The Origins of the Carew Tower
The Carew Tower stands on the former site of the Carew Building, which was built in 1891 to house the Mable & Carew Department Store. The site was purchased in 1914 by local industrialist Thomas Emery, following the death of J T Carew.
Emery had a bold vision for the land: to build a multi-purpose complex there with a hotel, shopping center and offices all in one building, 'a city within a city'. This was a very novel idea at the time and, when he unveiled his designs in 1929, he had trouble finding financing.
This ultimately worked out in his favour. He sold his own stocks and shares to pay for the project. Then, one month into construction, the market crashed. Had his money been tied up in stocks he would have been ruined, but instead he now possessed a liquidity few others had.
Building the Carew Tower
Construction continued unimpeded, albeit under a less elaborate design. The first three floors (built before the crash) had been made sparing little expense, but now costs were wound back. Less expensive materials were used, like bricks.
The tower was completed in just 13 months, construction crews working on it around the clock, 7 days a week. It cost a total of $13 million (approx $535 million in today's money), giving a much needed boost to the city's economy.
Naming the Carew Tower
The tower's hotel was originally meant to be called St. Nicholas Plaza and for a long time this seemed likely to be the case. Glassware, linen, etc was all embroidered with the initials SNP but at the last minute the owners of the long closed St. Nicholas Hotel claimed they had rights to the name.
St. Nicholas Plaza briefly became St. Netherland Plaza, then just Netherland Plaza. It is today called Hilton Cincinatti Netherland Plaza.
It opened in 1930, along with the rest of the tower, an 800 guestroom hotel in Cincinatti's tallest building, complete with a banquet hall modelled after the Palace of Versailles' Hall of Mirrors.
The Carew Tower into the Modern Day
Over the years that followed the tower saw plenty of highs as well as some lows. In 1942 it suffered a fire to its fifth floor. Later it hosted the likes of Elvis Presley, John and Jackie Kennedy, Winston Churchill and Bing Crosby.
For 13 years, between 1967-80, it featured in the opening and closing credits of popular sitcom The Edge of Night.
Today it continues to function as a hotel/shopping mall/office complex. It is now however only the second tallest building in the city, its crown having been taken by Queen City Square's Great American Tower in 2010, 665 ft compared to Carew Tower's 574 ft.
Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Interactive Scavenger Hunts- untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of Cincinatti and beyond!