The Early Years of the Southeast Corner of Race & Elder
On the plot that Our Daily Bread now sits on, four structures originally sat, numbered 648 Race through 658 Race. All were three stories tall except the southern-most building, 648 Race, which 1891 Sanborn Maps show as a one-story building. These Race Street properties all had commercial storefronts and residential living quarters elsewhere. Behind—to the east of this stretch of buildings—were four one-story storefronts fronting on Elder Street. To the south of them was a large stable.
In the 1870s and 1880s, the single-story building at 648 Race was used by William T. Wagner (1826-1871) for his mineral water business. A German immigrant, William was born in Thuringia in 1826 and immigrated in 1849 with his brother. Living in Over-the-Rhine, he briefly worked as a postmaster after the Civil War and then in 1868 started his own mineral water company. He used the Our Daily Bread location—where he lived with his family—and later the building that now houses Rookwood Pottery at 1920-1926 Race Street.
Next door at 650 Race—the southern-most three-story building—John Bauer ran a confectionary beginning in the 1870s. City directories also listed the space as a barbershop under Max Fotsch (1845-1893) who was a German immigrant from Baden, born in 1845. It soon became a saloon under Louis Zwiffelhoffer (1809-1880) and his son Louis (1846-1882). Louis and his son were both born in Baden, in 1809 and 1846, respectively. 650 Race then transitioned into a shoe store under Henry W. Luehrmann.
In the mid-1880s until the early 1890s, it was one of many locations of the Great Western Tea Company, run by Gus Loewenstein. August “Gus,” born on February 21, 1854 in what is now Germany, immigrated in 1870 to America. During his time at 111 W. Elder, he graduated from Hebrew Union College, then located on West Sixth Street under Rabbi Isaac Wise, and was consecrated as a rabbi in 1896 at the Mound Street Temple. Gus went on to run his Great China Tea Company at 111 W. Elder in addition to multiple other locations around Findlay Market in the early 1900s. In 1905, Kroger acquired the Great China Tea Co. Thereafter, Gus—free of that business venture—continued to sell tea and grocery goods under his own name downtown and in Walnut Hills. He passed away in 1928, ten years after his wife. Both were buried at the Clifton United Jewish Cemetery.
In the 1870s, Nicholas Hoeffer—a prominent early Over-the-Rhine resident—was a real estate agent that used the storefront of 652 Race as his office. Nicholas and his family lived upstairs for a time (he and his wife, though, soon moved to 28 Elder, the northwest corner of Elder and Franz). From 1836 to 1838, Nicholas was briefly a saloon owner at Lawrence and Congress Streets, but by 1839, he turned back to farming. He bought a truck garden “on upper Race Street … near the present-day Findlay Market,” according to Clifford Neal Smith in Early Nineteenth-Century German Settlers in Ohio. (City directories listed him in the mid-1800s at 48-50 Elder on the Market).
Through the 1880s and early 1890s, 652 Race housed Phoenix One-Price Clothing House. It was managed by Henry Kessler. 654 Race was a garment shop under tailor P. Leyendecker and then under milliner Kate Dreher. In the mid-1880s, as Kate continued her hat-making work at the building, Mary Rensing also ran a dry goods store there. John Fuchs sold butter and eggs from the space beginning around 1895.
The building’s tie to the garment world remained: Civil War veteran Sebastian Faber (1827-1902) was a tailor at 654 Race in the 1880s and ‘90s. He was a German immigrant, born in 1827, who immigrated in 1852, one year after he and his wife Ursula wed. The couple did not have any children. Frank X. Busche operated a wine house at 656-58 Race in the late 1870s and early 1880s, though city directories listed him at 654 Race as early as 1862. He was born in 1833 in Württemberg. He and his wife Mary—Nicholas Hoeffer’s daughter—raised their children, Nicholas, Mary Rosa and Frank, at 656 Race Street as he sold wine there. As a wine dealer, he did very well: by 1870, he had amassed, in today’s money, over $600,000. In 1893, after Frank Busche had died, 656-658 Race was auctioned off. Thereafter, as the above advertisement references, 656-658 Race contained two stores (Frank Busche had used them both for his wine shop), and both were put to different commercial uses in the last years of the 19th century.
In 1885, inside 656 Race, Anton Schappacher (1852-1926) ran a grocery. After the Schappachers left 656 Race, it housed Felix Schneider’s shoe store in the late 1880s. In 1890, Philip Ruppertz used the space for his wallpaper shop. Next door, just before the turn of the century, at 658 Race, Louis Lowenstein operated a saloon and John Theobald sold wines from there.
Turn of the 20th Century
From the early 1880s through the turn of the 20th century, 648 Race—then renumbered to 1730 Race—was home to a police station, Patrol No. 3, for Over-the-Rhine. In 1898, the annual city police report noted that the building was owned by J. P. Strauss & Company and was “in bad condition and should be replaced.”
By 1902, the Lorentz brothers, Emil and Charles, owned it. City inspectors confirmed its condition had not improved. Next door at 1732 Race, beginning in the late 1800s, John Veser & Sons ran a clothing store, expanding to all the storefronts at 1732-1736 Race by the early 1900s. The company was comprised of four brothers—John, Emil, Charles and Arthur—who worked as custom tailors. They sold men’s and children’s clothes as well as hats and other furnishings. In addition to their location at Race and Elder, they also used 109 W. Elder. They stayed at this location (109 W. Elder) until the early 1930s (they only remained at 1732-1736 Race in the years around the turn of the 20th century).
At the turn of the century, Christian F. Kasten operated a butter and egg business out of 1736 Race. Albert H. Gellenbeck (1861-1934) sold liquor, wine and vinegar next door at 1738 Race before moving his business to 1804 Race. A wholesale liquor agent, Albert was born in 1861 in Ohio to German immigrant parents. Beginning in the early 1890s, the Lorentz brothers—Charles and Emil—used the corner building at Race and Elder for their dry goods (and later shoes) business. They eventually expanded to own and use the entire stretch of 1730-1740 Race; they also used the storefront at 101 W. Elder for their shoes business until 1924.
Sometime between 1891 and 1904, the four rear one-story buildings that fronted on Elder were demolished for 1738-1740 Race to be expanded backward (eastward) into a new two-story brick addition. Furthermore, 1730 Race—the police station—was demolished for or converted into a stable.
Emil and Charles Lorentz were born in 1857 and 1862, respectively, to German-French parents, Joseph and Margareth (Joseph and Margareth had immigrated from the Alsace-Lorain region in 1850). Joseph was a carpenter by trade; he and his wife raised six children in Cincinnati, including Joseph, Margareth, Emil, Louisa, Charles and Emma. The eldest son Joseph went on to become a pharmacist; Emil and Charles then teamed up to first run a dry goods store at 115-117 W. Elder—before they later turned to shoes.
Beginning in the mid-1880s, the Lorentz brothers, along with partner Charles Bassler, occupied the storefront of 51 Elder (115 W. Elder); they rented the space from the building’s owners, Aaron and Julia Burtanger. A few years later, the brothers and Charles then moved their business to 53 Elder (117 W. Elder). Noteworthy, 115 and 117 W. Elder—prior to a 1940 gas explosion—were both three-story brick buildings. The Lorentz business remained there until 1893 at which point they sold their merchandise stock. They then branched out on their own, moving to the southeast corner of Race and Elder in the early 1890s and to 101 W. Elder in 1910 for a shoe store. Emil never married. He lived with his older brother Joseph, who was also single, his sister Margareth—also single—and his married sister Louisa and her family up in Clifton Heights. His younger brother Charles, though, married a German woman, Caroline (Stegner); they wed later in life so the couple did not have any children. Caroline’s father John Stegner was a wholesale grocer. The Lorentz brothers sold their business at Findlay Market in the fall of 1924. They explained to their customers in their advertisement for their “going-out-business sale” that they wished “to thank our many friends and patrons for all past patronage and hope they will all avail themselves of this opportunity to save money.” Emil passed away four years later; his brother Charles lived until 1950, though he began to travel to Florida in the early 1920s which was often, at that time, indicative of ill health.
Thereafter, starting in 1925, Samuel Nadler (1890-1967) had a department store at 1740 Race. He had previously run a dry goods shop at 1724 Race Street. Born in 1890 in Austria-Hungary, he immigrated in 1910 like other Jewish people who were fleeing growing persecution in eastern and central Europe. In the first weeks of 1930, Samuel’s creditors brought involuntary bankruptcy charges against him. Samuel had transferred his store to another man, and his creditors went after him for this breach of contract. They wanted to be able to sell the store merchandise to help reclaim some of their lost money. At this point, Samuel’s liabilities totaled over $128,000 while his assets amounted to just over $44,000.
The Grocery Era at 1730-1740 Race
Beginning in 1930, the southeast corner of Race and Elder was one of many locations of A&P Food Stores, a major chain grocery and the largest grocery retailer in the U.S. in the 20th century. Findlay Market’s A&P was, at least when it opened, the largest A&P in the city. During the early years of A&P at Race and Elder, Jacob Noiman (1884-1959), followed by George Shively, had a poultry shop at 1732 Race. (The storefront at 1732 Race was used separately from 1734-1740 Race through the 1930s and ‘40s). Jacob also had a location on West 6th Street.
He was a Jewish Lithuanian immigrant, born in 1884. He immigrated in 1911 from what was then Tsarist Russia; his wife Liba “Libby” (1884-1953) and his two sons, Harry (1909-1982) and Charles (1911-1981), followed in 1921. The 1930 Federal Census reported that their primary language, even after several years in Cincinnati, was still Yiddish. A&P’s originated in New York City.
George Gilman (1826-1901) reoriented his father’s tanning company, Gilman & Company, to the tea and coffee business in 1859 after his father’s death. That company became the Great American Tea Company in the 1860s and was eventually renamed the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (hence, A&P for short). It was both an in-person store and a mail-order tea and coffee business. Because management bought supplies in bulk, it undercut many other competitors. George Gilman and his partner George Huntington Hartford (1833-1917) also knew the power of advertising and promotion—and brand names to get customers to their store. They also created their own products, including Eight O’Clock Coffee. Described in 1936 as “a three-story brick building at the southeast corner of Race and Elder Streets [with] a storeroom with lofts above,” 1730-1740 Race was managed by the Avery Estate and then the Frederick A. Schmidt Company.
The buildings were sold in 1943 to Edith A. Baker (1878-1967) and Ethel A. Cochran (1879-1955). Edith was born in Ohio in 1878 to a long line of Bakers in Cincinnati. She never married and was the only child of David (1833-1904) and Anna Baker (1836-1927). It seems that she came into money which she invested into real estate. She was a member of the Women’s Club and was considered a prominent member of society—a part of the social elite in town. Her real estate partner, Ethel, was born in 1879 in Ohio to German immigrant parents. By the time of her involvement with 1730-1740 Race, she was a widow.
In 1946, Ethel and Edith sold 1730-1740 Race to William Gray, an investor. He partnered with Samuel Stewart Stuhlbarg, president of the Stewart Realty Company. They retained 1730-1740 Race until 1947 when Richard Robens, Jack Marcus and Joseph Stillpass acquired it. The Enquirer described the property at the time, saying, “The corner store is occupied by an A. & P. Grocery Co. supermarket. The rest of the property includes another store on Race Street, open loft space on the second and third floors and a large parking lot, which extends 94 feet on Race and 118 on Elder, running to Goose Alley.” John and George Hartford died in 1951 and 1957, respectively, and thereafter the store went public. Unfortunately, by the 1960s, many A&P locations were struggling. Customers chose competitors, complaining that A&P stores were too urban, less high-quality than other chains and too overpriced to make it worth it to shop there. Many stores closed in the 1970s and thereafter. The company went bankrupt in 2010 and all locations were closed by 2016. Just before Christmas 1978, A&P announced the last of its stores in the Cincinnati area would be shut down. “We didn’t have enough stores in the area to cover the costs of operation,” the A&P vice president said at the time.
1730-1740 Race then became an IGA grocery in the early 1980s. That lasted until 1995. It was then, from 1996 to 1999, a Shop-N-Save, and then, in 2000, Finley’s Supermarket. Sometime between the early 1950s and the early 1970s, the building was shortened to one-story. (The 1974 renovation of Findlay Market shows the building as one-story). This partial demolition went unmentioned in local newspapers. Since 2001, it has been home to Our Daily Bread, a non-profit soup kitchen. It offers a day shelter, free food—it serves an average of 400 meals per weekday—and an after-school children’s program, all for neighborhood people in need. It was founded in 1985 by a local woman, Ruth “Cookie” Vogelpohl (who passed away in 2016), who felt not enough was being done to serve the homeless population in Over-the-Rhine. Our Daily Bread’s first location was on Logan Street.