Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Queen’s Crown Jewels

The Gwynne Building

Lately I've been struck by the elegance and detail of the Gwynne Building. I guess I've always liked the Beaux-Arts style structure and it has a local following of admirers but looking at it recently I've decided it needed to be highlighted.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Gwynne Building at the corner of 6th & Main Streets was completed in 1914. Developed by Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt, she was the wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and the daughter of a prominent Cincinnati lawyer and Judge Abraham Gwynne. The building was designed by her cousin, architect Ernest Flagg. (Alice's mother Rachel was a Flagg.) A New York architect, he is most notable for designing DC's Corcoran Gallery (1897) and New York City's Singer Tower. Completed in 1908 and demolished in 1968 is was the tallest building in the world for a time. Flagg studied at the Ecole des Beaux and began his practice in 1891. Born in 1857, he died in 1947 and is considered one of the most innovative practioners of the classical revival Beaux-Arts style. That fact is evident in the wonderfully detailed Gwynne Building.

Details of the thirteen story office building include an Italian Renaissance inspired tower and recessed casement windows with metal railings and columns. Arches grace the openings above the second floor and mosaics flank upper story windows, all under an fantastic cornice line. Note too the ox heads with garlands and the alternating letters of "G" and "V" in the slight balcony railings.

Upon the building's completion, it was leased to Proctor and Gamble who eventually purchased it in 1935. The site actually was where P&G began, in a building owned by Alice's grandfather Major David Gwynne, an early Cincinnati real estate broker. The Gwynne Building served as their corporate headquarters until 1956 when they moved down and across 6th Street.

The Gwynne Building however remains in all its glory.

Clubbe, John. Cincinnati Observed. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press (1992)

Historic photo from Library's Cincinnati Memory Project.


VisuaLingual said...

Ahh, it's one of my favorite downtown buildings! Thanks for sharing all this information about it.

morris tsai said...

I've always loved this building. Sometimes when you're walking around downtown you have to remember to look up occasionally.

Jason said...

Great Post! I don't think I've ever paid much attention to that building, but it certainly is beautiful. Thanks for the write up and all the great pics!

CityKin said...

One of the best buildings in town.

CityKin said...

I thought though you would have mentioned it being the first reinforced concrete skyscraper. (Isn't it?)

Queer in the Cincy said...

Do you know what's funny is that I have never, ever noticed that before. And, being a bus rider (insert self-important sneer here), I'm there all the time.

Hrm. It's about opening our eyes.

Dan said...

You should take some of our walking tours QITC!

CityKin - I think you may be thinking of the Ingalls Building. I have never heard that about or in reference to the Gwynne Building before. I could be wrong though.

Kevin LeMaster said...

Thanks for highlighting this building. It's definitely underrated!

Jimmy_James said...

I'm ashamed to say that I've never noticed this building before. Excellent write up!

Anonymous said...

I was wandering around downtown one day and stumbled upon this building. I had never noticed it before, but I was immediately struck by its detail and elegance. For me the pictures just don't do it justice.