Early Commercial Uses of 119-121 W. Elder
119-121 W. Elder—originally numbered 55-57 Elder—were first listed in city directories in 1862 with Valentine Kahn’s (1823-1900) saloon at 55 Elder and Frederick Weimann’s (1822-1893) bakery at 57 Elder. In addition to these storefront uses, directories listed anywhere from one to five other families living inside these buildings in the mid-1800s.
A German immigrant, Valentine Kahn was born in 1823 in Bavaria. He first operated a coffee house at Findlay Market in 1860, originally out of 59 Elder (today, part of the Luken Warehouse) where he lived with his wife Ann, born around 1830 in Bavaria, and their children Peter, Alexander and Clara. Frederick Weiman, born in 1822 in Hesse-Kassel in what is now Germany, ran a bakery from 57 Elder in the early 1860s. He was married to Catharine Wolff, another German immigrant (from Bavaria), born around 1840; the couple wed in July 1858 and they had a daughter together (possibly born before the marriage). In 1875, Frederick relocated his business outside of Findlay Market.
City directories listed his bakery on Spring Grove Avenue in Camp Washington thereafter. From 1869 until the early 1870s, Charles Reuss, a cabinet maker by trade, sold furniture at 57 Elder. Next door, several tailors operated out of 55 Elder, including Ferdinand Cuni (ca. 1826-1895)—a German immigrant from Switzerland—and John Siegel.
F. C. Brandt Hardware
From the mid-1870s through the new century, German immigrant Frederick C. Brandt (1848-1904) operated a hardware store from 55 Elder. Born in 1848, he immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1850s or early 1860s from Hannover where his family originated from. In 1860, he married Louisa Adelaide (Westhanser) and started a family with her. They had three children yet only Doretta, born in 1868, and Louis, born in 1870, survived childhood. As Frederick ran his store at the Market with his son Louis’ help, the family lived on Ohio Avenue on a house and land that Frederick owned. In 1904, both Frederick and Louisa and their son Louis passed away. In his will, Frederick bequeathed all of his property and personal estate to his daughter Doretta yet indicative of a kind spirit and an attachment to German institutional culture—he stated in the will that if she should die before being able to use his wealth and real estate, all of it should instead pass to “public charitable Institutions.”
The Turn-of-the-Century Saloons at 121 W. Elder
After Valentine Kahn’s saloon, which stopped operating in the 1890s as he aged, there was a series of saloons at 57 Elder—soon renumbered to 121 W. Elder—around the turn of the 20th century. By the new century, there was Ludwig Seegmueller’s (1868-1907) saloon. Born in 1868 in southern Germany, he immigrated in 1888 from his hometown in Hornbach and by the turn of the 20th century, he ran a saloon at 121 W. Elder. In 1904, he moved his saloon to 135 W. Elder. Like at 121 W. Elder, he used the storefront at 135 W. Elder as an events space which he called the New Market Hall, advertised as a “Hall for Societies, Lodges, Weddings, Parties.”
Over his tenure at Findlay Market, Ludwig acquired for himself a reputation of doing things his way. Ludwig contracted and passed away from tuberculosis in 1907. He left behind an estate of $8500—now around $200,000. He was buried at Walnut Hills Cemetery. By 1905, Frederick Jacob Deprez was the proprietor of the “Brookfield Hall” saloon at 121 W. Elder which sold “choice wines, liquors and cigars.” The building under him operated as both a bar and hall for parties, weddings and events and as a meeting space for unions, clubs, mutual aid associations and societies. Frederick initiated a precedent which his successor at 121 W. Elder, Christian Sachs, would maintain: that of using the saloon as an important social space for neighborhood clubs, especially German clubs. It was under Frederick’s management that the Druiden Saengerchor, a German singing choir, began to meet at 121 W. Elder.
Charles Steiner & Hardware Company
From the early 1900s through the 1920s, sister and brother team, Charles and Mary Catherine Steiner, ran a cookware and appliances company out of the storefront at 119 W. Elder. Long before they used the storefront, the Steiner family—as early as the 1880s—lived upstairs at 119-121 W. Elder. When the family lived at Findlay Market in the 1880s and ‘90s, Theodore was admitted to the Longview Asylum near Carthage along the Miami-Erie Canal. Over its capacity and underfunded, the asylum was a sordid place for those suffering from any kind of mental illness. Around a quarter of the inmates succumbed to infectious disease there; many others died due to severe malnutrition. Theodore remained there until his death in 1911. In Over-the-Rhine, his children ran the hardware shop at 119 W. Elder in the first decades of the 20th century, and his wife and their daughter Catherine lived upstairs. Charles and Catherine, as the store proprietors, were like many other retailers in the 1920s in that they permitted customers to purchase items with credit and through installment plans. Expensive goods like washers could be bought for $1.50 a week at Steiner’s instead of having to pay $99 upfront.
Christian Sachs’ Saloon
From 1910 to World War II, Christian Sachs (1872-1938) ran a saloon and then—upon Prohibition—a soft drinks café at 121 W. Elder. For the earlier years of this tenure, Christian and his family also lived at 121 W. Elder. Born in 1872 in Burgsinn, Bavaria to Wilhelm Adam (1848-1877) and Katharina (Heil) (1848-1875), Christian “Chris” left Germany in the summer of 1899 through Hamburg. Then a single man, he traveled to New York City on the Patricia steamship, one of the many ships that ran on the “Hamburg-Amerika Linie” which traveled between the U.S. and Germany. A medium-sized man with brown hair and grey eyes, Chris wed Margaret Schramm—at the time of marriage, she worked as a maid—in Cincinnati on July 1st, 1903. Daughter to John and Margaret (Wich), she was also a German immigrant who had come to the U.S. in 1899-1900. Together, they had a son, William John, in 1903. For many years prior to owning his own saloon, Chris worked as a butcher. Chris’ café was a favorite among German Cincinnati, and he himself—known for being an open and friendly person—was quite beloved. Throughout its duration, the saloon at 121 W. Elder hosted the weekly or monthly meetings of numerous clubs and societies. German club members often called him “our hostel warden Chris,” seeing him in a fatherly way. 121 W. Elder also hosted the meetings of the Findlay Market Improvement Association.
For many years, the Sachs lived upstairs at 121 W. Elder with several other families. However, they eventually moved to 2844 Kenelm Avenue in Clifton. Chris and Margaret’s son William became a journalist, sitting on the editorial staff of the theater magazine The Billboard. A few days after Christmas in 1938, Chris was sadly found deceased in his car behind the garage of his house. A heart attack had killed him. He was buried at Vine Street Hill Cemetery.
For many years—until 1954—the Hempelmann family owned 119-121 W. Elder. Katherine (1863-1944)—the daughter of German immigrants Johann Hartke (1814-1902) and Anna (Winkeljohann) (1821-1909)—owned the buildings until her death.
The Goods Stores at 119 W. Elder
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Nathan L. Schaen and his son Harry ran a dry goods business at 119 W Elder. During World War I, prior to being at 119 W. Elder, Nathan L. Schaen—born in 1872—had a dry goods store at 111 W. Elder. Nathan was not a German immigrant like so many others in Over-the-Rhine but rather a Russian Jewish immigrant. Nathan entered into retirement in 1925 and his son Harry ran the dry goods business out of 119 W. Elder. Nathan passed away in 1949 and was buried at the Kneseth Israel Cemetery.
From the mid-1930s until the 1960s, the Wassermans—Jacob (1882-1959) and then his daughter Edith (1909-1999)—ran a men’s and women’s furnishings store and later a dry goods shop at 119 W. Elder. A Russian Jewish immigrant to the U.S. like Nathan Schaen, Jacob was born to Louis and Rose Wasserman in the small town of Belz in 1882 in what is now the Ukraine (what was then the Russian Empire). As a center of Hasidism (a spiritual revival movement in Judaism), almost half of Belz’ population was Jewish before World War II. As they maintained storefront property at Findlay Market, Jacob, his wife and Edith, who never married, lived in Avondale at 560 Maple Avenue; Jacob’s mother Rose also lived with them as she aged.
The Midcentury Restaurants as 121 W. Elder
After Christian Sachs, Michael C. Walters (1896-1974) ran a café at 121 W. Elder from World War II to the mid-1950s. In the 1960s, the Tiny Bar restaurant, managed by Paul Jackson and Irwin Grubenhoff, occupied the space. Michael Walters, born in Cincinnati in 1896 to German parents, worked in a shoe factory in his teenage years and later in the meat packing industry.
From the 1960s until 1986, Harry Geiger (1916-1985)—who owned Harry’s Meats at 127 W. Elder in the 1960s-1980s—and then his widow Rosemary owned 119-121 W. Elder. After the Geigers, beginning in the 1970s, Xu Ho was the next owner of 119-121 W. Elder with his Saigon Market. From Vietnam, Xu Ho and his family were a part of the refugee migration called “Vietnamese boat people” wherein Vietnamese fled political turmoil and oppression in their country, leaving by boat or ship, following the end of the Vietnam War.
They arrived in Cincinnati in the mid-1970s and settled in Norwood where Xu Ho and his wife Janet raised their five children. His extended family from Vietnam—including his mother as well as his brother and his brother’s family—joined him in Cincinnati in 1979. The couple worked at Ted’s Market and delivered Cincinnati Enquirer papers, and with that income, were able to purchase 119-121 W. Elder. With only a small amount of initial stock, they went to Chicago to purchase more Asian food and supplies for their business. Especially when it opened in the 1970s, it was a very rare place in Cincinnati to find Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean food stuffs. Saigon Market remains there today at the corner of Elder and Pleasant under the ownership and management of Xu Ho’s son Hgiep Ho.