Articles and Reviews

Hans A. Pohlsander, "Dr. Don Tolzmann's New Cincinnati Book: Over-the-Rhine Tour Guide," Amerika-Woche (4/11 June 2012)

Tolzmann, Don Heinrich. Over-the-Rhine Tour Guide: Cincinnati’s Historic German District, Over-the-Rhine, and Environs. Milford, Ohio: Little Miami Publishing Co., 2011. XVI+288 pp. $22.50 pb.

Don Heinrich Tolzmann is professor emeritus of German-American Studies at the University of Cincinnati; he has rightly been called the dean of German-American Studies. Among his numerous earlier books two need especially to be mentioned in the present context: Cincinnati's German Heritage (Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, 1994) and German Heritage Guide to the State of Ohio (Milford, Ohio: Little Miami Publishing Co., 2005). In 1991 the Federal Republic of Germany awarded him the "Bundesverdienstkreuz."

Those who are not familiar with Cincinnati at all will be puzzled by the title of this book, especially if they fail to read the subtitle. Over-the-Rhine gets its name from the Miami and Erie Canal, which once linked the Miami River, a tributary of the Ohio River, with Lake Erie and thus Cincinnati with Toledo. One section of this canal, where Central Parkway runs today, marked the border of Cincinnati's German district and thus came to be called "the Rhine."

The book begins with a Foreword by Gregory Hardman, President and CEO of Cincinnati's Christian Moerlein Brewing Company. This is reasonable enough: the index lists ten references to Christian Moerlein. The final sentence of this foreword has special meaning to all Americans of German descent: 'Over-the-Rhine is a living reminder of who we are and where we come from." Similarly we read in the Author's Preface that "the old German district remains central to an understanding of the history of the Greater Cincinnati area." Next we find an Introduction by Michael D. Morgan, a trustee of the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District and himself author of Over-the-Rhine: When Beer Was King (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2010). Morgan advises readers that in the Over-the-Rhine district, as in the inner city of so many American cities, they will find hundreds of vacant and deteriorating buildings, but also evidence of a gradual rebirth. The distinctly German-American society which once flourished here was destroyed by the anti-German hysteria that attended World War One, by Prohibition, and by the Great Depression. "Our salvation lies in making peace with the ghosts who walk these streets, to learn from what they left behind and rebuild a society where one once perished."

The Author's Introduction points out: "There still remains a considerable amount of material  culture created by the German element as reflected in the buildings, structures, and parks there. Taken together, they have contributed much to defining Cincinnati’s image as a city with a strong German heritage." … "However, much work needs to be done toward saving and salvaging what remains of Cincinnati's historic German district." The purpose of his guide, Professor Tolzmann declares, is to identify and explain the various sites in and around the Over-the-Rhine district that reflect or relate in some way to the German heritage.

In the next eleven chapters he identifies 154 such sites, describing many at length and providing photographs for most of them.  Only a selection can here be given attention. No. 4 is the Brighton German National Bank, at Brighton Place and Central Avenue in the West End of the city. This is a handsome three-story brick building in neo-classical style, announcing German-American financial success. Nos. 11-17 take us to Dayton Street, also in the West End, and known as "millionaires' row" or "beer barons' row." No. 16, at 812 Dayton Street, was once the home of John Hauck (1829-1896), an immigrant from the Palatinate, founder of the Hauck Brewing Company, and president of the German National Bank.

No. 11, at 842 Dayton Street, was the home of his son Louis Hauck (1866-1942), and No. 14, at 816 Dayton Sreet, the home of his daughter Emilie L. Hauck Heine (1861-1949) and son-in-law Charles H. Heine. The Haucks were a close-knit and prominent family.

We now enter the Over-the-Rhine (Über’m Rhein) district itself. Two monuments in Washington Park shall be the first to receive our attention. No. 27A is a monument to Friedrich Hecker (1811-1881), one of the "Forty-Eighters," who is honored in Cincinnati especially for having organized the city’s first Turnverein (Turner Society). No. 27B is a monument to Col. (later brigadeer general) Robert L. McCook (1826-1862), who commanded the all-German Ninth Ohio Volunteers Regiment in the Civil War and was killed in a skirmish with Confederate cavalry near Huntsville, Alabama. Both monuments are the work of Leopold Fettweis (1848-1912).

Not to be missed is No. 28, Memorial Hall, at Twelfth and Elm Streets, erected in 1908 by the Grand Army of the Republic of Hamilton County to honor area veterans. No. 28C is a plaque in honor of  David Ziegler (1748-1811), who was a native of Heidelberg and came to America about 1775. Ziegler served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and for some years thereafter until he retired from the army in 1792 in  the rank of  major. He  later became the first mayor of Cincinnati, serving two terms in 1802-1803. He was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, after which the city of Cincinnati is named.

No. 29, right next to the Memorial Hall, is the Cincinnati Music Hall, which became the home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and the Cincinnati Ballet. The imposing building was designed by Samuel Hannaford (1835-1911), who also designed Cincinnati City Hall and the Cincinnati Observatory. On the  second floor of the Music Hall visitors should note a statue of Theodore Thomas (1835-1905), which was created by Clement John Barnhorn (1857-1935) and dedicated by President William Howard Taft in 1910. Thomas was thus honored because in 1873 he had instituted Cincinnati's May Festival, a choral festival. He later moved on to Chicago and became the first music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Thomas was a native of Germany; Barnhorn was American-born, but of German immigrant parents. 

Churches played an important role in the religious, cultural, and social life of Cincinnati’s German-American community. Tolzmann  guides us to the following: no. 31, the German Protestant St. John's Church at Twelfth and Elm Streets; no. 33, the First English Lutheran Church (founded by German-Americans, but holding services in English) at Twelfth and Race Streets; no.34, the Nast-Trinity United Methodist Church at 1310 Race Street; no. 35, St. Paul's German-Evangelical Church at Fifteenth and Race Streets; and no. 36, Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church at 1522 Race Street. "Nast" refers to the Rev. Wilhelm Nast (1807-1899), who founded Nast-Trinity and has been called "the father of German Methodism in America." The architect who designed this church was Samuel Hannaford (see no. 29 above).

No. 40, a beautiful four-story building at Elm and Liberty Streets, is the former Sixth District Elementary School, now used as a health center.

No. 44 is Findlay Market at 1801 Elm Street. This is Ohio's oldest contiuously operated public market and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. No. 44C is a historical marker erected on the west side of the market building by the Ohio Historical Society; it tells the story of  the anti-German hysteria of World War One times.

Nos. 45-52 and again nos. 54-56 and 58 illustrate the importance of the brewery industry in general and of the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company in particular. No. 55 is a historical marker which  provides information on Cincinnati breweries and a map of remaining brewery structures.

No. 59 is Tafel Street, in the hilltop area, north of the Over-the-Rhine district. It is named in honor of Gustav Tafel (1830-1908), who was a native of Munich and came to Cincinnati in 1848. We should note that Tafel helped to organize the Ninth Ohio Volunteers Regiment in 1861, was a leading member of the Turner Society, and served as mayor of Cincinnati in 1897-1900.  His house, no. 109, still stands at Fourteenth and Walnut Streets.

Tafel can be associated as well with the Tyler Davidson Fountain, Cincinnati’s famous landmark in Fountain Square: at the dedication of this fountain on 6 October 1871 he led a group of men wearing spiked helmets and Prussian uniforms! They were celebrating not only the dedication of the fountain, but also the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 and the unification of Germany under Prussian hegemony. 

The Tyler-Davidson Fountain was donated to the city by Henry Probasco, a successful businessman, in honor of his recently deceased brother-in-law and business-partner, Tyler Davidson. It was designed by August von Kreling and Ferdinand von Miller II, cast in Munich’s royal foundry, and shipped in segments to Cincinnati. It is more formally known as "The Genius of Water."

No. 66 is Christian Moerlein’s uptown home at 2407 Ohio Avenue, off MacMillan Street, where he and his family lived after 1882 and where his funeral service was held.

No. 78, Inwood Park, in the Mt. Auburn district, off Vine Street, is of interest particularly because in it visitors find  a large memorial to "Turnvater" Friedrich Ludwig Jahn  (1778-1852); it dates from 1911 and is the work of Leopold Fettweis (see nos. 27A and 27B). The Turners had a very active presence in Cincinnati (see nos. 28B and 72).

No. 81 is Mount Storm Park, at 600 Lafayette Avenue in  the Clifton neighborhood of the city. The park contains a jewel of neo-classical architecture, an eight-column monopteros (a circular, open colonnade) of the Corinthian order, which was named the "Temple of Love." It also offers a stunning view of the city below. The layout of the park was designed by the renowned landscape architect Adolph Strauch (1822-1883), who was a native of the village of Eckersdorf in Lower Silesia, Prussia (now Bozków, district of Klodzko, Poland),  and had come to Cincinnati in 1852.

Strauch went on to be appointed first, in 1854, chief gardener and then, in 1859,  superintendent of Cincinnati's Spring Grove Cemetery, no. 82, which he completely redesigned, giving it a park-like appearance. He also designed several other cemeteries, but  Spring Grove Cemetery is held to be his masterpiece. He still held the post of superintendent at the time of his death and was buried  in the cemetery which he himself had designed.

Several more churches claim our attention: no. 71, St. George Catholic Church, at Vine and Calhoun Streets; no. 87, Philippus United Church of Christ, at 106 McMicken Avenue; no. 94, German Baptist Church, at Walnut and Corwine Streets; no. 103, St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, at 1117 Pendleton Street; no. 108, Salem German Evangelical Reformed Church, at 1425 Sycamore Street; no. 121, Old St. Mary’s Church (Catholic), at 125 East Thirteenth Street; no. 129, St. Francis Seraph Church (Catholic), at Liberty and Vine Streets; and finally no. 132, German Evangelical Zion Church, at Fifteenth and Republic Streets. The religious diversity among the German-Americans of the city is remarkable.
No. 112, the Germania Building, a handsome four-story building at Walnut and Twelfth Streets, should not be missed. It was built in 1877 to house the German Mutual Insurane Company of Cincinnati. This company had been founded in 1858 by Heinrich A. Rattermann (1832-1923), a native of the village of Ankum in the district of Osnabrück, who had come to America in 1846. Rattermann occupied offices on the second floor of this building; he maintained a home at 510 York Street in the West End of the City. He became Cincinnati's foremost German-American historian; indeed he has been called Cincinnati’s greatest German man of letters.

On the Walnut Street façade of the building, in a niche on the second floor, there is a beautiful statue of  "Germania." On the Twelfth Street façade, in the pediment above an entrance way, there is a sculpture group of Apollo the sun god driving a four-horse chariot. Both of these pieces of art are the work of Leopold Fettweis (see nos. 27A, 27B, and 66).   
In the years of World War One the German Mutual Insurance Company of Cincinnati changed its name to Hamilton Mutual Insurance Company. A German inscription in the pediment of the Walnut Street façade of the Germania Building was covered up and remains covered up to this day. The "Germania" was renamed "Columbia" and e pluribus unum was chiseled into the hem of her robe!  What jingoism!

No. 134 is another historical marker, at 1420 Vine Street. Side A tells the story of Bernard Henry (Barney) Kroger (1860-1938) and the Kroger chain of grocery stores. Side B  tells the story of Over-the-Rhine.

No. 148 takes us to a statue of President James A. Garfield (1831-1881) in Piatt Park, downtown. This was dedicated in 1887 and is the work of Charles Niehaus (1855-1935), well-known and prolific German-American sculptor who had already created the statue of Garfield in  the rotunda of the United States Capitol. Garfield was fluent in German and was highly regarded by German-Americans. In 1918 he was honored by another monument, on the board-walk of Long Branch, New Jersey; this one is by J. Otto Schweizer (1863-1955), a native of Zürich. (It is in Long Branch that Garfield died of wounds inflicted by an assassin two months earlier.)

Chapter XII, "Museums of Related Interest," provides a list and brief description of twelve museums or historical sites in the Greater Cincinnati area, while Chapter XIV is a survey of "Historic Writings on Over-the-Rhine."  Throughout his book Tolzmann has made extensive use of the anonymous History of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio: Their Past and Present (Cincinnati 1894).

In the Preface Tolzmann writes that he has "walked up and down the streets of Over-the-Rhine and its surrounding environs, exploring and examining every possible nook and cranny that might be of interest." The pages of this book fully bear him out. There is nothing that escapes his attention. The book is a  tour guide, yes, but it is much more. It is history brought to life. It is also a plea to the public to cherish and preserve that history. There is a wealth of biographical information, on Erich Kunzel (pp. 57-59), Henry A. Rattermann (pp. 189-95), David Ziegler (pp. 66-67), and others. Much can be learned about the arts in the urban context, about urban decay, and about urban renewal.

And there are many surprising details to hold the reader’s interest, for instance: John Hauck saved Cincinnati's  Zoological Garden from financial collapse (p. 40). Anna Marie Hahn was a serial killer who died in the electric chair in 1938 (p. 92). The ornament on the top of the steeple of Philippus United Church of Christ is a golden hand pointing to heaven; it is called  the "Finger to Heaven" or the "Finger to God" (p. 162). The Golden Jubilee of the German-American Sängerbund was observed in Cincinnati in 1899 (p. 169). August Willich (1810-1878), Civil War general, was visiting Germany when the Franco-Prussian War erupted; he offered his services to King Wilhelm I of Prussia, but his offer was declined (p. 207). And, most importantly, Cincinnati consumed more beer per capita than any other city in the country (p. 2)!

The material of the book is well organized; the use of numbered sections, each section generally corresponding to one building or monument, is especially good. The many photographs, most of them the author's own, are of good quality. The bibliography is useful and the index is generous. The book is well produced. I have observed only a small number of typographical errors. A large, detailed map, such as the one issued by the AAA, or the one issued by the Over-the-Rhine Chamber, would do much to enhance the usefulness of the book.

Professor Tolzmann is to be congratulated and  deserves our thanks.


Tolzmann's books are available from his publisher, Little Miami Publishing Company, in Milford, Ohio.
The publisher can be reached at: , or by phone at: 513-576-9369