Early Years at 58 Elder
122 W. Elder—initially numbered 58 Elder—was first listed in city directories in 1861 with Henry Vancliff’s dry goods shop. He remained at the building through 1863. In 1864-1865, Abraham Manheimer then had his dry goods store there. Abraham was a German immigrant, born in 1817 in Bavaria.
He and his wife Bertha (Miller)—an immigrant from Saxony born around 1823—raised several children in Cincinnati, including Isaac, Louis, Ida and Leopold, all born in Ohio. After his stint at 58 Elder, he moved over to work at 56 Elder through the early 1870s.
In 1866, Christian Weber (1831-1877) relocated his boots and shoes store from 60 Elder (now 124 W. Elder) to 58 Elder where he remained until 1870. Born in 1831 in Koenigsbach, Bavaria, to Georgii (1797-unknown) and Barbarae (Herfel) (1804-1835), Christian—or Christianus—came to the U.S. in 1853 as a young, single man and became a prominent Over-the-Rhine resident, accumulating close to a million dollars in today’s money by 1870.
The family rumor is that his money was used to build St. John’s Church at Green and Republic (now demolished). Christian’s wife was Rosina “Rosa” (Beiswanger) (1831-1902). She was born in Stuttgart in 1831 to Jakob (1793-1847) and Caroline (Bath) (1796-unknown) and, since her parents died when she was young, her uncle and godfather Johannes Rath (her mother’s brother) brought her to the U.S. in 1848-1849 through London along with his seven children.
Here in Cincinnati, a few years later, she wed Christian on November 24, 1853 and subsequently raised a large family with him: their children included Adam (1854-1890), John (1855-1938), George (1858-1930), Louise (Brumleve) (1861-1933), Rosa (Rummel) (1864-1919), Charles (1866-1910), twins Frank and Joseph (1869-1880) and Caroline (Schorr) (1874-1953).
Christian was raised Catholic and, upon their marriage, Rosa converted to that faith after being raised Lutheran. In the midst of their child-raising years, Christian served in the Civil War from September to October 1862 as a Private in the Union Army.
In 1871, Christian moved his business to the northwest corner of Freeman and 8th Street in the then-densely populated West End. But soon, he moved again, relocating the business back at Findlay Market at 64 Elder (now 128 W. Elder).
Christian maintained a family farm in Westwood and in 1877, during a visit there, he was thrown from his buggy and suffered a fractured skull. He died soon after. His body was interred at St. John’s and later moved to Spring Grove Cemetery (once his wife died and wished to be buried at Spring Grove, his children moved and reinterred his body there).
After his death, his widow Rosa continued to run the family store at 64 Elder through the 1880s before retiring and living in Clifton with her daughter Caroline, her granddaughter Rosa and her sons John and George—both of whom were well-known musicians.
In fact, John was the founder of his famous Prize Band America, a military band that won national competitions. In 1902, Rosa passed away due to heart degeneration.
From 1872 to 1882, Bertha Walter (Bolland) (1843-1911) ran a millinery shop at 58 Elder. She had previously worked at 47 Elder at Findlay Market and was like many other women of her era who found labor in the garment industry. More than any other sector, jobs related to clothing production and hat-making were opened to women (particularly young, single and immigrant women) around the turn of the 20th century since such labor was considered unskilled, tedious and appropriate work for women.
Born in Germany in 1844 to Friedrich (1821-1870) and Albertina (1823-1902), she immigrated as a child in 1852. Here in Cincinnati, she met her husband—a Civil War veteran named Julius (1842-1907)—and married him on November 19, 1867. Their children included Emma, Julius, Edward, Oscar and Alma, though their firstborn Emma died within a year of her birth.
As Bertha ran her hat-making shop at Findlay Market, her husband earned an income first as a basket-maker—and later, clearly indicative of upward mobility, as a lawyer. Many members of Bertha’s family—the Bollands—resided at 58 Elder with her and Julius.
From 1883 to 1885, Henry Lange ran a boots and shoes store from 58 Elder, followed by Romuald Beck’s shoe shop that lasted from 1886 to 1894. It was called “Romuald Beck & Sons.” Born in Germany in 1830, Romuald immigrated in 1854 and lived at 58 Elder with his large family when he operated his store there.
In fact, in 1890, there were so many of them living together in the building, that only Becks resided at 58 Elder. Romuald was married to a woman named Cresentia who was from Indiana, born to parents from Baden. Romuald and Cresentia had several children, including Mary, William, Robert, Frank, Leo, Helen, Joseph, Lucy and Henry. They also adopted an orphan named George who was about the same age as their son Frank. Most of the children, as young adults living at 58 Elder, worked in either the shoe industry or the garment trade.
In 1895, Romuald’s daughter Lucy (Brunsman) (ca. 1874-1929) turned 58 Elder—then renumbered to 122 W. Elder—into a hat-making shop which lasted until 1896. Born around 1874 in Jasper, Indiana, she wed Fred Brunsman (ca. 1871-1940), a shipping company clerk, on March 2, 1897. With that marriage, her millinery shop at Findlay Market ended.
From 1897 to 1907, widow Louise Theobald (Michel) (1853-1932) sold notions and dry goods from 122 W. Elder’s first floor. Born in 1853 in Cincinnati to German immigrants John and Margaret (Mundorf), she was married to a Prussian man named John who ran a drug store for a living. They had three daughters together—Thekla, Emma and Alma.
In her widowhood, Louise ran her own business to support herself like many other widows of the time. After her shop at Findlay Market, Louise lived with her daughter Alma (Link) (1879-1955) and her husband Charles in Middletown in Butler County.
From 1908 to 1912, Charles H. Thompson (1877-1931) ran a furnishings and dry goods store from 122 W. Elder. Born in 1877 and raised in rural Ohio (in both Butler and Brown Counties), he did not stay in downtown Cincinnati for long. He and his family—his wife Emma (Barnes) and their daughter Emily (1907-1990)—moved to Trumbell County, Ohio, by 1920. There, he worked as a millwright in a steel mill.
The Bentz-Ludwig Legacy at 122 W. Elder
From 1913 until 1959, Kathryn Ludwig (Bentz) (1892-1969) ran a men’s furnishing shop at 122 W. Elder. One of four siblings (originally five—one died young), Kathryn was born in 1892 to John (1858-1898) and Caroline Bentz (Nunner) (1862-1940). Her father was from Mannheim in Baden-Württemberg and worked as a baker for a living. Kathryn’s mother was also a German immigrant; she came to the U.S. in 1862.
As late as the 1930s, federal censuses reported that Caroline still spoke German as her primary language. In 1898, John died quite young, forcing his widow Caroline to continue the family bakery at 109 Findlay to keep the family afloat. They moved to 122 W. Elder at the turn of the century.
As a teenager growing up at 122 W. Elder, Kathryn gained sales experience by working as a saleslady—like other young, single women at the time—and in 1913, she started her own shop at the building. The following year, on June 24, 1914, she married Albert Nicholas Ludwig (1887-1968) in Cincinnati. Albert—a machinist—was the son of Philip Henry Ludwig (1855-1931) and Mary Agnes (Emsicke) (1856-1906), both of whom were German immigrants.
At the time of his marriage, Albert worked as a machinist for Pollack Steel Company in Carthage. The couple lived at 122 W. Elder for a number of years with their children Ralph (1915-1998) and Alvin (1919-1999) along with Kathryn’s mother. Kathryn and Albert’s sons Ralph and Alvin worked in the family store as they grew up. Kathryn, as a longtime Findlay Market merchant, was a member of the Findlay Market Association (for fifty years) and was also a member of the St. Cecelia Ladies’ Society of the St. Martin Church, the St. Anthony Shrine Society and the St. Joseph Infant Home Guild, all indicative of her Catholic faith.
During their tenure as 122 W. Elder’s owners, the Bentz-Ludwig family rented upstairs space to one or two other families at a time. In 1931, Kathryn and Albert moved out of 122 W. Elder and relocated to Westwood. Such outward, suburb-bound migrations were increasingly common in the interwar years as earlier generations decided to leave the density, pollution and growing poverty of the Cincinnati basin.
Their children attended Roger Bacon High School. Then, in early 1942, their son Ralph enlisted in World War II at Ft. Thomas and served until 1946. He wed Marjorie T. Branch (1919-1999) in the midst of the war, on December 16, 1943.
In 1959, Kathryn retired from the business and Ralph took over. In 1968, Albert passed away and in 1969, Kathryn followed. Ralph then inherited the building. His dry goods shop remained at 122 W. Elder until the 1990s.
After the long Bentz-Ludwig family legacy, Thomas A. Knueven (1944-2014) operated a meat and fish store at the building in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Married to Dottie (Berling), he was the father of Thomas Jr., Robert and Jenny (Clark). He passed away recently in 2014 in Fairfield, Ohio.
Since 2009, it has been home to Churchill’s Tea Room & Gift Shop, run by the Kern family.