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Old 09-21-2013, 12:02 PM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
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I remember the same argument during the Vietnam War, "destroy the village to save it."
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Old 09-21-2013, 12:46 PM
 
Location: Cincinnati
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goyguy View Post
I remember the same argument during the Vietnam War, "destroy the village to save it."
I know. I wouldn't expect my view to be a popular one. Still the way I feel though. I know I would be mega-pissed if some group said I couldn't sell on of my properties for whatever reason.
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Old 12-29-2013, 02:14 PM
 
Location: OH
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Lenhardt's Christy's being liquidated today via online auction.

The building has a meeting with the wrecking ball on Saturday.

Sad to see it go.
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Old 12-30-2013, 07:52 AM
 
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^^^Indeed it is a tragedy, particularly when you consider that it may have been preventable. One of the Lenhardt's key arguments for tearing it down was the $3 million in repairs necessary to fix the building made it no longer economically viable. Well, having had the opportunity to tour the building from basement to attic, I can say that, yes, the building was absolutely in poor shape, although whether or not $3 million would be required to fix it is debatable. In the right hands, the building was salvageable.

What I saw in the house is 30-40 years of deferred maintenance that would spell the doom for most any structure or business. There were obvious signs of roof leaks and a failed gutter system that allowed water to damage walls and plaster on the inside, not to mention what water streaming into masonry will do to mortar and brickwork. Exterior trim hadn't been painted in decades, and the wood was deteriorating. I saw ancient plumbing, cobbled together in amateur fashion with the cheapest fixtures from your local big box hardware center. The lighting and electrical was state of the art for 1960, and I was walking on carpets so old, threadbare and greasy black, that you'd think you were in an auto repair shop, not a building that once housed a restaurant.

The upper floors were a dumping ground for years of accumulation of what was mostly junk. It certainly didn't look like anyone had tried to inhabit those rooms, other than one used as a shabby office, in decades. One thing that I was surprised to see was that many of the original details of the Goetz house had been saved in dark corners of the attic...woodwork, doors, windows...enough that an intrepid rehabber could have done much to restore certain aspects of the original floor plan.

The kitchen was full of near-antique appliances, a stove propped up on a cobblestone, and layers of grease and grime that I was somewhat stunned that it was able to pass health inspection. The rathskeller smelled of mildew, but that was probably due to the roof and gutter problems.

While the heating system also dated to the 1950s or 1960s, some elements perhaps older, I am less critical of that. Modern boilers may be more efficient, but I sometimes doubt that the cost of replacing a system that appears to be functioning well can be offset with energy savings. A/C is a bigger question, but I believe a modern, efficient, and unobtrusive system could have been added for relatively little money, at least compared to the $3 million total reno cost quoted.

The biergarten expansion from a few years ago was nice, and clearly an effort to shore up a dying business, but walking through the entire facility, it reminded me a little bit of urban sprawl....build out in the 'burbs while the core of your city rots. You only realize too late that the 'burbs need a healthy urban core. Other than some cheap replacement windows, it looked like biergarten the only investment that had been made in that business since 1968 when the rathskeller was put in.

I was a little stunned at the results of the auction. It's a shame no one bidder was able to, for example, buy all of the woodwork. What good does wood trim from one room do you? Wouldn't you need more if you are really thinking of using it to restore another home? So, the house details end up parted out, forever separated from one another. The one piece of the house that will be lost forever is the painted ceiling mural in the main living room. It wasn't in the best of shape, but in a week it will be nothing more than a pile of dust. A waste.

My opinion, the Lenhardt's may be good people, but to a large degree let this happen from a combination of neglect and questionable business decisions. Small problems that had they been dealt with routinely as a normal homeowner would, mushroomed into seemingly insurmountable challenges. Whether a building is 100 years old or 20, it needs to be cared for, and there is evidence that this did not always happen. As far as the business was concerned, I think they acknowledged too late that their customer base was dwindling and the quality of their product wasn't what it once was. The biergarten was an attempt to turn things around, but the rest of the underutilized facility had become too much of a drain on their resources.

It's sad to see Lenhardt's close, and it's even more disappointing to me to lose the building. Walking through, you can imagine the Goetz house in its former glory, but it's so out of place now with all of the surrounding changes. Once you lose the context of the streetscape, it often makes these old buildings look even more obsolete. It really becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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Old 12-31-2013, 06:41 PM
 
Location: OH
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Well, if you know the ownership (Windholtz not Lenhardt) you know they did everything on the cheap. I wouldn't be surprised if this was all part of their plan - run the building into the ground and beyond it's useful life and then cash out once UC (developers) came calling.
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Old 01-04-2014, 09:03 AM
 
Location: OH
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Well today's the day from what I've been by my contacts.

End of an era for some.
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Old 01-04-2014, 09:36 AM
 
Location: Mason, OH
9,259 posts, read 13,360,925 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zen_master View Post
Well today's the day from what I've been by my contacts.

End of an era for some.
It is always difficult to see a landmark building be demolished. At the same time, if the owners permit the property to deteriorate you get to this point. I went to Lenhardt's a few times during my student days at UC, to take my future and current wife out to dinner. But let's face it, that was over 50 years ago! After our graduation and marriage, our visits to Lenhardt's were few and far between. They just never seemed to deliver what the appearance promised. You can only tread water so long on nostalgia.

If the estimates I read of $3 Mil to restore the building were accurate, even 1/2 of that amount, it is time for it to meet the wrecking ball.

I have similar feelings relative to Mecklenburg Gardens, another place I visited frequently during my days at UC. Loved sitting out under the grape arbor sucking down a couple of beers. Back then the food was authentic German. After I graduated, the wife and I would find an occasion to again visit Mecklenburg. But then things seemed to deteriorate. The first sign was the authentic German food was just not there. Since that was our attraction we quit going.

From what I can tell on the internet, Mecklenburg is still alive. But then, until a place totally folds they must maintain a website to give the appearance they are a going concern. So someone give a response, is Mecklenburg even a shadow of its former self? Or will it be the next Lenhardt's.
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Old 01-04-2014, 12:45 PM
 
1,130 posts, read 2,023,021 times
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Originally Posted by kjbrill View Post

From what I can tell on the internet, Mecklenburg is still alive. But then, until a place totally folds they must maintain a website to give the appearance they are a going concern. So someone give a response, is Mecklenburg even a shadow of its former self? Or will it be the next Lenhardt's.
Mecklenburg Gardens has found new life under the ownership of the Harten family. Mecklenburg had been shuttered for a decade or so when they bought it in the early 1990s. If you talk to Tom Harten, he will tell you that the first 10 years were a real struggle, but the business is doing well and has established a devoted following. They have over 3,000 friends on their Facebook page, if that is any indication.

Tom Harten fits the part of German restaurant owner. Standing well over six feet, he is known for his distinctively white handlebar moustache, which balances perfectly above his toothy grin. With his jaunty, Victorian appearance, if you didn't know better, you might think he was the same owner from 1898. He loves to chat up his customers and is always interested in making sure everything is satisfactory.

Over the years, the menu has evolved here and there, and sometimes the food quality has varied, most often attributable to a change in chefs. However, for the past several years, it's been quite good...not enough to earn back their 4 star Mobile rating they had in the 1970s, but decent enough. They still make the famous chocolate Mecklenburg Pie.

The building is in excellent shape, relatively speaking, and 100 year old photos of the bar and dining room show that very little has changed. My understanding is that the Hartens would like to acquire the rest of the adjoining properties for future expansion and to solve some parking problems they have. A few years ago, they expanded and opened a beer hall in an adjoining former bowling alley, which allows them to host large parties and groups. When they expect busy evenings, they will open the upstairs dining rooms and stoke up the fireplaces. And of course, nothing beats a beer under the grapevines, weather permitting, in their biergarten. All in all, it's a nice atmosphere.

Mecklenburg is also a fixture at Cincinnati-area food festivals, in the way that Black Forest once was. You'll find them at everything from Taste of Cincinnati to the Christkindlemarkt on Fountain Square. They are a food vendor during Bockfest at the Moerlein Brewery, and even a venue for Bockfest itself.

Mecklenburg has done something else that Lenhardt's did little of, and that is nurture relationships with Cincinnati's German organizations. For example, it is the home of Cincinnati's Mustard Club monthly Weisswurstessen ( Händlmaier's Mustard Club Cincinnati | Share in the Gemütlichkeit! ). Mecklenburg hosts many special events, such as pig roasts in the biergarten, which are quite good. They also promote things like New Years Eve events, celebrated when Munich celebrates, Fasching, and other holidays German style. These things have helped them establish a loyal clientele and become something of a base of operations for Cincinnati's German cultural societies.

They also seem to do a fair amount of trade with the nearby hospital employees. There are often people sitting in the biergarten in their hospital scrubs.

So, Mecklenburg is alive and well, thankfully, and the Hartens have been good, respectful stewards of this Cincinnati landmark. Mecklenburg is a Cincinnati tradition and in my opinion the most authentic German experience Cincinnati has to offer. It's worth a look, if you haven't been there.

Last edited by t45209; 01-04-2014 at 01:03 PM..
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