Mt. Airy water tanks, Manse Hotel become Cincinnati Historic Landmarks

The Mount Airy Water Tanks and the former Manse Hotel in Walnut Hills are the newest sites to become historic Cincinnati landmarks.

Cincinnati City Council voted Tuesday on ordinances to preserve 91-year-old medieval-inspired tanks and the hotel that has played a role in Cincinnati’s civil rights history.

High above Cincinnati

Completed in 1927, Mount Airy’s 8.5 million gallon tanks stand 960 feet above sea level, the highest point in Cincinnati.

The 14 interconnected towers on North Bend Road and Colerain Avenue resemble a medieval castle. According to the ordinance that passed 7-0, it was the last structure built by Greater Cincinnati Water Works to feature stone masonry and “dainty details such as crenellated walls, consoles and diagonal buttresses”.

Since the architecture is unique, so the proposal to the city council, the tanks are historically significant.

Representatives of the Greater Cincinnati Water Works made proposals to either demolish or renovate six water tanks at Mt. Airy, which were built in 1927.  The 8.5 million gallon water tanks are a community landmark on Colerain Avenue and North Bend Road.

“I think it’s very exciting that this iconic West Side building has been and will be part of my life and the life of the city for a long time,” Mayor John Cranley said of Mount Airy’s water tanks on Wednesday.

In May, Greater Cincinnati Water Works proposed three options, including repair or demolition, which caused a stir in the neighborhood at a city council meeting.

“Mount Airy will not allow this to happen,” said Kevin Flynn, former Cincinnati councilor and resident of Mount Airy, the enquirer.

A hotel that combated racial segregation

During the Jim Crow era, the Manse Hotel in Walnut Hills offered its services to African Americans who were prohibited from staying in downtown hotels.

For over 30 years, the Manse hosted prominent social events and celebrities such as James Brown, Hank Aaron, Duke Ellington, Ezzard Charles, and more.

The building that houses the Manse was built in stages in 1876 and converted into a hotel in 1931 by Horace Sudduth, an African-American entrepreneur. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 effectively ended segregation, the hotel lost its business and closed in 1969.

Today the Manse is operated as apartments.

By making it a historic landmark, the ordinance preserves the “vital structure and environment that are essential to the city’s civil rights history and its relevance to the African American experience.”

Cincinnati Local Landmark status is a city designation that helps owners obtain tax credits to aid heritage conservation. It is not to be confused with the National Historic Landmark designation, which provides protection from federal measures regarding historic properties.

The town planning commission decided in November to preserve the tanks and the hotel. The plans were also approved by the city’s heritage site.

Other historic Cincinnati attractions include the Music Hall, Union Terminal, and City Hall.

Chris Mayhew and Sharon Coolidge contributed to this

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