Many Greater Cincinnati locals have taken to Instagram to document architectural gems within their own communities, including Jerald Cooper, whose @hoodmidcenturymodern is the focus of a recent CityBeat cover story.
“Our physical environment impacts our wellbeing, whether or not we are able to articulate that impact in words,” says Maya Drozdz, who runs the Cincinnati Preservation Association’s Instagram account. “We interact with buildings on a regular basis, and they are ever present, shaping our understanding of our community and of places we visit.”
Here’s what the minds behind three local architecture Instagram accounts tell CityBeat about the importance of knowing one’s own backyard.
Cincinnati Revealed (@cincinnati_revealed)
A history teacher at Walnut Hills High School, Kevin McCormick moved to Cincinnati from Michigan in 1994. Almost immediately, he was struck by the city’s unique vernacular architecture.
Now a resident of East Walnut Hills, each of his posts (more than 2,000 now) are paired with a brief historical account of that day’s featured building. A post from July, for example, features a building designed by architect Edward Schulte in 1931 that once housed the Paramount Theatre.
“The limestone facade features stylized chevron relief, circular motifs, and materials associated with the Machine Age,” the post reads. “The iconic structure was the cultural nucleus of Walnut Hills for generations before shifting economic realities left the building abandoned and forlorn. In recent years, however, the facade’s Deco luster has returned as Walnut Hills' rebirth has restored economic vitality to Peebles Corner.”
McCormick says that over the last 20 to 30 years, the city has lost a significant number of buildings. Promoting the preservation of these spaces as being integral to maintaining the cultural fabric of the city is a big part of why he opened the account to begin with — along with the “selfish pursuit of beauty and wonderful architecture,” he says.
His favorite architectural find? McCormick says it’s constantly changing. He says that since Cincinnati experienced a large population growth in the 19th century, there’s an impressive collection of Victorian-era architecture. But when McCormick first moved here, it was the Second Empire and Italianate style he gravitated toward.
“I can recall moving here in the ’90s and walking down street after street in Over-the-Rhine and just being gobsmacked by the architecture,” he says. “I had no idea when I moved here what I was going to encounter, but I was so blown away by how cohesive the Italianate collection was.”
Covington Uncovered (@covington_uncovered)
A fan of Instagram accounts like Cincinnati Revealed, Heather Churchman was walking around the Licking Riverside Historic District in Covington when she dreamed up the idea of making her own page for Cincinnati’s southern neighbor.
An ex-librarian and current copywriter, Churchman marries two of her skills: research and storytelling. While other accounts lean more toward discussing architecture, Churchman instead often details interesting tidbits of a house’s previous occupants or architect.
“There are so many people that have passed through our city and these walls, and nobody knows unless somebody finds these stories,” she says.
While some of Churchman’s stories come from people who message her with tips, others are born out of personal inspiration — spaces that catch her interest or a striking photo taken while walking.
One thing Churchman loves about this work is the sense of community it instills. Peppered throughout her posts are comments remarking that a relative was featured or that they’ve always admired buildings during their own walks.
“It’s cool to feel so in love with where you live and helping other people feel the same way,” she says. “There is such joy in just going outside and being like, ‘All these buildings have been here for 150 years.’ It’s so fun to go out and think about what it used to like. It’s something anyone can connect with wherever they are.”
Hamilton Architecture (@hamiltonarchitecture)
Phil Thayer has long made a hobby of walking, especially with his wife and German Shepherd. A native of Fairfield Township, Thayer now resides in the neighboring city of Hamilton. His account functions as a love letter to Hamilton and the unique buildings that populate it.
Thayer created the Instagram account at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to document architectural features around the city, and he scouts most of the places during walks with his dog. Finding content for the account has pushed Thayer to explore more neighborhoods, dip into alleyways and turn down roads he wouldn't normally travel, he says.
In Hamilton Architecture’s feed, viewers will find a little bit of everything: a bright pink building backdropped by blue skies, a periwinkle Victorian home, and faded ads on the sides of buildings.
Thayer recalls one find in September of 2020 — a red barn just outside of the Roseville Historic District. In the photo on his account, a Christmas wreath hangs alongside a worn American flag on the barn’s facade.
“When I stumbled across that it was like, ‘How did I not know that in the middle of the city, all these houses, there's a massive red barn that sits on the side of the railroad tracks’ It was just a surprising thing to see,” Thayer says. “And it’s super cool.”
Thayer says Hamilton’s uniqueness comes from its old stock of manufacturing buildings and homes from the 1800s and 1900s that are still standing.
Want more Cincinnati architecture? Read CityBeat's cover story about Jerald Cooper, who runs @hoodmidcenturymodern.