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Tolzmann breaks from historical analysis in latest Over-the-Rhine book

Don Heinrich Tolzmann with his latest book. Photograph by Emily Schneider for UrbanCincy.

Few native-born Cincinnatians know as much about the history of this city as Don Heinrich Tolzmann, originally of Minnesota. The former University of Cincinnati professor, and president of the German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati, has written numerous tomes on Cincinnati history. His most recent book is for tourists and locals alike: Over-the-Rhine Tour Guide.

In contrast with most of his other work, this book is focused on the OTR of today, not decades past. Tolzmann says the reason for the change of style is due to the many requests he received to give tours of the historic neighborhood.

“Understanding Over-the-Rhine is the key to understanding the city,” Tolzmann told UrbanCincy.

In Over-the-Rhine Tour Guide, Tolzmann carefully describes nearly every block of the neighborhood, from its southern border of Central Parkway up to the Brewery District, and everything in between. Using buildings and streets as a framework, the guide carefully describes the architecture of the neighborhood.

Historical details are provided for each place, and changes that have occurred over the years are noted as well. Several historic poems, in German and English, connect the text to the old country.

The book delineates outlying areas where German immigrants lived, including Clifton and the West End. The book also serves as a literal guidebook, with directions for walking or driving throughout the neighborhood, and traveling between each of the landmarks described.

While considerable demolition has damaged parts of Over-the-Rhine’s historic urban fabric over the past several decades, the area remains dense and beautiful.

“Over-the-Rhine still contains one of the most comprehensive collections of buildings built by Germans for Germans, especially in the popular Queen Anne and Italianate styles,” said local historian Betty Ann Smiddy. “To walk the streets now you can feel yourself drifting back in time and can envision all that the neighborhood once was.”

Over-the-Rhine Tour Guide, can be purchased at local bookstores and through online through Little Miami Publishing. With its photographs and clear descriptions, the book serves as a useful companion for a neighborhood stroll. But for those visitors wanting a quick survey of the neighborhood, here are Tolzmann’s top three attractions:

Findlay Market: “Get a feeling for the neighborhood. The sausage, cheese, bread, fruit and vegetables are sold in an open-air market like you’d find in Germany.”

Germania Building (12th and Walnut): “Symbolizes German heritage in Over-the-Rhine, devotion to culture and history of Germany.”

Washington Park Area: “Surrounded by institutions like Music and Memorial Halls and six German churches, this area shows the musical impact, military service in wars, and religious influence in Over-the-Rhine.”


A. S. Byatt coming to Cincinnati for the Mercantile Library’s 22nd Niehoff Lecture

Cincinnati’s longest running and most distinguished literary lecture series will continue on Saturday, October 10 at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati when the Mercantile Library Niehoff Lecture Series welcomes Dame A. S. Byatt.

Considered by many to be one of the greatest living authors in the English speaking work, Byatt was the recipient of the 1990 Booker prize for the international bestseller Possession. Byatt is once again among the elite as her latest novel, The Children’s Book, is in contention for the Booker prize as well.

According to the Mercantile Library, the Niehoff Lectures were established at the suggestion of library benefactors Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Buck Niehoff who wished to enhance the library’s role as Cincinnati’s premier forum for distinguished men and women of letters. The Niehoffs have graciously underwritten the speaker’s appearance for each of the lectures.

On Saturday, the evening will start at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati (map) with cocktails at 7pm, diner at 8pm, with remarks following at 9pm. A. S. Byatt’s books will be available for purchase and signing. The event costs $150 for members and $175 for non-members. Organizers are requesting RSVPs by Thursday, October 8. You can do so by calling the Mercantile Library at (513) 621-0717, or by emailing


Book signing series at Findlay Market

Starting this Sunday, March 22nd, Cincinnati’s Edgecliff Press will be holding a weekly book signings at Findlay Market between 1pm and 3pm.

The seven-week long series will give Cincinnatians the opportunity to come to Findlay Market (GoogleMap), purchase and browse interesting books, have them signed and speak with the authors about those books.

Edgecliff Press is a local publishing company that strives to create conversational, casual and thought provoking imagery that evokes emotion, cause one to pause and think. Their mission is to bring affordable books to market that tip the meter between niches of locations, themes and thoughts.

The selected books are artistic in nature with many focusing in on architectural subjects. The series schedule is listed below. All signings are free and open to the public.

The book signing series is part of a larger effort by Findlay Market to become an even greater cultural hub for Cincinnatians. The historic open-air market that opened in 1855 is the oldest surviving municipal market in Ohio and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973.