The Cincinnati Music Hall, built in 1878, is one of those monumental buildings in America that might very well have been swept away by urban renewal, replaced by a new performing arts center. Instead, it has been revitalized, and almost 150 years later, is still very much part of the cultural fabric of the city it was built to serve.
The building is clearly influenced by the theories of John Ruskin, whom I’ve written about before, and whose ideas can be seen expressed in the Museum of Natural History in London, a building whose massing and form bears a similarity with our structure here in Cincinnati.
The architect for here was Samuel Hannaford of the firm of Hannaford and Procter. Buildings with this ornate style of the Gothic Revival mixed with elements of the Romanesque Revival can be seen in cities all over the Midwest and Northeast.
I find it a little interesting but not surprising that the back and sides of the building are unadorned–the builders and architect assumed that the Cincinnati Music Hall would exist in a dense urban environment and thus there would be no need to adorn unseen sections of the building.
And indeed, the back side faces the old Miami and Ohio Canal, the current Central Parkway, so it has some nice panache to it.
But across the street is a well-used and maintained Washington Park, a gem in the neighborhood and not a windswept no-man’s warren.
Likewise, surface parking around the landmark is minimal–wait, won’t someone please think of the automobiles?! Look at how lively the street life in Grand Center is in St. Louis with all the surface parking lots! Insert sarcasm here. In fact, starting with this church, the entire block south of the Hall is preserved.
In St. Louis, these lovely rowhouses south of the Hall would have almost certainly have been knocked down for parking lots that are used 5% of the week. In Cincinnati, the majority of the users of the various performance spaces must walk a block or two to the ballet or symphony. What horror!
Almost as an afterthought, there is a very nice Beaux-Arts memorial to veterans, largely overshadowed by its much larger neighbor.
It is also a concert venue now, as well.