Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Downtown Cincinnati’s Carew Tower was designed by W.W. Ahlschlager & Associates with Delano & Aldrich, and is an early example of an urban mixed-use development, or a “city within a city,” containing a hotel, offices and a shopping arcade.

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Construction began in 1929, right before the start of the Great Depression. To cut costs during construction, the exterior architectural details stop at the third floor, but the lower part of the façade and the various parts of the interior are still rich with Art Deco pattern and detail, including a beautiful example of Rookwood Pottery tile shown above.

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Currently the shopping arcade is in a bit of a sorry state. What should be the crown jewel of downtown destination shopping is largely underutilized. Check out the Grove Arcade in Asheville, built only a year earlier, for an example of a similar structure that seems successful in this regard.

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

I’ve wandered through various parts of the building multiple times, noticing and capturing different details. The Art Deco motifs exist at all levels of the interior. Even the mailbox is gorgeously detailed!

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Each set of elevator doors features a relief design.

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

The interior gets even more posh in the Netherland Plaza side of the complex. Trivia: the name “Netherland” apparently comes from the fact that the hotel occupies the land between the Ohio River and the hills. You can read more of the history here.

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

I sort of hate to admit this publicly because I like having a secret place downtown where I don’t run into people I know, but the Palm Court bar is probably my favorite watering hole in Cincinnati. I love the grand space with its soaring mural-covered ceiling and Egyptian-inspired Art Deco details.

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

In my mind, Carew Tower rivals the Guardian Building in Detroit for its Art Deco splendor. So, which one is more amazing? It’s a tough call. I think I’m more in awe of the Guardian’s Aztec Deco, but Carew is closer to my heart because I currently live in Cincinnati. If you had to pick, which one would you choose?

24 thoughts on “Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

  1. The Palm Court’s bar is definitely a favorite watering hole downtown, and you’re right– I rarely run into people I know there. It’s a great place to go and just talk, chill, whatever– and I always feel SO grown-up when doing it. I think it’s because of the surroundings.

  2. I think they’ve proven over the last 10 years that a mall is not going to work in that space. I don’t know what the answer is but someone needs to get creative.

  3. This looks great! I’ve had several people tell me I should visit Carew Tower and now I know why. It seems like this is similar to Tower City in Cleveland but it’s not as much of a mall/arcade as Tower City is. I was told there is a top level visitors can go to to look over the city; is this true? I haven’t been to Cincinnati in awhile, so the next time I go this will be on my list of places to visit.

  4. Bethany, there is an observation deck. It’s sort of cool to look out at the city, but a lot of it is just seeing the dingy flat tops of surrounding buildings. In my opinion, the view pales in comparison with the building itself.

    Julie, I know, right? Whenever I’m there, I find myself calling everyone “darling” and saying things like, “Would you be a dear, and…”

    Schwartz, I think part of the problem is that it’s a two-in-one complex that includes Tower Place Mall. It’s all part of the same user experience but owned by different entities. When we first moved to Cincinnati, it was really convenient to find some mall-type stores right downtown, but they’re almost all gone now. My Asheville examples is all independent stuff, but I don’t think downtown Cincinnati has the tourist base to sustain that.

  5. This is so graphic! I love the bright color palette of the ceramic work, and all the gorgeous metal detailing. Beautiful!

  6. Carew Tower is an absolutely amazing building, one of Cincinnati’s architectural gems. I’m appalled that the ugly new office tower is taller. Nothing should be allowed to dominate the beauty and elegance of Carew Tower in my opinion.

  7. I’m not sure about that. Cities shouldn’t be static, and the “princess tower” looks pretty interesting at night, when it’s all lit up. During the day, the top [which is what makes it the tallest building downtown] looks like a gratuitous skeleton. I completely agree about Carew Tower’s beauty, though!

  8. I definitely have to remember to check the Carew out next time I’m down in Cincinnati!
    I live in metro Detroit, so I’ve seen the magnificent Guardian Building, but your photos of the Carew remind me more of Detroit’s Fisher Building (also built in 1929). The Carew’s exterior and the wide, long concourse inside more closely resemble the Fisher to me.

  9. Carew Tower offers gorgeous views of Nothern Kentucky, the Cincinnati Bridges, Music Hall, Fountain Square and a myriad of other places. Its honestly my favorite spot in CIncinnati. Its freeing. The breeze is wonderful and while you can see the noisemakers you do not hear them.

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