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The Many Lives of a Building

July 21st, 2016posted by Sarah L. Ater
100 East Eighth Street, once known as the Faller Building.

100 East Eighth Street, once known as the Faller Building.

The story of 100 E. Eighth Street, Cincinnati, begins before the building was constructed in 1911. The builder and first owner, The Isaac Faller’s Sons Co., was founded in 1868. At that time the company was simply called “Isaac Faller.” By 1876 it was “Isaac Faller & Co.” “Sons” was added to the title by 1886. The company began in auction sales, selling household items, clothing, and groceries, and was incorporated in 1903. Later advertisements for The Isaac Faller’s Sons Co. highlight the manufacturer’s products of clothing, shoes, furnishing goods, hats, caps, notions, etc.,[i] referring to themselves as “jobbers,” a term for wholesale merchants who then sell to retailers.

In February 1910 The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that a new building was to be constructed on the northeast corner of Eighth and Walnut Streets. At that time, The Isaac Faller’s Sons Co. was located at 421 and 423 Race Street, a structure of 30,000 square feet and owned by the L.B. Harrison Estate. This was the heart of the Race Street shopping district, and the company was the only structure north of Fourth Street used exclusively for wholesale purposes.[ii] With this move, the opportunity was opened for the building to be remodeled and occupied by a department store.[iii] Kline’s, a division of Kline Brothers, moved into the Race Street property in September 1911.[iv]

Before the building on the northeast corner of Eighth and Walnut was ready to be occupied, the company closed a lease with the Charles Meiss Shoe Company for a portion of the building.[v] [The Charles Meiss Shoe Company stayed at Eighth and Walnut until 1928.[vi]] Progress for the new building moved right along as permission was granted in 1910 to the company to wreck a row of three story houses on the site of the expected 9-story building.[vii]

A 1929 ad when The Faller Son's Co. was liquidating.

A 1929 ad when The Isaac Faller Son’s Co. was liquidating.

Elzner & Anderson were selected as the architects. Alfred Oscar Elzner opened an office in Cincinnati in early 1887 and was joined by George M. Anderson in 1896. Together, they moved away from late Victorian styling and towards Beaux-Arts methods. Translated “Fine Arts,” this style was popular in the United States between 1890 to 1920 and featured a lavish and heavily ornamented classical style, smooth and light colored stone, and symmetrical facades with quoins, pilasters, or columns.[viii] Elzner & Anderson are responsible for many buildings in Cincinnati, including most notably the Ingalls Building on Fourth and Vine (erected by the Ferro Concrete Construction Co.), as well as facilities for the Cincinnati Country Club in Hyde Park and Linden Place in Mariemont.[ix]

Properties on Walnut Street north of Seventh Street were dubbed “the new wholesale district,” increasing property values, especially with the new Isaac Faller’s Sons Co. building under construction.[x] A 1910 report from the Commissioner of Buildings Office conveyed that the construction costs were estimated at $175,000. The article emphasized that estimated and actual costs are two very different numbers, especially as this figure was given for a building that was not yet complete.[xi] Legal drama came into play when the Ferro Concrete Construction Co. filed a complaint against the Concrete Steel Co. and The Isaac Faller’s Sons Co. for an alleged infringement of a patented improvement in concrete construction that was being used.[xii] One year later, Judge Howard Clark Hollister sustained the demurrer (objection) of the defendants, holding that “Patent No. 859,511 granted to Louis H. Nolte on July 5, 1907 for concrete floor construction ‘is wholly void upon its face for want to patentable innovation and novelty,’ as alleged in the demurrer.”[xiii] However, the case went to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals which determined that the validity of the patent was held. The Isaac Faller’s Sons Company was “perpetually enjoined from further infringement” and the Concrete Steel Company secured a license to use the patented process. The defendants paid the complainant’s court costs.[xiv] Construction was started mid-May 1910 and the Isaac Faller’s Sons Co. opened for business in their new home in June, 1911.[xv] The design of the new building was broken into three sections: two story base, six story middle, and the top floor.

After 17 years of business at the corners of Eighth and Walnut, in November 1928 The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that three clothing manufacturers in Cincinnati would liquidate: the Jeffras Cloak Company, the Stricker-Beltman Company, and The Isaac Faller’s Sons Co.[xvi] Samuel Mayer was the President of The Isaac Faller’s Sons Co. at the time of liquidation.[xvii] When announced that the company would liquidate, it was indicated that the building would be for sale. Advertisements of merchandise sales at greatly reduced prices in April 1929 also included notice that the building was for sale.

A photograph of the construction of St. Louis Church in November 1928 shows the Faller Building at the time the company was liquidating. Note the marquee on the roof.

A photograph of the construction of St. Louis Church in November 1928 shows the Faller Building at the time the company was liquidating. Note the marquee on the roof.

Although the dry good wholesale business left the building in 1929, it retained the name of the Faller Building. Long before its purchase by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the Faller Building began its association with the Catholic Church in 1935, when it was used by Catholic Charities as a work space for “Santa’s Helpers.” Led by Monsignor R. Marcellus Wagner, the project was for unemployed men who repaired toys that had been donated to Catholic Charities and would be distributed to the poor at Christmas.[xviii]

The building began its second phase of life in August 1936, which would last for two decades, as a home for various government offices. While the new $3 million Federal Building at Fifth and Walnut was under construction between 1936 and 1939, the Faller Building was selected as the temporary home for the Federal Post Office. Leased from the Isaac Faller Corporation at $8,550 a month for the first 20 months, and then $3,335 per month afterwards, a $100,000 renovation project took place to fit the building for the Post Office.[xix] The Post Office moved into its new home at Fifth and Walnut in January 1939 and at midnight on January 24, 1939, the government returned the key for the Eighth and Walnut building to the owner, The Isaac Faller’s Sons Co.[xx]

Spaces in the Faller Building was leased for shorter times between 1939 and 1942 to various organizations, including the Cincinnati Summer Opera Association[xxi] and politician Laurent Lowenberg. The chief proposal that Mr. Lowenberg championed was the improvement and beautification of roads in downtown Cincinnati by the removal of all trolley wires and poles, tracks, and loading platforms. [xxii]

Post OfficeWith the United States entering World War II after the attack at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Harold D. Smith, Director of the Budget, ordered the relocation of several agencies so that room could be made in Washington D.C. for emergency war workers. An article in The Cincinnati Enquirer in February 1942 reported that the Faller Building would be occupied by the Farm Security Administration. This was the only building in the city which could handle the office space needed for the 633 FSA employees in a single structure.[xxiii] The Cincinnati City Directory of 1944 lists the US Maritime Service in the building, as well as the Farm Security Administration. The 1945 city directory outlines the various offices by floor:

1st: US Army Recruiting Office, Cincinnati Association for the Welfare of the Blind
2nd: US Printing Office
3rd: US Office of Price Administration
4th-6th: US Veterans’ Bureau
7th-9th: US Treasury Department

During this time the Faller Building had a second connection with the Catholic Church. The Institutum Divi Thomae was founded in 1935 by Archbishop John T. McNicholas who wanted a graduate school and research facility which would compliment the already existing seminaries in the city through the promotion of scientific research. George Sperti, director of the Institutum Divi Thomae, purchased the Faller Building in January 1956 from the Cincinnati Sampling Company (see Appendix A for Chain of Ownership) for $1 million. It was not Sperti’s intention to move the research labs to the building, but was instead to be a financial investment for the school.[xxiv] Unfortunately, this investment was not successful. The 1958 city directory lists tenants on the first floor (US Army Recruiting Office, US Air Force Recruiting Office, City Association for Welfare, and Davis Lindsey Restaurant) and the US Treasury Department on the seventh, eighth, and ninth floors, but the others as vacant. In April 1957, it was announced that the federal government made plans to move out of the Faller Building after nearly 20 years of residency there. The offices were to be moved to the Enquirer Building and the upper floors of the Alms and Doepke Building on Central Parkway and Main Street.[xxv]

The loss of tenants brought a change in prosperity and only two years after Sperti had purchased the building for $1 million, it was sold at a public auction for $300,000 to Philip M. Meyers, president of Fashion Frocks, Inc., the only bidder. The building was appraised at $450,000, and had $858,475 in mortgages against it, as well as default in the monthly payments. As a result, the court had ordered the sale of the building.[xxvi]

During the 1960s the building went through another difficult phase of securing permanent tenants. To make the building better fitted for businesses, at $1 million plan was unveiled to give the building a facelift. In February 1964, Sydney Nathan, president of King Records Inc., purchased the building with the plans to convert the upper eight floors for office space and the first floor into institutional quarters. The plans were also to sandblast the exterior, add a gold anodized aluminum grille to the second floor, and set the first floor walls back to provide space for a covered marquee.[xxvii] This last plan was changed with a glass façade and black panels added to the exterior of the first two floors. However, new tenants were not to be had.

To further emphasize the desolation of the building and area in general, a July 8, 1964 article in The Cincinnati Enquirer discusses a disputed liquor license for the anticipated Playboy Club at Seventh and Walnut. Bishop Paul Leibold, Vicar General and pastor of St. Louis Church, was interviewed about his stance on the club and area.

“The bishop wrote, ‘Behind the venerable church are the Cox and Shubert Theaters, one totally empty for years; the other used on occasions, where once an active YMCA was located. Across the street on Seventh is what once housed the offices of Kroger Company, now mostly [an] empty building. Swinging to the east a Seventh and Walnut, another empty building…the Internal Revenue Service has moved out…bequeathing us one more hall of echoes. Next to it was the Marines Corps Recruiting Office, which also has moved out. And then there is practically a block of ill-kept parking areas that mark the city like the scars of an economic war that was lost.’ The bishop also pointed to the old Faller Building at the northeast corner of Eighth and Walnut, an industrial building now empty.”[xxviii]

By the late 1960s the Faller Building was called the Commerce Building. This changed again in 1973 when the new managers of the building, the Real Estate Management Corp., renamed it “One Hundred East Eighth.” The management corporation began plans to once again remodel the building.[xxix]

Archbishop Joseph Bernardin

Archbishop Joseph Bernardin

Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Bernardin of Atlanta was appointed Archbishop of Cincinnati on November 21, 1972. In late 1974, Archbishop Bernardin established a small committee, led by Rev. Malcolm Grad, to consider the feasibility of bringing all of the Archdiocesan offices together under one roof. As a small sample of the various locations used by the Archdiocese, The Official Catholic Directory of 1979 includes these offices and locations:

29 E. Eighth St.: Chancery, Commission on Education, Financial
5440 Moeller Ave.: Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Worship, Religious, Diaconate
426 E. Fifth St.: Communications, Personnel, Youth, Executive Services, Family Life, Social Action
220 W. Liberty St.: Education
326 W. Seventh St.: The Catholic Telegraph

A building would have to accommodate 175 employees with a projected growth to 213 over ten years, comprise 55,000 to 60,000 square feet, and be easily accessible to expressways and public transportation. Not wanting to build a new building, the Archdiocese considered using the Fenwick Building on Fifth Street or Marian High School in Hyde Park. The Fenwick Building proved to be too expensive to renovate, and Marian High presented a problem in that it was still being used as a school, among other difficulties. Eventually 100 E. Eighth Street was considered as a possibility. The condition of the building was good and the price acceptable (appraised at $470,000), with conversion costs estimated at $800,000. Disadvantages including parking (it was not until February 1979 that the parking lot adjacent to the building was purchased), having only three elevators were seen as potentially being an issue, and being downtown, the building lacked the beauty of nature around it.[xxx] Only three months later the owners of 100 E. Eighth Street raised the price to $850,000.[xxxi] Since the Fenwick Building was too expensive to renovate, by 1977 discussions were made to sell that property and the Fontbonne to Proctor & Gamble. Other buildings considered, whether seriously or in passing, were Holy Cross Monastery, Fourth and Race Tower, Gwynne Building, Provident Bank Building, the Transportation Building (Fourth and Sycamore), and Holiday Office Park.

Eventually, the decision was made and 100 E. Eighth Street was purchased in May 1978 for $750,000.[xxxii] For several months memos were sent to the archdiocesan staff informing them of the progress being made on the building (or as one memo said, “the lack of progress”). At the time of purchase, tenants in the building included some state offices, two manufacturing jewelers, two financial services, some small offices, and Southern Ohio College, which was in the process of moving to Laidlaw Avenue. The offices of the Archdiocese moved into the building in the summer of 1979.

Meeting space on the newly renovated 9th floor.

Meeting space on the newly renovated 9th floor.

In 1979, floors 5 through 9 were occupied by Catholic Charities and the offices of the Archdiocese. While the Archbishop’s office, chancery, and human resources have remained on the 8th floor since the move, several offices of the Archdiocese have moved floors over the years. Tenants have rented space in the building, including architect firm THP, which was at first on the 9th floor but has since moved and expanded to the 4th and 5th floors. Catholic Residential Services were initially on the 2nd floor and then moved to office space on the ground floor. Since 1979 the southwest corner of the building has been restaurant space. Busken Bakery moved in when the Archdiocese did, and has been succeeded by two Mexican cuisine restaurants.

As of this writing, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is committed to making 100 E. Eighth Street its home for the long-term, and at this point it is the longest occupant of the property. As there is more space than what is needed for Archdiocesan staff, renovation projects are underway to make the building an attractive home for tenants, adding modern amenities while still respecting the historic look of the building, among which is remodeling the first floor entrance and meeting room into an inviting space for all staff and visitors, whether for the Archdiocese or other businesses. A part of the renovations is to restore the exterior of the building to the original façade by removing the glass walls on the first two floors, which were added in the late 1960s.  These changes will help ensure the longevity of the building so that it will continue to be an active part of downtown Cincinnati life.

Appendix A – Chain of Ownership

100 E. Eighth Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Chain of Ownership
Situated in the City of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio and being Lots 138, 139, 140, 141 of the U.S. Bank Subdivision as recorded in Deed Book 72, Page 153, Hamilton County, Ohio Records
Book Page Date Grantee Grantor Notes
1029 150 25 June 1910 The Isaac Faller’s Sons Company Frank Seinsheimer
2407 536 31 March 1950 Edward A. Jacobs The Isaac Faller’s Sons Company
2407 604 3 April 1950 The Cincinnati Sampling Company Edward A. Jacobs
2806 613 4 January 1956 Institutum Divi Thomae Foundation The Cincinnati Sampling Company
2987 351 27 August 1958 Fashion Frocks, Inc. The Tunlaw Corporation (Lynn Meyers; Philip Meyers, Jr.; Sidney Meyers; Philip Meyers; Claire Meyers; Melville Meyers; Leona Rosenthal; Albert Meyers) Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas A-163468. First National Bank, Trustee, vs. Tunlaw Corp., et al. For foreclosure of mortgage
2988 636 29 August 1958 Melville Meyers Fashion Frocks, Inc. Warranty Deed, 12/100th Interest
3335 710 3 March 1964 Nathaniel L. Nathan Melville Meyers; Margaret C. Meyers 12/100th Interest
3335 822 3 March 1964 Nathaniel L. Nathan Meyer Development Corporation, formerly known as Fashion Frocks, Inc. 88/100th Interest
3417 998 1 June 1965 Sydney Nathan Nathaniel L. Nathan
3666 569 28 March 1968 David A. Nathan and Jack Pearl, Executors Estate of Sydney Nathan
3667 169 17 December 1968 King Records, Inc. SZS Realty Company Quit Claim
3667 172 17 December 1968 King Records, Inc. Nat Nathan Quit Claim
3667 175 17 December 1968 King Records, Inc. Zella Nathan Quit Claim
3697 876 18 September 1969 The Estate of Sydney Nathan, deceased King Records, Inc.
3799 829 18 June 1971 David A. Nathan, Dorothy N. Halper, Jeanne Bealer Sydney Nathan, deceased
4072 375 24 January 1977 Nathan Nathan David A. Nathan, Dorothy L. Halper, Jeanne Bealer, Co-Trustees
4121 837 June 1978 Abp. Joseph Bernardin & Successors Nathan L. Nathan
4148 828 26 February 1979 Purchase of Parking Lot

 

[i] Cincinnati City Directory, 1913.
[ii] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb. 6, 1910, pg. 7.
[iii] The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 30, 1909, pg. 13.
[iv] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Sept. 17, 1911, pg. C3.
[v] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb. 17, 1910, pg. 13.
[vi] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug. 24, 1930, pg. 37.
[vii] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb. 26, 1910, pg. 17.
[viii] Beaux Arts Classicism / American Renaissance, http://buffaloah.com/a/DCTNRY/b/beaux.html, accessed Sept. 28, 2015.
[ix] Biographical Dictionary of Cincinnati Architects, 1788-1940, http://oldsite.architecturecincy.org/dictionary/E.html, accessed Sept. 28, 2015.
[x] The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 12, 1910, pg. 19.
[xi] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug. 7, 1910, pg. A4.
[xii] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Dec. 28, 1910, pg. 6.
[xiii] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Dec. 28, 1911, pg. 11.
[xiv] The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 21, 1913, pg. 5.
[xv] The company officially began business at the new location sometime between June 20 and June 27, 1911.
[xvi] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov. 14, 1928, pg. 32.
[xvii] The Cincinnati Enquirer, July 24, 1935, pg. 10.
[xviii] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov. 25, 1935, pg. 10.
[xix] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug. 21, 1936, pg. 10.
[xx] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Jan. 17, pg. 24.
[xxi] The Cincinnati Enquirer, May 17, 1940, pg. 6.
[xxii] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Oct. 21, 1941, pg. 13.
[xxiii] The Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb. 4, 1942, pg. 1.
[xxiv] The Cincinnati Post, Jan. 6, 1956, pg. 1.
[xxv] The Cincinnati Post, April 30, 1957, pg. 1.
[xxvi] Cincinnati Post Times Star, Aug. 14, 1958, pg. 3.
[xxvii]The Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb. 19, 1964, pg. 48.
[xxviii] The Cincinnati Enquirer, July 8, 1964, pg. 1.
[xxix] The Cincinnati Enquirer, July 13, 1973, pg. 41.
[xxx] Malcolm Grad to Archbishop Joseph Bernardin, April 22, 1975, RG 01.07 Joseph L. Bernardin Records
[xxxi] Malcolm Grad to Archbishop Joseph Bernardin, July 22, 1975, RG 01.07 Joseph L. Bernardin Records
[xxxii] The Catholic Telegraph, May 26, 1978.

Laboring on the Mission is a blog of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Archives. The title is taken from a letter written by Bishop Edward Fenwick, OP, describing his mission work in Ohio. Whether in the wilds of the 19th century or the baby boom of the 1950s, the Catholic Church continues the mission entrusted to her by Jesus Christ. Here we tell that story.