CINCINNATI (WKRC) -- Crews removing the brick facade from a building on Race Street slowly reveal its original design. The building most recently occupied by Chongs Inc., a retail store with eclectic clothing was bought earlier this year by Cincinnati Center City Development Corp (3CDC) purchased the building last year.
As the bricks down, we’re seeing architectural designs that have been for 70 years.
“It’s really exciting when you get a property like this that has that red brick and to peel back that layer and expose some of this great historic architecture,” said Joe Rudemiller, 3CDC vice president of marketing and communications.
The architecture is 18th century Italian and has been covered up by brick since the Butler Brothers made the change in the 1950s.
"Very common in the 1950s to go with the post-World War II modern look. They didn’t want to have that look from the mid-1800s sticking around,” said historian Ann Senefeld.
Senefeld was hired by 3CDC to help do some research about the building's history after finding things inside that were much older than they thought. Also finding staircases to nowhere and what looked like a brick fusion of two buildings on the backside of the structure.
It turns out, the building is really two buildings merged together. And one of them designed by Samuel Hannaford.
"We were fortunate to have him here, the starchitect of his day,” said architect Mark Gunther. "It gave us a chance to have sort of a signature style for our community."
Cincinnati is home to roughly 300 Hannaford buildings like Music Hall, Cincinnati City Hall, the Cincinnati Observatory, the list goes on and on.
"I walk past it every day so I’m enjoying the reveal with everybody else,” said Gunther.
With interest on social media high, more people want to know what else was inside the building built in the late 1800s.
"There’s been a lot of names flying around from all the companies that've been through there,” said Senefeld.
In addition to her research for 3CDC, Senefeld recently published a blog about the building and its history.
Some former occupants include Mitchell's Furniture Store, JJ Newberry Inc., Freidman Furniture, Shott Furniture and eventually in the 60s Kroger moved in. The building originally had six floors, but after a fire, the Butler Brothers demolished the top two, wrapped it in brick and opened a department store. Senefeld says her research indicates the smoke damage was so extensive, people had to wear masks on the top floors for protection.
Cincinnati’s architecture is diverse. From Hannaford to Frank Lloyd Wright type homes, it’s ability to share a story of the past building by building is what Senefeld says makes Cincinnati special.
"Some of these older cities you know St. Louis Milwaukee, we do have quite a few treasures of those boom times when we were up-and-coming,” said Senefeld.
And that's the hope 3CDC has. That the old look, polished up will again bring progress to downtown.
“Hopefully will be attractive to an owner or tenant who sees this beautiful architecture and can envision themselves in the space,” said Rudemiller.
3CDC expects the brick removal to take four to six weeks. Then they'll figure out how much of the facade can be saved.
At the moment it’s unclear what will eventually occupy the space.