Germania Building in Over-the-Rhine

The Germania Building, at 12th and Walnut in Over-the-Rhine, was built in 1877 for the German Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Cincinnati, later renamed Hamilton Mutual. It was designed by Johann Bast, with the cast-iron storefront and cornice by L. Schreiber and Germania sculpted by Leopold Fettweis. In 1917, with the US entry into World War I and anti-German sentiment on the rise, the building, and the primary statue, were renamed the Columbia.

More info in the book Cincinnati Observed: Architecture and History by John Clubbe and at Queen City Survey.


15 thoughts on “Germania Building in Over-the-Rhine

  1. This has always been one of my favorite buildings in OTR. Its unbelievable how well built this structure is. By far one of the most intricate facades in the city. Nice post!

  2. This is such an interesting building. I really don’t understand why the building can’t see anything significant happen to it especially with the momentum of the Gateway Quarter that it is now a part of. The building could work well as either residences or offices for a small business. Once the streetcar’s tracks are being laid right next to this building I’m sure it won’t be long.

  3. I owned the Germania Building in the early Eighties, and I agree, it’s a beautiful building. It was an honor to own it for several years. With two partners, I bought it from the Hamilton County Republican Party for $2 psf when it was mostly vacant and traded it for an apartment community after we leased it up. This was long before anything was happening in OTR. It had once been the Cincinnati headquarters of the Teamsters Union. They left a bunch of records in the basement. I’m sure Jimmy Hoffa’s name was on some of them.

    I concluded that Germania is a hard building to redevelop — some really basic things like where the elevator shaft is, how the stairs divide the building, and the fact that we could not, then, ever buy parking adjacent to it. A former Miss America, Venus Ramey, 1940) owned the house next to it, and she said she rather die there than sell. And I believe she got her wish, eventually.

    But the economics are (were) getting better all the time. Things are possible today that weren’t then — like the willingness of Cincinnatians to cross Centralk Parkway. Someday, someone will figure it out.

  4. Wow, John, thank you so much for sharing information about this building. It makes me curious to check out the interior! Earlier this year, Urban Sites opened the doors to the Republican Party Citadel on 9th St. to generate interest and solicit ideas for the building. I wish the owners of other unique, possibly problematic properties would do things like that [at least to satisfy my curiosity].

  5. This may sound silly, but thanks for not shooing the pigeons away before taking your photos. Some architectural photographers seem offended by their presence, but sometimes they actually help the viewer place everything in scale.

    I’m glad Cinci is not Columbus, which has been gradually de-pigeoned over the last twenty years by peregrine falcons that nest in the skyscrapers.

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