Dear fans of Queen City history, eye-catching architecture, and intriguing-inspiring stuff in general,
This one is most definitely for you.
3900 Rose Hill Ave (45229) -- North Avondale
If you have yet to become acquainted with the stunning aesthetics and multi-faceted story of this classic Cincy building, you're in for a particularly resplendent treat.
If, however, you started drooling at the mere mention of "Belvedere," then you're probably wishing we'd get on with it. ... With pleasure.
We now pass the mic. Enjoy.
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**Info written by Frank Meyer, courtesy of Friends of The Belvedere Condominiums Facebook group.
The Belvedere is one of Cincinnati's nearly unknown treasures.
A 12-story cast-in-place concrete building with brick-and-limestone exterior, the Belvedere was built 1925/26 in Second Renaissance Revival style, at the intersection of Reading Road and Clinton Springs Avenue in North Avondale.
According to historic newspaper articles, it was the first apartment building of its construction type in America, and remained Cincinnati's largest apartment structure for years.
The builders were Frank Messer and Jacob Warm of the Ohio Building and Construction Company, whose intent was to attract empty-nesters from the mansions of the affluent suburbs surrounding the Belvedere. Its architect C.H. Ferber first visited New York to study the modern apartment buildings of that city, so he could include the best and most modern features in the Belvedere's design.
The result is a rock-solid building with 84 condos (1500 sq ft on average) on 11 floors. It has a gorgeous lobby decorated by famous Cincinnati mural painter H.H. Wessel, a roof garden providing space for parties featuring vistas of just about the whole city, and many surprising and clever details.
For example, there is no north side to the building, just a north corner, assuring that every condo catches some sunshine. It has four elevators and four staircases. Most surprisingly, it is constructed to be fireproof, and not only through the materials used: the building's layout looks like a somewhat crooked H, its two sides completely separated from each other, except through lobby, basement and roof garden. If a fire broke out in one of the units, residents could use two staircases either up or down to escape their side of the building.
There is also a doorman on duty at all times, providing valet service. And there are little things like functioning brass-and-glass mail chutes (now closed off due to postal service regulations), ironwork details, brass doorknobs, and doors made of beautiful circassian walnut wood.
Messer and Warm sold it in 1927. It was sold again in 1932 at sheriff's auction. The Warm family bought it back in 1942, and sold it again in 1962. It was considered for public housing after the race riots in 1967, but stayed an apartment building until it was sold again in 1980 to Belvedere Ltd., an investing group, who converted the apartments to condos over the following five years.
In 1982/83, it was entered in a Local Landmark competition, which it won, only to have the owners decline the designation afterwards. Cincinnati's Historic Conservation Office wrote in its designation report that the Belvedere would meet the requirements to be on the National Register of Historic Places.
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Special thanks to:
Brian Doherty, Steve & Sally Poehner, Ed & Mary Littig, Frank Meyer, and the friends & residents of The Belvedere Condominiums.