.