The Early Years of 64 Elder
Complete by 1861, 64 Elder first housed C. M. Arnold’s grocery. Born in Bavaria in 1823, he was a wealthy, early Over-the-Rhine resident: he had around $300,000 in present-day money in real estate and personal wealth by 1860. His wife Margaret, born in 1825, was also from Bavaria. In 1863, William August Sick (ca. 1842-1920) began to sell queensware—a special kind of cream-colored chinaware developed by Josiah Wedgewood (1730-1795)—at 64 Elder. Queensware was so-named because the British queen, Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), commissioned a collection for her family in the late 18th century. William kept his business at 64 Elder until 1870. He then worked at the northwest corner of Race and Elder (now Noli) in the 1870s and then at 60 Elder (124 W. Elder) in 1879 and 1880.
Born in 1842 in Prussia, he was married to a German woman named Margaret (1842-1918). They had several children, including William, Augustus, Elizabeth, Lucil, Paul and Herman. During William’s tenure as a Findlay Market proprietor, the family lived at the northwest corner of Race and Elder. Public records following the Sick family are hazy, but they suggest that the family moved to Missouri for the birth of the youngest, Herman, in 1884.
By 1889, directories and census records show them in Denver, Colorado, where William worked as a coal and feed dealer. His wife died in 1918. He then moved to Malibu and then Sawtelle, Los Angeles, to a home for disabled veterans since he had served in the Civil War. He died in 1920 and was buried back with his wife in Denver.
In 1871, German immigrant Christian Weber (1831-1877) began to sell boots and shoes from 128 W. Elder’s storefront. He initially started his business at 60 Elder which lasted from 1862 to 1865. In 1866, he relocated to 58 Elder (now 122 W. Elder) where he remained until 1870. He then moved to 64 Elder where he remained until his death in 1877.
Born in 1831 in Koenigsbach, Bavaria, to Georgii (1797-unknown) and Barbarae (Herfel) (1804-1835), Christian—also called 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. Family later claimed that his money was used to build the now-demolished St. John’s Church at Green and Republic. 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), Ludwig (1871-1871, a stillborn infant) 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 and during his tenure at 60 Elder, Christian served in the Civil War from September to October 1862 as a Private in the Union Army. In 1871, Christian briefly moved his business to the northwest corner of Freeman and 8th Street in the West End but soon, he relocated it back at Findlay Market at 64 Elder.
Through these years, 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 his body there). After his death in 1877, his widow Rosa continued to run the family store at 64 Elder until 1890 at which point she retired and moved to Clifton with her daughter Caroline, her granddaughter Rosa and her sons John and George.
In 1902, Rosa passed away from heart failure. As city directories show, all of Christian and Rosa’s sons—except the twins that died young and their stillborn son Ludwig—worked as musicians—and two became quite famous. Adam, the eldest son, directed the orchestra at Heuck’s Opera House in Over-the-Rhine. He also conducted at Wielert’s Café on Vine Street. His younger brother John was the director of the Prize Band of America. He was also another orchestra conductor at Heuck’s, under his brother’s management, and additionally conducted at the National Theater (which was located downtown on the east side of Sycamore, just north of Third Street).
The 20th Century
From 1892 to 1903, Alexander B. Heilemann (1887-1958) had a shoe store at 128 W. Elder. In 1904, he moved his business to 112-114 W. Elder (Eckerlin’s today) and remained there until 1923. Alexander grew up in the shoe business. His grandfather John B. Heilemann (1818-1901) was a shoe manufacturer born in Germany in 1818. John immigrated to the U.S. in 1846 and, three years later, he and his wife Elizabeth married.
In 1850, they started a family: their son Alexander Bernard (1858-1912) was born in Cincinnati and as a young man worked with his father for the family business. The Heilemanns maintained a boots and shoe store at 46 Elder (now 110 W. Elder, Madison’s) from the early 1880s to 1891. Benjamin’s son Alexander, then, carried on that family tradition, starting a shoe store at 128 W. Elder and then 112-114 W. Elder.
In 1923, Alexander moved the operation to 100 W. Elder (present-day Noli) which he purchased with meat producer Clarence Stegner in 1922. On his World War I registration, Alexander was listed as a stout man of medium height with blond hair and grey eyes. Married to Marie (Solter) (1886-1976), he was the father of two daughters, Margaret and Charlotte. From 1904 to 1922, Abraham Friedman (1885-1951) had a shoe store at the building. He also used the storefront at 130 W. Elder, in conjunction with 128 W. Elder’s commercial space, and also had another location at 620 W. Court. Born in 1884 in Szilas, Hungary (near the current-day border between Slovakia and Hungary), Abraham was a Jewish immigrant—with Yiddish as his preferred language, at least when he was younger—who came to the U.S. in 1890.
His World War I draft card described him as short and stout with blue eyes and dark hair. His parents were Jacob (1847-1924) and Lena (Falkenstein) (1848-1920). He was one of four children; his siblings included David (1873-1952), Hannah (1875-1939) and Ella (1887-1977).
During his shoe store at 128 W. Elder, he lived there with his parents and his sister Ella. Abraham was married three times. He first married Regina (Lefkowitz) (1895-unknown) in 1921. They wed in the Bronx in New York City, so it remains a mystery as to how they met. They had one child together in 1922 who died within the year. He then wed again in 1925 to Nanette “Nannie” (Berman) (1894-1928), yet she passed away three years later. He wed once more to a woman named Anna (1892-1964) who outlived him.
As a Jewish man, Abraham was involved with the Cincinnati committee (or chapter) of the American Jewish Congress. Established after World War I to represent the interests of Jewish families and communities in war-torn Eastern Europe, the Congress participated in the Versailles peace conference after the war and then morphed into an organization that aided Eastern Europe Jews and Jewish immigrants and generally advocated for Zionism. As a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe himself, Abraham clearly felt strongly about aiding those that followed in his footsteps.
As Abraham started his business at 128 W. Elder, a horrible homicide took place at the building. Herman Heuck, a machinist and German immigrant, lived at the building, renting one of several apartments upstairs. In the fall of 1904, on October 29, Herman and an African American woman, Mary Bogie (who also went by Mary Reynolds), went to his room. He suddenly accused her of having robbed him and demanded to search her—which he did, although he did not find any of his lost money.
“His watch and knife were lying on the table,” she later recollected. “We both started for the knife, but I beat him to it. He said to me: ‘Put down that knife.’ I refused, and he then grabbed me by the arm and twisted it. Still twisting my arm he dragged me to a window, as if to throw me out. He raised the window and yelled for the police. He started to beat me over the head with his fist. Then I cut him. I don’t know how many times I cut him. I shut my eyes and cut until I felt his hold on me loosen. I broke away, but did not look at him when I left, although I jumped over his body. There was a lot of blood on the floor, and my hands were covered with it. I ran down the back stairs to the yard, but couldn’t get out. Neither could I find my way up stairs. Then I fell into the cellar. I must have had the knife when I fell.”
Police found her in the cellar. She originally said that she did not kill Herman but rather an African American man named George Smith did. She then retracted that story and confessed her role in it to police. Herman was cremated, and she was charged with murder.
George Hartford’s sons George (1864-1957) and John (1872-1951) grew the business into twenty stores by 1900. The brothers were known for their different personalities: George was reserved and cautious, and his younger brother was bold and uninhabited.
By 1912, they opened their first economy grocery store (like other grocery companies at the time who were interested in low-price retailing). A&Ps—considered the first mass chain grocery store in America—moved to the midwest by the Great Depression; nationwide, the Hartford family had set up over 15,000 stores at that point.
During World War II, management converted the business into a supermarket chain, but it still retained its urban focus. Unlike many other grocery chains by the postwar era, A&P did not exclusively move to the suburbs but instead stayed in places like Findlay Market.
At Findlay Market, the major A&P was at 1730-1740 Race (now Our Daily Bread), not at 128 W. Elder. The store at 128 W. Elder lasted only until the late 1930s. The one at the corner of Race and Elder, however, lasted from 1930 to the late 1970s, when many began to be shut down.
After A&P founders John and George Hartford died in 1951 and 1957, respectively, the store went public, but by the 1960s, many locations were struggling. Customers chose competitors, saying that A&P stores were inconveniently located (they were “too urban”) and were 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.
Later in its tenure, Elder Café earned a rough reputation for drugs, crime and rowdiness. Finally, in February 1999, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court ordered Elder Café closed after the city and the Ohio attorney general’s office declared it a public nuisance. It had most recently been the site of a murder in January 1999 along with several drug busts. Its then-manager Jerome J. Grogan tried to get it reopened but was unsuccessful.
The building then sat vacant and unlisted in city directories until 2007 when Christian Moerlein Brewery used the space as its OTR Ale House.
In 2008, Market Wines, run by Michael Maxwell, moved into the space and remains there today.