Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cincinnati's Manse Hotel gets Ohio historic marker

Representatives from Walnut Hills, the Ohio History Connection and Episcopal Retirement Services unveil the Ohio historical marker outside the Manse Hotel
Nick Swartsell
Representatives from Walnut Hills, the Ohio History Connection and Episcopal Retirement Services unveil the Ohio historical marker outside the Manse Hotel on Friday, May12, 2023.

Officials on Friday dedicated a new Ohio historic marker commemorating the Manse Hotel in Walnut Hills.

Pioneering Black businessman Horace Sudduth opened the Manse in 1931, providing rare accommodations and event space for Black Cincinnatians at a time when most facilities were still segregated. Sudduth, born in 1888, was one of Cincinnati's first Black realtors and real estate investors.

A long list of historic figures stayed at the Manse, including James Brown, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and many others. Frank Robinson lived there during his rookie season with the Cincinnati Reds.

The Ohio History Connection, the state's historical society, runs the Ohio History Marker Program. The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Halle, Jr. Foundation funded the marker at the Manse.

RELATED: Ohio org is No. 2 in Native American artifacts required to be returned by federal law. What's being done?

Vice Mayor Jan Michele Kearney spoke at the marker dedication. For her, the Manse's storied history is personal. Sudduth was a family member and her parents lived at the Manse when they first moved to Cincinnati. Her father loved hanging out at the hotel's 24-hour coffee shop.

"I heard about this beautiful Manse Hotel my entire life," she said at the unveiling. "My dad would talk about all the celebrities who would come through. They'd see heavyweight champion Joe Lewis with his entourage."

The Manse was listed in the so-called Green Book travel guide for Black motorists starting in the 1940s. In addition to providing rooms for travelers, it was also an important venue for local organizations and families to hold events, including weddings and fundraisers.

At its peak, the hotel boasted 108 rooms, a first-class restaurant called the Sweetbriar and a large ballroom added was in 1950. The hotel lost some prominence as similar white facilities desegregated and eventually closed in the late 1960s.

In 2021, Cincinnati developers Model Group renovated the building and Episcopal Retirement Services operates 60 units of affordable housing for seniors there.

Darryl Lumpkin is a resident at the Manse Apartments. He grew up just a few houses down at 1020 Chapel Street after his parents moved to Walnut Hills from the West End in the early 1960s.

RELATED: Changes in Walnut Hills leave some residents searching for housing

He's very pleased to be back in the neighborhood, he says. He fondly remembers celebrities like James Brown coming and going from the Manse as well as all the restaurants, barber shops and other businesses that thrived there. He has high hopes that vibrancy will return.

There's another detail that thrills him about living at the Manse.

"I was a Frank Robinson fan," he says. "He was my idol. When I found out he lived here, I was floored."

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.