Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Queen’s Crown Jewels

Cincinnati Gymnasium and Athletic Club

Now known as the Cincinnati Athletic Club, this building tucked away at 111 Shillito Place downtown was completed in 1903 and designed by Werner & Adkins. The Cincinnati Gymnasium & Athletic Club was founded in 1853 as the Young Men's Gymnastic Association and this structure was completed for the fiftieth anniversary of the Club’s founding.

A wonderful example of 2nd Renaissance Revival architecture, it is individually on the National Register of Historic Places as well as a local historic landmark. Popular between 1890 and 1920, 2nd Renaissance Revival borrowed from the architecture of renaissance Florence and Rome. Buildings were generally formal and symmetrical and and organized into distinct horizontal bands with each floor is typically articulated differently. Details usually included quoins, Roman arches, Greek-style pediments, and cornices supported by large brackets.

In addition the neighborhood surrounding it is a National Register Historic District, identified as the Race Street Historic District.
"With a period of significance from 1877 to 1952, the Race Street Historic District exemplifies the transition in architecture from low-scale revival styles of Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Renaissance Revival, and Jacobethan to the newer Commercial and Moderne. The district includes a total of 25 low- and mid-rise commercial buildings ranging in height from 2 to 12 stories, with the average height of 4- to 6-stories tall. All the buildings are built to the sidewalk line and have 1-or 2-story storefronts that have been changed over time."
Buildings not to be missed in the neighborhood include the Lyric Piano Co. building and its neighbor at 630 Race Street, The Groton, 707 Race (sometimes called the Roberson or Pearl Market Bank Building), and of course the The John L. Shillito Company building, now Shillito Place.

The CGAC, while elegant, is showing its age both inside and out. Expected of a building that is over 100 years old but unfortunate. A friend of mine said it has a certain "charming decrepitude". And that might be an accurate description . . . But I still love it. Interesting to note that in the historic photograph at top shows the original Shillito Place connected to Elm Street and the building was not located on a corner as it now is.

Other interesting Club facts:

  • The Club just recently started allowing women members. They are social members only however and cannot use the workout facilities. If anyone is interested in joining, check out their website.
  • A few Presidents are reputed to have been members including Rutherford B. Hayes, James A Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, and William Howard Taft.
  • In its history, the Club sponsored an annual long-distance swimming race in the Ohio River and hosted the world handball championships.

'The Queen's Crown Jewels' is my periodic look at some of the best of Cincinnati. I will eventually get to the more commonly known buildings, structures, and cultural institutions of the Queen City but first I want to focus on the more obscure or often overlooked. Enjoy!

Historic photograph from the Library's Cincinnati Memory Project.

1 comment:

Kevin LeMaster said...

Great history lesson!

More, please!