Downtown Cincinnati – Then and Now: 1968-2015 Mashups

Perhaps “Then and Now” photos have been overdone among the historical photography crowd. But the chance to take such documentary images and look at them side-by-side with images from today is irresistible.

Last year we set out on a journey to match the 1968 Hamilton County Auditors Office photos with the modern day Google Streetviews. With renewed interest in the photographs found three years ago resulting from a Cincinnati Magazine article, we thought we would go ahead and prematurely publish a work-in-progress labor of love.

We thought we would be struck by how much changed and the architectural gems we had lost to the big-block/big-box development that resulted from the 1964 Plan for Downtown Cincinnati. No doubt there is much that has changed and there were some terrible decisions made. Notable individual structures were caught in the crossfire between developers and less valued buildings when entire blocks were razed. However, we actually were also encouraged by how much was preserved.

What are your thoughts? Is downtown better off? Were the super-blocks necessary?

We will continue to update this page – it’s taken a while already, as evidenced by the 2015 photos being on the left in some comparisons – but in the meantime here are the results in no particular order. If you have suggestions on how we can improve this project or a taxonomy to the comparisons, or if you spot mistakes, we’d love to hear them.

Proctor & Gamble Commons

NWC Fifth and Broadway 2

344 East Fifth Street

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Goodbye to the Drawbridge Inn: Heyday Expansion

Part II: Time for Expansion

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the complex enjoyed popularity.  Its English-inspired Tudor architecture and decor appealed to the theme hungry masses of the day.  Its convenience and visibility to the interstate appealed to the now well-trained American traveler.  A steady stream of airport travelers helped fill guest rooms. A host of meeting rooms, restaurants, lounges, and a coffee shop, ensured that the complex had activity 24 hours a day.

rowntowner crossbow ad 1972
Above: A 1972 ad for The Crossbow. Credit: Cincinnati Magazine

The success meant that the complex had become Northern Kentucky’s de facto convention center finding a market in smaller events.  It was time to grow to meet demand.

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Goodbye to the Drawbridge Inn: The Early Days

Drawbridge Inn Demolition - May 2014

A fixture in Northern Kentucky for over 40 years, the Drawbridge Inn was home for a night (or more) for millions of travelers and guests.  When it opened in 1970, the hotel was a true regional attraction.  In the years between, the hotel sat as a beacon for northbound and southbound travelers on I-71/75.  A measure that you were either nearing Cincinnati or that you had truly ventured across the doorstep to the South.  Its conference spaces hosted weddings, reunions, business conferences, cheerleading meets, church rallies, and holiday feasts.  Its restaurants and nightclubs hosted countless dinners and celebrations.  It served as Northern Kentucky’s de facto convention center until the turn of the century when conventions shifted to the publicly supported downtown Covington facility.  Today, we present the first in a three part series taking one last look at what was and what is.

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Covington, KY in 1939 by John Vachon (Part 1)

Inspired in part by cincyhisotoryluvr’s blog Digging Cincinnati History and using similar research techniques, I wanted to start some of my own. Here you’ll find the first of which I hope are entertaining and informative posts that show us what’s survived and what has not.

The Library of Congress is a treasure trove of images from yesteryear.  Exactly the kind we like here at PE.  They are the kind that document our built environment in journalistic banality but have an exquisite beauty all their own for the way they captured what has been lost and the mystery they provide.

Recently, I stumbled across three images that were new to me.  The images were taken by John Vachon while he worked as a photographer for Farm Security Administration and are probably some of the more pedestrian examples of his work.  His “Negro boy near Cincinnati” was much more remarkable as was the haunting “Worker at carbon black plant, Sunray, Texas” below.

Worker at carbon black plant, Sunray, Texas”

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