The King Records Legacy Foundation has achieved another milestone on its path to preserving the legacy of King Records.
On Sept. 6, the King Records studio buildings, located at 1536-1540 Brewster Ave. in Evanston, were officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Being placed on the National Register of Historic Places will not only provide certain tax credits, easements and grants for those developing the property, it will also give King Records even more "gravitas," as Charlie Dahan, co-author of King Records' nomination proposal, calls it.
"[Being on the National Register of Historic Places] gives this building gravitas," Dahan told CityBeat in a previously published interview. "The federal government is saying this is a significant place in American history — that it's not just significant in Cincinnati and Ohio, but is significant to every U.S. citizen from Alaska to Florida to Maine."
King Records' spot on the National Register of Historic Places cements its status as an iconic fixture in the nation's music history. From the 1940s into the early 1970s, the Cincinnati label produced several celebrated and legendary musicians, including James Brown, Bootsy Collins, Philip Paul and Otis Williams.
Back in June, the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board approved the nomination of the King Records complex to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nominations for properties in Ohio are processed by the State Historic Preservation Office, and then the approved proposals are sent to the National Park Service, which ultimately makes the final decision.
King Records' old studio/office on Brewster Avenue was named a historic landmark by the city in 2015, and in 2018 Cincinnati City Council approved a land swap with the existing owner of the former studio property, who had been threatening demolition of the dilapidated buildings.
The city of Cincinnati owns several of the original parcels at 1540 Brewster Ave. That portion was constructed in 1921 and in part is “a one-story brick warehouse that houses 17,604 square feet and occupies .69 acre,” Dahan says. Adjoining that building is a “one-story utilitarian garage” that Dahan describes as being in fair condition.
When that space operated as King Records, the building on the first parcel had two floors. The second floor held offices, storage, a remix studio and the art department. The first floor contained a large studio and areas for shipping and receiving, printing, inspection and insertion, plating and testing, machine shop, press room and mill room, according to a sketch in The King Records Story by Darren Blase.
The remaining parcels, which are privately owned today, are at 1548 Brewster Ave. – three interconnected structures, 26,434 square feet on .414 acres. This portion of the property is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places.Since forming in 2020, the King Records Legacy Foundation has been busy crafting a vision for a historic complex that will permanently mark Evanston as the birthplace of a special sound that influenced the nation. This placement on the National Register of Historic Places will aid in this vision, which includes the creation of a learning center on the property that features interactive aspects, including a recording studio, performance space, rotating and permanent exhibitions and an abundant collection of historic artifacts.
"On behalf of the King Records Legacy Foundation and what we stand for, we are extremely pleased to see this major step come to the light for the local to global community," Kent Butts, the board chair and executive director of the King Records Legacy Foundation, said in a statement to CityBeat. "It is well deserved and long overdue! We are honored to be stewards for King Records and be a part of assisting in the success of this as well as other endeavors on its behalf."
A large part of this new vision for the historic complex includes the revitalization of the properties in Evanston. The King Records Legacy Foundation has entered into a development agreement with the city to renovate the complex that will likely be finalized by the end of September. For now, the group is working with at least a three-year agenda and an initial, tentative $20 million budget. So far, the foundation has secured $200,000 in private funding and a pledged $1 million from the city.
As Beth Johnson, executive director of the Cincinnati Preservation Association, told CityBeat in a previously published interview, a spot on the National Register of Historic Places creates an opportunity for the foundation to apply for historic tax credits.
“One of the most important things is, it does open the building up to be eligible for historic tax credits, which, in combination with both the Ohio historic preservation tax credit as well as the federal, can provide up to 45% credit on expenses in regards to the rehabilitation of the building,” Johnson says.
Those funds would be handy, considering the big vision that the King Records Legacy Foundation has for the studio’s legacy.
For more information on King Records' listing on the National Register of Historic Places, visit nps.gov.