The Saloons at 43 Elder
As the marker on the building today boasts, 107 W. Elder was constructed in 1860. The first commercial tenant of 107 W. Elder—originally numbered 43 Elder—was Friedrich H. Ulhmann (1821-1873) who ran a dry goods store there in the early 1860s. Born in 1821, he was an early German immigrant to Over-the-Rhine. He and his wife Catherine (1832-1875) had three sons, J. Heinrich (1852-1870), Emil Frederick (1860-1877) and Gustav Heinrich (1872-1873), and several daughters—Mary, Caroline and another one named Catherine. He also had another daughter named Catherine Louise (1870-1871) who was allegedly from another marriage (although her birth date would suggest his wife Catherine was her mother too). Thereafter, until the early 1900s, the storefront was used as a saloon. Upstairs, four to eight families resided in tenement-style living conditions, renting one to two rooms.
Beginning in 1867, Charles Gulden ran his saloon from 43 Elder; he and his family also operated a cigar-making operation there. Cigar-making was a type of work in which entire families did together at home, exposing all members to hazardous tobacco leaves. Until 1879, cigar-makers in Cincinnati were paid in cigars (instead of wages) which meant men had to go to places like saloons to hawk cigars after they had finished work for the day, in order to actually get cash; women had to hire men or boys to sell the cigars in places like saloons as women were not welcome there. Charles’ saloon lasted until his death in 1876. (He created a will in 1875, perhaps indicative of an illness, and left all of his property and possessions to his wife; the original copy of this will was burned in the Courthouse Riot of 1884 and had to be restored to the record thereafter).
From the 1880s until the early 1890s, Jacob Ledig owned 43 Elder and ran a saloon there. Born in 1847 in France, he lived at 43 Elder as he ran his business there. After their marriage in 1873, he and his wife Louisa (Schaller), an immigrant from Baden, raised a large family. Their children included Jacob, Louisa, Barbara, Mary and Angelina. Many were born in the house; their daughter Lulu passed away in the house from typhoid fever. Unlike his predecessor Charles Gulden, Jacob was a Democrat and was involved in local politics in his Thirteenth Ward, including being a delegate to the 1877 and the 1879 Hamilton County Democratic Conventions (these were often held in Music Hall). Jacob died in 1890 from typhoid fever, like his daughter Lulu, and was buried at St. John’s Cemetery in St. Bernard, indicative of his Catholic faith.
Thereafter, his widow Louisa remarried. Her second husband Henry Meader was also a saloonist and took up the bar at 43 Elder after Jacob had died. Louisa had another child with him, a son Louis Henry, born in 1893. Around the turn of the 20th century, Charles Eckert briefly ran a saloon at 107 W. Elder. Yet, the increase of $100 in the “dow tax” in 1897 forced him and many other saloonists in Over-the-Rhine to quit their businesses. “But their places were reopened by others, so there is no decrease in their number,” the Enquirer assured saloon-goers.
Frederick Frey took over the bar at 43 Elder, then renumbered to 107 W. Elder. He was born in Ohio in 1854 to Frederick Frey (1831-1893), a German immigrant, and Sarah Salome (Keifer or Kufer) (1828-1874), a French immigrant. Frederick was one of six children, with Edward, Gustav, Caroline, George and William being his younger siblings. As a young man, he worked as a waiter in a saloon which was how he got his start in the bartending and barkeeping business. In 1895, Frederick succumbed to a “lingering illness”—liver cirrhosis as the Enquirer and Post reported—and died at home.
Henry Assel, born in 1867, was another saloon proprietor at 107 W. Elder in the early 1900s. According to local papers, Henry Assel could hold a grudge. His temperament came to light during a local court case in 1880 when he accused a young man, William Campbell, of trying to sexually assault a young woman, Annie Gerhardt, in a stable. William testified in court that he was merely putting his horses away and went to the stable loft to pitch hay when Annie came in. Henry Assel—who already knew William—came into the stable for some reason, ordered William down from the loft and leveled the accusation that William was up to no good. In court, William tried to defend himself, explaining that Henry did not like him and had reason to accuse him of such a premediated act. Once—William explained—Henry had been preparing to sell his saloon, upon which there was still a mortgage, and “Assel’s ill-will was aroused by [William] telling the purchaser of that fact and preventing the sale.” Similarly, William thwarted Henry from selling a wagon that did not belong to Henry.
The Fish Shops at 107 W. Elder
James Dank was born in 1865 in New York City to immigrant parents from England. Fish was hardly James’ line of work prior to his time at Findlay Market. Instead, he was a millwright and master mechanic. James’ partner William Geiss, though born in Ohio, spent much of his life in Covington too, which is perhaps how the two knew each other. Born in 1862 to German parents, William had a series of jobs before moving to fish, including being a hotel manager in the first years of the 20th century. His wife Clara (Washburn) (married in 1894) and their two children, Eugene and Hazel, also worked to keep the hotel running. Prior to that, William was a cobbler. He, Clara, Eugene, Hazel and Hazel’s husband moved to Cincinnati when he partnered with James for the Findlay Market business. The family lived on W. 12th Street. Danks & Geiss Fish ended at the Market in the early years of Prohibition.
In 1924, William began another poultry shop in Over-the-Rhine. At this time, another fish operation began at 107 W. Elder: William Cummins and Robert P. Eppensteiner’s. Robert Eppenstein was born in Ohio in 1891 to John, a blacksmith from Kentucky and of German heritage, and Elizabeth, an Irish immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1875. Robert was one of seven children and as a young man lived with his extended family in the West End, like many other immigrant families. There, he worked as a book keeper for a hardware store. His World War I draft registration listed him as tall and stout with blond hair and blue eyes. In his mid-twenties, he went to work for Booth Fish Company, rising to the rank of assistant manager before teaming up with William Cummins for their own business. At the start of the Great Depression, Robert Eppensteiner and his wife Gertrude moved to Cleveland.
Thomas Bethel (1879-1946) then took over the storefront at 107 W. Elder to sell fish and poultry there. Born in 1879 in Covington, Kentucky to William—an Irish immigrant—and Betty Bethel, Thomas followed his father’s footsteps and worked for his father’s fish store in his young adult life. He married a woman named Maud Doud in 1903, and had at least one son, Arthur (1903-1950), with her.
The More Recent History of 107 W. Elder
In the late 1930s, Joseph Koebbe ran a furniture store at 107 W. Elder. By 1940, Findlay Market shoppers could find the latest refrigerators at the building, sold by the Republic Water Heater Company.
Soon though, and for the rest of the decade, Elvin Lindon—a medicine manufacturer—utilized the storefront of 107 W. Elder for his herb medicine plant and small salesroom. In his last years at Findlay Market, Elvin had a hard time. In 1949, he was beaten and robbed of $300 in his office when three men bound and gagged him. The following year, Elvin lost significantly more money—up to $16,000—after investing in a supposed national horse race betting syndicate which turned out to be a scam. Elvin had initially given $1000 for “sure-fire” tips on horses. Two men, one who lived on Race Street and another on Pleasant in Over-the-Rhine, were behind the trickery and were arrested on charges of larceny. The following year, in 1951, Elvin passed away.
Thereafter, in the early 1950s, 107 W. Elder housed Nu-Way Furniture which sold kitchen, living room and bedroom furniture. Joseph Boehnlein (1876-1956), the Findlay Market eggs and poultry man and long-time leader in the Findlay Market Association, owned the building (along with 111-113 W. Elder) until his death in 1956. Advertisements in local papers announced the building for sale at this point and noted that it had indoor plumbing which, even in the midcentury in Over-the-Rhine, was not as common as we might think.
Sidney L. Karp (1903-1977)—a furniture dealer whose parents were Russian Jewish immigrants to Cincinnati—and his wife Helen (Fogel) purchased 107 W. Elder in 1957 and retained it until 1971.
Rosemary Geiger (1920-2010), the widow of Harry Geiger who ran Harry’s Meats from 1963 to the mid-1980s at what is now Luken Warehouse, then owned the building until 1990. After Nu-Way Furniture, the building was home to Evans Café from the late 1950s to the mid-80s. It was first managed by Della M. Evans, born around 1898. By the time that she moved her business to Findlay Market, she had been in the restaurant business for awhile, first managing a café on Spring Grove Avenue before coming to Over-the-Rhine. Merging forces with another restaurant proprietor, she married Stanley L. Bell in 1946 who ran a café downtown on Main Street. In her first years at Findlay Market, Della got in trouble with the State Liquor Board for after-hours wine sales. While this misdemeanor was minor, it set the precedent for future problems with the business and the building: Evans Café soon earned the reputation of being a rough-around-the-edges spot, one in which people drank too late and easily got into brawls.
In an otherwise-positive article about Thanksgiving Day sales at Findlay Market, Post writer Lew Moores merely wrote of the cafe, “The first drunk of the morning emerges from Evans Café, bloodshot, long in the face … The door to Evans Café opens, freeing a blast of hot, beery air.”
By 1970, Esther Evans was the manager of the joint. She lived on the third floor of the building—which was where she was arrested after she shot and killed her ex-husband Clyde Conrad with a .38-caliber Derringer following an argument with him. More drama in the building ensued.
Later managed by Leroy Jackson, 107 W. Elder was the site of a shooting in 1980, and by 1984 the city was actively trying to stop alcohol from being served there (police and the city vice squad openly wanted to not renew its liquor permit). Leroy also got into trouble for unlawful possession of food stamps. The building further received negative limelight in 1976 since it was the home of Marlene Curry, then aged sixteen, and Nathaniel Dixon, then twenty-three, who were both accused—along with four others—of aggravated murder and rape in the torture-murder case of Vearelene Jackson which, by its grotesque and tragic nature, received a ton of local press coverage. From the late 1980s until recently, the building was vacant. However, in late 2018, OTR Bagel Bar opened its doors there, serving New York-style bagels to Findlay Market-goers.