17 September 2008

Cincinnati Model Homes 1903 to 1919

Queen City Survey mentioned the Schmidlapp Trust in a post a while back, and it reminded me of the Model Homes Company that I had heard about. This Company was an example of private corporate philanthropy, before the time of public housing.

The purpose of the company was to provide rental housing for both white and African American occupancy at the lowest possible price. While other landlords took from one-fourth to one-third of a worker's wages for rent, Schmidlapp's formula was one day's wages for one week's rent. The company also provided a 5% return for its investors. In addition to renting, an alternative plan was offered where one could purchase, over a ten year period, a two family house on terms comparable to the usual rent payments. By 1953 there were 118 building complexes with 453 apartment units. Most of the housing was concentrated in Oakley, Norwood, Walnut Hills and Avondale, with separate complexes for white and African American renters.
The company operated a co-operative grocery store on Kerper Avenue in Walnut Hills in the Washington Terrace complex. The store's profits were paid back to the housing tenants in the form of dividends.

Schmidlapp also built the Gordon Hotel in 1916 for the "self-respecting Negro stranger, who has no friends to recommend him to a private family." The hotel was located at Chapel and Ashland Avenues in Walnut Hills.
You can see some of these buildings on the west side of I-71, just north of MLK and just opposite of that annoying LED Billboard. Here is the site:

View Larger Map

Typical, very simple and affordable Floor Plan:
Description accompanying the drawing:
Each building is designed for four families in flats each containing four rooms and baths, and separate stairs. Cost $4,101. Size 48' x 30'. Rent, 50¢ per room per week. II and III. Building designed for four families in flats each containing three rooms and bath. Cost $3,142; size 40' x 30'. (Note: grading, water and gas mains not included in these costs.) (Source: Schmidlapp: "Low Priced Housing for Wage Earners.

Cincinnati Model Home Company built 402 new dwellings between 1914 and 1919. Schmidlapp died in 1919. After WWI, they lost momentum, and had difficulty making the numbers work because construction costs were much higher. These units at Washington Terrace rented for $11 per month in 1915. After the War, new 4-room units cost $35/month, which was more than most black citizens could afford. They then tried rehabbing some existing buildings on Carr Street in "the bottoms" of the West End, but these buildings had many vacancies because people that wanted to improve themselves wanted a better neighborhood. As a result of this learning experiment, Cincinnati philanthropists began promoting housing in new developments outside of the basin, similar to this Washington Terrace example. (Source: Race and the City: Work, Community, and Protest in Cincinnati, 1820-1970
By Henry Louis Taylor, page 198)

[where: 3066 Kerper Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45219]
[where: 19 Lincoln Terrace, Cincinnati, OH 45219]


Feoshia said...

cool. I liked that.

Anonymous said...

Check out "Living Downtown: A History of Residential Hotels in the United States," by Paul Groth.
(1994, U of Cal Press)

Groth documents the on-again off-again war against residential hotels, and any form of what used to be called SRO's, or single room occupancy zoning.

Even before the tax code changes in the 80's, many people believed that living in a rooming house or residential hotel was tantamount to immorality. But as developers and governments slowly erradicated these types of housing, no provision was made for rehousing the people who were displaced.

Sadly, something like the Gordon could not get built today. But it might house a lot of people currently homeless.

CityKin said...

David; Yes I remember places like the Milner Hotel, and the Ft Washington. I think these places are an important peice of the housing puzzle. I have heard about new SRO's, but they are a different animal, usually run by a non-profit group instead of for-profit corporations, like the Milner was.