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See 19th-Century Sketches From Cincinnati's Most-Famous Architect At The Library

For the uninitiated, let me tell you a little bit about this super important dude named Samuel Hannaford.

An English immigrant before the age of 10, he grew up in Cincinnati in the mid-1800s and went on to design hundreds of buildings throughout the turn of the century, the majority of which still stand to this day and define our iconic urban landscape.

Some of his creations include (but are not limited to):

  • City Hall
  • Elsinore Arch
  • The Cincinnati Observatory
  • Music Hall
  • The Emery Theatre
  • Memorial Hall
  • Nast German Methodist Episcopal Church
  • The Phoenix Club
  • The Eden Park Water Tower and pump station
  • Countless apartment buildings and houses

Hannaford was the architect if you desired something grandiose and beautiful. Moreover, his work has stood the test of time, because despite the fact that the guy died in 1911, pretty much anything designed by Hannaford is still relevant (and awesome) today. In other words, if you have any appreciation for historic architecture in Cincinnati, Samuel Hannaford should be number one on your list of people to know.

Alright. You’re caught up on who he is. Now, for the uninitiated (again), let me tell you a bit about how he relates to The Cincinnati Room at the Public Library downtown.

Inside this climate-controlled room with beefed-up security are rare and fragile local artifacts from Cincinnati history. This is the place to get one-of-a-kind old books pertaining to local history, and you can only see them in this safe space.

And inside The Cincinnati Room, many pages of Hannaford’s original, hand-drawn sketches exist within two binders made to be the same size as the old railroad account book from which they were taken. It’s labeled in the online CPL catalog as simply Architectural Drawings with the years 1873-1884 listed beneath it.

Yes, these are Hannaford’s actual drawings. Not prints. The real deal. And they're available to the public.

They’re done mostly in black & white, in a mix of both pencil and ink, but several of them were colored (and trust me, they’re beautiful). I photographed them a couple years ago, and you can see a selection of the sketches in the gallery above.


The Cincinnati Public Library, where you can view these sketches for yourself, is located at 800 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.