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The Times-Star Building

By Sarah Stephens · August 15th, 2007 · Cincitecture
  The Times-Star Building
Joe Simon

The Times-Star Building

If you've ever had the pleasure of viewing the glamorous lobby of the Times-Star Building downtown, chances are you probably weren't wowed by the stunning Art Deco interior. For that matter, you probably could have cared less about the architectural detail and decor.

In fact, you were probably counting down the minutes until you could walk back out those spectacular front doors. That's because you were likely there to attend either Juvenile Court or Domestic Court, which have been housed in this former newspaper center since 1992, when the building was purchased by Hamilton County.

This structure is worth so much more than a trip to the court system, however, and I highly recommend stopping by, taking in the finer details of this masterpiece and having a brief chat with the friendly and informative security guards the next time you're strolling downtown.

Samuel Hannaford & Sons -- a veritable powerhouse of local structural design -- is the architecture firm behind the Times-Star building, which was built from 1931 to 1933.

It's one of the premium examples of architecture in the Art Deco style that Cincinnati has to offer.

The structure was commissioned by the dynastic Taft family, which has played a pivotal role not only in the development of Cincinnati but in our nation's history as well. Charles, editor of The Times-Star, and his wife Anna commissioned the building to house the newspaper and are honored in the lobby via metal relief portraits that flank the Broadway entrance.

The building is a prime example of Art Deco architecture, the signature style of the 1920s and '30s that the ArtLex Visual Arts Dictionary describes as exhibiting "aspects of ... abstraction, distortion and simplification, particularly geometric shapes and highly intense colors -- celebrating the rise of commerce, technology and speed" through "streamlined forms derived from the principles of aerodynamics."

Deco architecture, therefore, has intrinsic ties to technology and the machine, which certainly apply to the Times-Star building, originally a hub of industry. Printing presses churned away in the eastern end of the structure, while surely the clacking and dinging of typewriters would be a familiar sound to journalists busy turning out their next story in the press rooms throughout. Although The Cincinnati Post absorbed The Times-Star in 1958, presses still occupied the building until the 1980s, when it was converted to offices.

This building is rife with symbolism, which is impressed upon the viewer in both grandiose and subtle manners. The aspects of this structure's facade that have always impressed me from afar are the four massive sculptures flanking the corners -- allegorical figures representing truth, progress, patriotism, speed and perhaps learning, depending on your source.

There are other symbolic relief sculptures encircling the building that are slightly more difficult to make out, but that are equally impressive. Portraits of individuals significant to the development of printing -- Benjamin Franklin, Johannes Gutenberg and William Caxton (the first English printer) -- are just a few of those depicted.

While these portraits strive to attain a degree of naturalism, Art Deco sculpture is traditionally recognizable for a highly stylized, geometric nature that imbues traditional archaic form with a modern sense of dynamism. Such tenets are visible in smaller details, such as the unbelievable elevator doors and the angels resting above the Taft portraits.

But throughout, one is consistently impressed with a strong sense of geometricism. Some of my favorite examples are the animals (such as lions, eagles and even a pelican) hiding almost everywhere inside and out.

Sure, the Times-Star Building is stunning from afar, but for me its finer qualities lie in the details.

The Times-Star Building is located at 800 Broadway Ave., Downtown.


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