Early Years of 135 W. Elder
135 W. Elder—then numbered 71 Elder—was listed in city directories as early as 1860. The Hamilton County Auditor also reports its built date in the 1860s. Within the first decade of its use, the majority of tenants were tailors, like F. Bogerdink (or Bogerdig) (1796-1881), a German Catholic immigrant, suggesting that its initial purpose was that of a tailor shop with lodging above.
By the mid-60s, Henry C. Cohes (1823-1892) had a grocery there (he was also listed as Herman in various public records, and his surname was spelled Cohn, Cohne, Capes and Cohrs).Born in 1823 in Hannover, Henry was married to Johanna (Lichtendahl) (1838-1904)—they wed in 1856— and had several children with her. Only a few, including their sons John (1858-1931) and Oscar (1870-1937), lived to be middle-aged adults.
A Civil War veteran and a wealthy man—he boasted $15,000 in real estate in 1870 (close to a ¼ of a million dollars today)—Henry initially came to the U.S. as a druggist but soon set up shop at Findlay Market. While he did not maintain his business at 71 Elder for long, he stayed nearby, first moving next door to 69 Elder (today, 133 W. Elder, or Eli’s) and then by the 1870s working on Elm Street. One of his daughters, Louisa, sadly died of measles within eight days of her birth at 71 Elder.
Edward Romer’s Dry Goods Store
From the 1880s until the turn of the 20th century, Edward Romer (1858-1927) operated a dry goods store at 71 Elder which sold, among other items, “notions, ladies’ and gents’ furnishing goods.”
Edward was born in Louisiana in 1858 to German immigrants Charles and Amelia Romer (they had emigrated from Baden in 1857). Edward opened his dry goods store in the mid-1880s on Findlay Market and stayed there through the new century. His father helped him manage it when he was alive. Just before World War I, Edward retired. Unmarried, he then lived with his mother and two younger sisters, Sophia and Rosie, in St. Bernard on Mitchell Avenue.
He passed away in 1927 and was buried at St. Mary Cemetery in St. Bernard.
Saloons at 135 W. Elder in Early 20th Century
In 1904, brewer and saloonkeeper Ludwig Seegmueller (1868-1907) moved his bartending operation to 135 W. Elder. 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. Married to Marie (Hildebrandt) (1861-1955), a German immigrant, having arrived in the U.S. in 1885, Ludwig raised a daughter Bertha (Demrow) (1894-1925) with her.
After moving his saloon to 135 W. Elder, he also used the storefront as an events space which he called the New Market Hall. Advertised as a “Hall for Societies, Lodges, Weddings, Parties,” perhaps the space was meant to give Ludwig an advantage over other nearby bars. Sadly, large man or not, Ludwig succumbed to tuberculosis and passed away in 1907. He was buried at Walnut Hills Cemetery.
Thereafter, Hungarian Joseph Kugel (1867-1939) ran a saloon out of the first floor of 135 W. Elder while he, his wife Fanny (1875-1950) and their children—Fredrica, Flora, Sadie, Bernard and Jeanette—lived next door at 137 W. Elder. (Fanny had already lost three children when they started the bar at 135 W. Elder).
Fanny and Joseph were relatively new to Over-the-Rhine: they had immigrated to the U.S. in 1885-86. Like his predecessor, Joseph had a few run-ins with the law. He got in trouble for violating the Owen Law and the Sunday Blue Laws (both regulating bars were to be closed on Sundays).
Albert Albiez’s Men’s FurnishingsBeginning in March 1914, Albert William Albiez (1871-1939) leased the first floor of 135 W. Elder from owner Melchoir Wuest for his men’s furnishings store. He and his family also lived upstairs. Melchoir charged Albert $70 a month in rent (at least, initially).
The Albiez store remained at this location through the Great Depression. Throughout his tenure at Findlay Market, Albert was one of its improvers—meaning an active member of the Findlay Market Improvement Association. He was elected to Assistant Secretary during World War I.
Early Owners of 135 W. Elder
In 1870, Melchoir Wuest (1837-1924) and his family lived at 135 W. Elder where he worked as a cabinet maker.
By the following decade, they had left the Market for Graham Street near Bellevue Park in Clifton. Nonetheless, ties remained to the Market as Melchoir was the building’s owner from the late 1800s until the early 1900s. A German immigrant (arrived in the U.S. in 1866), he was married to Mary Agnes (Borgerding) (1843-1911); together they had eleven children, including a son named Melchoir (1872-1946).
Only seven of these children, including Melchoir Jr., lived beyond childhood. Melchoir Sr. died in 1924. In the last years of his life, he was a patient at St. Francis Hospital for the Incurables, a Catholic hospital for elderly and terminally ill (and often indigent) patients. After Melchoir, Albert Albiez owned 135 W. Elder, followed by his widow Lucy (1884-1979) until 1946.
The 5c-$1 Store at 135 W. ElderIn the early to late 1940s, Clifford G. Link (1892-1970) started a “five and ten-cent store” at 135 W. Elder (along with a location at 1711 Vine).
Married to his wife Myrtle (1894-1970) since 1916, Clifford—a medium-sized, stout man with dark hair and eyes, according to his World War I draft registration—was initially a musician with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (which is how he met his wife since she was an actress on the variety stage), yet he switched gears to be a store proprietor. A part of the Market, he served on the Findlay Market Improvement Association in the ‘20s and ‘30s.
After World War II, 135 W. Elder continued to be a “five and ten-cent store” with Harry L. Cohen (1897-1956) and his son Jean running “Findlay Market Five and Dime Store” there. Harry and his son started going into business together in the 1920s when they both worked for his advertising firm, Harry L. Cohen Advertising Agency. Thereafter, the father-son duo, along with business partner Minor Grossman, started a wholesale variety business at 305 W. 4th Street; they also opened the Findlay Market store in addition to other ‘five and dime’ stores, including one in Hyde Park and one on Vine Street.
In 1901, Harry married Bertha Morris (1878-1923), and while both were born in Ohio, their parents were Russian-Polish immigrants who came to the U.S. in the late 1800s. Harry got his start in life first as a clothing merchant (before he moved onto advertising). His military draft information listed him as a tall man—standing at 5’7” with dark hair and eyes. A member of many different business organizations, including the Central Avenue Business Men’s Association, the West Fifth Street Business Association and the Hyde Park Merchants Association, he also served as the head of the Greater Cincinnati Variety Stores Association and was active at his synagogue at Rockdale Temple.
In the fall of 1957, Harry passed away at the age of eighty. A resident of Avondale, he was beloved, especially by the neighborhood children near his Hyde Park Five and Dime Store on Hyde Park Square. The children there called him “Uncle Harry” for remembering their birthdays and giving them gifts occasionally.
Thereafter, Harry’s son Jean (1902-1983) formally took over the store at Findlay Market. In the late 1950s, the Cincinnati Post did a series spotlighting different neighborhoods within the city. In April of ’56, it studied Findlay Market and interviewed a number of vendors and store owners, all of whom insisted on the Market’s ongoing importance. Jean Cohen was one of them. He stated, “This is a unique shopping center, and it has the old German flavor that made Cincinnati famous. The city should make every effort to retain Findlay Market. We are keeping up with the times, too. We’ve done a lot to solve our parking problem on Saturdays with two lots.”
Throughout the early ‘60s, upstairs apartments at 135 W. Elder were advertised in local papers. Reflective of a time when the civil rights movement was still working toward total desegregation, the apartments were available for white tenants only. Ads stressed amenities like fresh wallpaper, new decorations and a private toilet. In these years, the building changed owners quite frequently. After Lucy Albiez ceased owning it in 1946, Eleanor (Balogh) Bruning (1910-2000) and her husband Max (1907-1966) were the next owners until 1950. Eleanor—from Hungary—and Max—from Germany—both immigrated in the 1920s and married in 1929.
To support his family, Max worked in the restaurant industry, including being a chef and a bartender. Throughout the ‘50s, Jacob Newman owned it off and on again. Late in the decade, William Mallin 1916-1970)—a grocer and butcher born to Russian immigrant parents—and his business partner, Sidney L. Kapp, purchased it. It was then transferred to William’s wife Sarah Mallin (1914-2007) and Helen Kapp in 1960.
Rosemary M. (Fagin) Geiger (1920-2010), originally from Brown County, Ohio, was next, being the owner in the early ‘70s. She and her husband Harry lived in the city after their marriage, but like all the previously-mentioned postwar owners, they did not actually live at 135 W. Elder. Finally, from 1980 until 2015, Michael J. Luken owned the building. This rapid succession of owners characterized many other buildings in Over-the-Rhine in the late 20th century as Cincinnati lost population: Over-the-Rhine’s population fell from 44,475 in 1900 to 30,000 by 1960 to 15,000 by 1970 to just under 10,000 by 1990. With this flight of people and taxes, much of the inner-city historic real estate lost value, causing buildings to be sold frequently.
From the early to the late 1960s, there was a Schiff’s Shoe Store at 135 W. Elder, along with around a dozen other locations across the city. Al Cohen managed the Findlay Market operation. Robert Schiff (1886-1971) founded the venture in 1920 after immigrating to U.S. in 1905 as a Russian Jewish immigrant from Lithuania. While interested in law, he instead worked first as a clerk in a shoe store and tried his hand at various businesses in Dayton, Cincinnati and Dallas.
Shoes on the Market
From the early to the late 1960s, there was a Schiff’s Shoe Store at 135 W. Elder, along with around a dozen other locations across the city. Al Cohen managed the Findlay Market operation.
Robert Schiff (1886-1971) founded the venture in 1920 after immigrating to U.S. in 1905 as a Russian Jewish immigrant from Lithuania. While interested in law, he instead worked first as a clerk in a shoe store and tried his hand at various businesses in Dayton, Cincinnati and Dallas.Slowly, he envisioned a shoe chain store with nationwide outlets which he launched in Columbus, Ohio in 1920. By 1969, Schiff’s had become the Shoe Corporation of America (SCOA) with 1,000 stores and one of the major providers of shoes in the U.S. Then, from the 1970s to the early 1980s, Findlay Market patrons could find a Payless Shoe Store at 135 W. Elder.
Empty Until Recently
From the mid-80s until recently, 135 W. Elder sat vacant. Excitedly, in the fall of 2016, Sonja Thams and Benjamin Deering opened Deerhaus, a boutique market for environmentally-conscious, craft-made and locally produced goods. After buying and renovating the building, they responded to surveys of Market patrons who replied—when asked what else they would like to see at Findlay—with a shop full of local goods.