American Oak Leather Company, Cincinnati Ohio
The American Oak Leather Company was founded in 1880 by James E. Mooney, a progressive Cincinnati industrialist and community leader. He was a financial backer of the Cincinnati Incline Railways which contributed to the growth and expansion of the City. He was also president of the Cincinnati Coffin Company and had other business interests throughout the Ohio Valley and the Midwest.
The American Oak Leather Company produced sole and harness leather, belting leather and patent leather for carriages and furniture manufacturers. The business was the largest of its kind when it opened in 1881, employing as many as 1000 workers. The company survived two major floods and three destructive fires. The A.O.L. Complex included five major buildings by 1900. The largest building was built in 1895. A second smaller building was built across Dalton Street to the east. This building was connected to the principal structure by a second story bridge. The smaller building was demolished sometime in the early 1950s. To the north of the first building were three additional buildings. These were later replaced by an ell-shaped structure around 1910.
The complex was active until its closing in 1948, despite substantial continual changes in the industry with which it could not compete.
The original building was a four-story brick structure measuring 240 by 480 feet and enclosed a one-story covered courtyard where vats were located. A basement and a partial sub-basement are found throughout the structure. The building had five steam elevators and Edison Electric lighting. Altogether the structures covered 2 1/2 acres of land.
The American Oak Leather Building is a four-story brick industrial building with a raised basement. The massive structure contains two large light wells which create a figure-eight floor plan for the upper floors. A stone retaining wall approximately four feet high and four feet from the structure surrounds the buildings on three sides to provide additional window height at the basement level. The windows throughout the building have segmental arched openings and have either single or paired double-hung wood sash. Most of the sash contain 4 lights over 4, although many on the north elevation have 16 over 16. The main (south) facade is divided vertically into three roughly equal sections by two stair towers. The eastern tower is much more substantial and rises a story-anda- half above the roof. The tower is further delineated by projecting brick panels at the corners, windows at the half floors, oculi windows on each side above the main roof, extensive brick corbeling at the cornice and large projecting brick numerals indicating the date "1895" on the south side. The second tower is smaller, and recessed slightly from the face of the building. The windows are at half levels but the tower projects only a few feet above the roof. Throughout most of the building, a projecting brick belt course connects projecting segmental arched lintels on the second and fourth levels. A projecting corbeled cornice terminates the building on all of the exterior walls except a portion of the north facade. There are several small wooden bulkheads on the roof. A number of original openings have been altered, especially at the first level to become loading docks, or have been filled in.
The light wells have been roofed over at the first level. The roof of the larger well is built of steel columns and beams with monitor roofs for light. The smaller light well roof was built with lightweight, metal trusses between masonry bearing walls and interior steel columns. This area also has monitor roofs.