Libraries

Classicizing Cincinnati

This website was inspired by similar projects such as “Classicizing Philadelphia” (Bryn Mawr) and “Classicizing Chicago” (Urbana-Champagne) and by an exhibition in the Lobby of the Blegen Library building at the University of Cincinnati in 2018, a joint effort by the Cincinnati Art Museum and the University of Cincinnati.

Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (c. 520-430 BCE)

Cincinnatus the Roman leader Cincinnati was named after became legendary for his virtues. He was a politician who retired to become a farmer. During an armed conflict he was called to leave his plow aside and assume control of the Roman republic. Cincinnatus achieved victory but resigned out of respect for the Republic. The name also honors the Society of the Cincinnati, a society of military officers founded in the 18th c. Cincinnatus represented the moral virtues of farmers and war veterans, a large segment of the mid-western frontier city. 

Lucius “Lucky” Quinctus Pigasus

Cincinnati’s Flying Pig, Lucius “Lucky” Quinctus Pigasus in Roman gladiator suit by Eric Reed Creiner. An ignominious nickname for Cincinnati is Porkopolis, a reference to the many slaughtered pigs making Cincinnati the salted pork capital of the world.

Buildings and Monuments

The Fleischmann Mausoleum

Contains the remains of James Fleischmann, the founder of the Fleischmann Yeast Company, and his son Julius Fleischmann, former mayor of Cincinnati. Built as a Greek and Roman temple in the Doric style.

William Salway, the superintendent of Spring Grove Cemetery, designed this miniaturized, peristyled Doric Temple, reminiscent of the Parthenon, for the Fleischmann family in 1913. Salway, who was trained as an engineer and landscape gardener in England, had taken the job of superintendent in 1883 following the death of former superintendent, Adolph Strauch. Strauch came to Spring Grove in 1854 and established the “Landscape Lawn Plan” of cemetery design, and established Spring Grove as one of the most attractively landscaped cemeteries in the country, a distinction that remains to this day.

In designing the Fleischmann mausoleum, Salway combined neoclassical architecture with naturalism to create a rustic, but ordered effect. The combination of the white temple (inspired by the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago) the plantings and the lake creates a picture much like the famous English garden at Sourhead.

W.H. Harrison, president of the Harrison Granite Company in New York, erected the mausoleum using 5,000 cubic feet of Barre, Vermont granite. The walls are 18 inches thick. Recessed into one of them is a well secured stained glass window depicting the 

The Joseph Earnshaw Monument

Joseph Earnshaw, the landscape designer at Spring Grove, received a neoclassical grave marker. The Joseph Earnshaw Grecian Corinthian-style monument was based on the Choragic Monument of Lysikrates which is located at the base of the Acropolis at Athens, Greece.  The Lysikrates monument was the first building to have Corinthian columns on its exterior.  The building was built by Lysikrates, a wealthy patron of musical performances at the Theater of Dionysus.

Born in England, Earnshaw immigrated with his family to Cincinnati, Ohio some time prior to 1845, where he practiced civil engineering, sharing an office with his brother Henry (also a civil engineer) in 1857, and serving as the city surveyor in 1858. Earnshaw had also begun to build his reputation as a cemetery planner at Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery, where he assisted landscape gardener Adolph Strauch. Throughout the nineteenth century, Earnshaw continued work at Spring Grove Cemetery, where, according to his wishes, he is buried.

The Lawler Sphinx

Erected in 1850 as a memorial on the grave of Matthew Lawler (d. 1831) and Ann Lawler (d. 1835), it imitates Egyptian examples with a sphinx (a human head on a lion body) as a guardian of the grave.

When the blue onyx-colored sphinx was installed at the Spring Grove Cemetery at Cincinnati in 1850, it caused quite a stir.  The “pagan” iconography of the Egyptian sphinx ruffled the Christian sensibilities of the Victorians; yet, there were those who praised the monument as a break in the monotony of the usual gravestone shapes of neoclassical columns, mourning figures, flowered-adorned markers, obelisks, and Gothic pinnacles. Subsequently, the sphinx became quite popular in American cemeteries in the 19th c.

BENEATH THIS STONE

ARE INTERRED THE REMAINS

MATT’W LAWLER Esq.

OF PHILADELPHIA

BORN JANUARY 1ST 1755

DIED JULY 14TH 1831

MRS ANN LAWLER

HIS CONSORT

BORN JUNE 5TH 1761

DIED MARCH 25TH 1835

THIS MONUMENT WAS ERECTED TO THEIR MEMORY

BY THEIR SON DAVIS B. LAWLER IN JUNE 1850

The Groff Pyramid

This Pyramid (1957) marks the grave of the Groff family, including Professor William Groff and his daughter Florence, who both were archaeologists. Florence arranged for her father's body to be brought back from Greece and her mother's from Egypt to be buried under a pyramid. Although the original plan for a pyramid of 425 square feet was not carried out, a small pyramid was erected and the Greek and Latin inscriptions on it exhibit the familial links to the ancient world.

In 1952, at White Plains, New York, a compromise with the relatives was reached contesting the will which authorized the Public Administrator to spend $10,000 of Miss Groff’s $40,000 estate for the pyramid and to bring the rest of the family members’ bodies back to Spring Grove. The pyramid was finally erected in 1957 at a cost of $7,000 by Beck and Beck Inc. of Barre, Vermont for Goodall Monument Works, Inc. The names on the pyramid are in English, Greek, and Egyptian. The pyramid is about ¼ of the originally planned size.

FLORENCE GROFF
BORN CINCINNATI, OHIO
DIED MARCH 21, 1948
HASTINGS ON HUDSON, N. Y.

WILLIAM N. GROFF
BORN MAY 4, 1857, CINCINNATI, OHIO
DIED DEC. 4, 1901, ATHENS, GREECE
ASIATIC SOC. — EGYPTIAN INSTITUTE

WILLIAM T. GROFF, M. D.
BORN DEC. 19, 1843, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
DIED JULY 9, 1900, ATHENS, GREECE

SARAH E. TALBOT GROFF
BORN CINCINNATI, OHIO
DIED MAR. 24, 1900, GHIZEH, EGYPT

The Kroger Obelisk

Bernard Kroger along with several other prominent Cincinnatians such as William Procter and James Gamble, erected obelisks on family plots at Spring Grove. These pyramids imitated Egyptian examples that commemorated particular events and people by the entrances to temples.

The McCooks Monument

Inspired by a celebratory display by the wealthy Lysikrates erected in Athens in the 4th century BCE after a triumphant theatrical performance he sponsored. The shape is commonly imitated also in other monuments at Spring Grove such as the Earnshaw Monument and the monument of the Fighting McCooks, an Ohio family very active in military life.

The Fighting McCooks were members of a family of Ohioans who reached prominence as officers in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Two brothers, Daniel and John McCook, and thirteen of their sons were involved in the army, making the family one of the most prolific in American military history. Six of the McCooks reached the rank of brigadier general or higher. Several family members were killed in action or died from their wounds. Following the war, several others reached high political offices, including governorships and diplomatic posts.

The PNC Tower

The top of the tower built in 1913 (as the Union Central Life Insurance Building) was designed by Cass Gilbert to imitate the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, a 4th century BCE burial monument in Western Turkey considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

When construction of the Cass Gilbert-designed building was completed in 1913, the Union Central Tower was the fifth-tallest building in the world and the 2nd tallest building (tallest office building) outside of New York City. The building opened May 1 with final construction costs of approximately $3 million. It remained the tallest building in Cincinnati until 1930, when construction on the Carew Tower was completed. 

The Temple of Love in Mt. Storm Park

The pergola on the estate of Robert Bonner Bowler on Mt. Storm echoes several round temples in the Greek and Roman worlds, in the form of a Greek tholos, such as the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli, Italy, or the choragic monument to Lysicrates in Athens.

Mr. Strauch designed the Temple of Love in 1845. The white columns of this Corinthian style pergola, which can be seen on the east lawn, was once the cover for a reservoir that supplied water to Mr. Bowler's seventeen greenhouses, gardens, orchards, and a waterfall and swan lake on which seven black swans swam.

The Church of the Annunciation

Boston architect Edward T.P. Graham designed this Church at 3547 Clifton Ave. from a drawing while visiting the Erechtheion on the Acropolis in Athens and completed in August 1930.

Fifth Street Triumphal Arch (5th and Vine).

A triumphal arch was constructed for the returning soldiers at the end of World War I. Set up on the south side of Fifth Street across from the Post Office. The soldiers passed under the arch which was inscribed "Honor for Duty Nobly Done".

The Sinton Rostrum

In the 1870s the merchant David Sinton proposed to fund the construction of a Roman style forum/agora known as the Sinton Forum, at modern Government Square. The Forum would have included an open space for assemblies with a balcony for orators and a massive statue of Cincinnatus. However the proposal faced resistance and was abandoned.

The Albee Theater

13 E. Fifth Street. At the Duke Convention Center.

Hamilton County Courthouse (1952)

1000 Main Street. Features include those from a Greek temple such as the cella and Ionic columns.

The Ensemble Theater

1127 Vine Street. With faux-marble façade (1988-2003).

Second District Police Station

Second District Police Station (1910) featured two colossal Ionic columns and classical decorative motifs such as menader patterns, dentils, and and egg-and-dart moldings.  

St. Peters-in-Chains Cathedral, Cincinnati

St. Peter-in-Chains Cathedral. Archbishop John B. Purcell (1800-1883) who headed the Cincinnati diocese for five decades, wanted the cathedral in the "Grecian style of architecture." The architect was Henry Walter, the principal architect on the Ohio state capitol building in Columbus.  It begins as a temple modeled after the Parthenon with Corinthian columns in a hexastyle portico. The capitals have the usual acanthus leaves but topped by tall and narrow leaves modeled after the Roman Tower of the Winds in Athens. The interior has been referred to as "debased Art Deco" and "a bouillabaisse of Roman and Greek motifs."

Palace of the Fans at League Park (1884-1901)
Findlay Street and Western Ave. Peripatetic Doric collonade and Greek temple facade. 

 

Hickenlooper House (1871)
838 Dayton Street. Featuring egg-and-dart, triglyphs, reliefs, and akanthus decorations.  

The Bazaar in Cincinnati

The Bazaar or "Trollope's Folly." Erected by Seneca Palmer in 1828-29 on the order of Frances Trollope blended many architectural styles -- Greek, Moorish, Egyptian and Gothic. It housed a coffee house, ice cream parlor, exhibition galleries, and a ballroom. Quite sadly, it was torn down in 1881.

Burnet House (1850-1926)

Burnet House was a luxury hotel at 3rd and Vine designed by Isaiah Rogers. The sixth story landmark was furnished with columns and arches and was originally topped by a 42 foot dome.

George Hatch House

George Hatch House on 830 Dayton Street with fluted Corinthian columns is consideerd one of the best examples of what has been termed Greek revival style. The architect was Isaiah Rogers.

Theodore M. Berry International Friendships Park

One section of the Theodore M. Berry International Friendships Park recalls ancient Near Eastern architecture such as the pillars surmounted by animals in Persepolis in ancient Persia.

The Lupa in Eden Park

A bronze cast of the famous Capitoline Wolf nursing Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. It was a gift to Cincinnati from the City of Rome under Mussolini.

The statue was given to commemorate Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, the city's namesake and remembered for his civic duty and governance. Mussolini saw himself as the present-day Cincinnatus in his vision of "New Rome." As such, the dictator wanted to spread goodwill to places around the globe with Italian ties. Similar gestures were made to the cities of Rome in New York and Georgia although Cincinnati may have been especially suited because of its seven hills, the same number of hills as in Rome.

The bronze model was tendered to the Cincinnati chapter of the Order Sons of Italy in 1931 and dedicated in 1932. The inscription reads Anno X, i.e., Mussolini's tenth year in power.

Three Fates.

 

Classicizing elements are found throughout the greater Cincinnati area.

A villa with arched portico and spolia

Sea God Poseidon/Neptune

The base of a column showing a mourner by a grave marker (or a Vestal Virgin tending the fire?) and Priapus or ithyphallic herm. The nudity of the mourner (or Vestal?) would not be something you would have seen in classical antiquity.

A Greek god (Zeus)?

A tondo with Empress Faustina (2nd c. CE) like hairdo?  

Fountain with obelisk and nereids?

Artists and Writers

Writers such as William Haynes Lytle drew from ancient literature to praise modern heroism and virtue. Other Cincinnatians studied ancient sculpture for inspiration such as Hiram Powers, Tom Tsuchiya, and John Leon. Others such as Robert Duncanson and Bruce Erikson have been intrigued by the ruins of Greece and Rome. 

William Haynes Lytle 1826-1863

In September 1863 shortly before his death William Haynes Lytle was presented with a jeweled golden cross in honor of his achieving the rank of Brigadier General. The back of the cross is inscribed with the Greek phrase έν τούτῳ νίκα – conquer under this sign. This was a direct reference to the visions of this phrase and the symbol of the cross that the Roman leader Constantine had in 312 CE. before achieving a significant victory to solidify himself as the emperor. One of Lytle’s most famous poems, Antony and Cleopatra (1853), describes the dying moments of the Roman general Mark Antony in the embrace of the Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra following his in the Roman civil war. Lytle saw a parallel to the imminent American civil war.

Antony and Cleopatra by William Haynes Lytle

I am Dying, Egypt, dying,
Ebbs the crimson life-tide fast,
And the dark Plutonian shadows
Gather on the evening blast;
Let thine arms, O Queen, enfold me,
Hush thy sobs and bow thine ear;
Listen to the great heart-secrets,
Thou, and thou alone, must hear.

Though my scarr'd and veteran legions
Bear their eagles high no more, 
And my wreck'd and scatter'd galleys
Strew dark Actium's fatal shore,
Though no glittering guards surround me,
Prompt to do their master's will,
I must perish like a Roman,
Die the great Triumvir still.

Let not Caesar's servile minions
Mock the lion thus laid low;
'Twas no foeman's arm that fell'd him,
'Twas his own that struck the blow;
His who, pillow'd on thy bosom,
Turn'd aside from glory's ray,
His who, drunk with thy caresses,
Madly threw a world away.

Should the base plebeian rabble
Dare assail my name at Rome,
Where my noble spouse, Octavia,
Weeps within her widow'd home,
Seek her; say the gods bear witness -
Altars, augurs, circling wings -
That her blood, with mine commingled,

Yet shall mount the throne of kings.

As for thee, star-eyed Egyptian,
Glorious sorceress of the Nile,
Light the path to Stygian horrors
With the splendors of thy smile.
Give the Caesar crowns and arches,
Let his brow the laurel twine;
I can scorn the Senate's triumphs,
Triumphing in love like thine.

I am dying, Egypt, dying;
Hark! the insulting foeman's cry.
They are coming! quick, my falchion,
Let me front them ere I die.
Ah! no more amid the battle
Shall my heart exulting swell;
Isis and Osiris guard thee!
Cleopatra, Rome, farewell!

Rockwood Pottery Company

The Rockwood Pottery Company drew from ancient culture to create decorative and functional objects such as bookends in the form of sphinxes. Founded in 1880 Rockwood was the first female-owned manufacturing company in the United States.

Robert S. Duncanson (1821-1872)

Robert S. Duncanson (1821-1872) an African-American painter from Cincinnati. He was the first artist to use Roman landscapes as an expression of African-American cultural identity in pre-Civil War America.  See for example the Temple of Sibyl at Tivoli (below), an ancient theme but the landscape is also reminiscent of the Ohio River Valley.

Temple of Sibyl at Tivoli by Robert S. Duncanson

Hiram Powers 1805-1873

Hiram Powers’ sculpture the Greek Slave recalls Greek and Roman statues of Venus and the Greek past in face of its contemporary (19th c.) conflict with Turkey. The statue gained fame for its controversial nudity and political message that resonated with American abolitionists. 

Hiram Powers’ The Greek Slave

Vulcano Dream by John Leon

John Leon is a Cincinnati-based sculptor who works in a variety of media, including stone and wood. He has been influenced by ancient Greek sculpture and has traveled to Greece on several occasions. Leon’s work Vulcano Dream (2002), for example, recalls the draped female figures from the east pediment of Parthenon. 

Tom Tsuchiya also known as Norikazu (born August 3, 1972) is a Cincinnati artist.

In September 2012, Tsuchiya completed his Lux Mundi, a 15.8 meter (52 feet) tall statue of Jesus for Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio. 

"Lux Mundi" by Tom Tsuchiya

This earlier statue of Jesus by Tsuchiya was destroyed by a lightning strike in June, 2010

"Roman Chariot Race" by Tom Tsuchiya. UC Classics Department

"Atlas Recycled" by Tom Tsuchiya. The lobby outside of the UC Classics Department and Library.

The Titan Atlas carrying Earth on his shoulders.

Many prominent Cincinnatians led and participated in excavations in around the Mediterranean (Troy, Pylos, and other sites) such as Louise Taft Semple and her husband and UC Classics Professor William Semple, the generous benefactors of the UC Classics Department and Library, the great Carl Blegen, the discoverer of the Palace of Nestor, Margo Leaman Taft Tytus, and Marion Rawson who in spite of her being overshadowed by Blegen was indispensable to the archaeological work performed by them both. 

Anna Louise Taft Semple 1879-1961 and William T. Semple, Chair of the Classics Department at the University of Cincinnati 1921-1951.

Portrait in the John Miller Burnam Classics Library, University of Cincinnati.

Professor Carl W. Blegen 1887-1971. Portrait in the Classics Department, University of Cincinnati.

Margo Leaman Taft Tytus 1913-2008. The Frick Collection, New York

 

Marion Rawson 1899-1980. Photo in the Classics Department, University of Cincinnati