Old B&O Railroad freight depot

B & O Freight Terminal, Cincinnati Ohio
Date added: December 22, 2022 Categories: Ohio Train Station
View of main part of north facade (1986)

Constructed by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and designed by M. A. Long, an architect employed by the railroad, this building was specifically constructed to facilitate the handling and storage of freight. It is distinguished from other freight storage buildings because of its exceptional length; originally 1,277 feet in length. Its functional design is highlighted by the use of Romanesque Revival details to articulate its facades. These details include rock-faced ashlar first floor supporting engaged columns rising to the fourth floor from which decorative semi-circular arches adorn the facades. Machicolations accentuate the roof trim.

The building was constructed in 1904 during a period when the B & O was placing emphasis on freight activities and the importance of Cincinnati as a major shipping center and transfer point. It was constructed to consolidate the space of several smaller warehouses that had become obsolete and to provide space for anticipated growth. Freight arriving in Cincinnati was unloaded from freight cars through the north side of the building and stored for later transshipment or held for a short time and then loaded onto wagons (later trucks) on the south side of the building. For freight being brought to the warehouse, the normal procedure was to store it until enough was consolidated for shipment to a specific destination. When enough freight was available, it was transported to the Scale building for weighing and direct loading onto freight cars. The warehouse contributed to the functioning of the railroad until competition from trucks reduced its effectiveness and profitability.

Building Description

This is a large, common bond brick, one-of-a-kind railroad freight storage building exhibiting details associated with the Romanesque style. It is approximately 1,160 feet in length and is distinguished because of this length. It is located just west of the central business district in an area containing numerous mixed industrial uses and adjacent to the main line of the Chessie system (formerly the B & O Railroad). The building possesses a high degree of integrity in spite of several changes to its exterior.

The first floor exhibits rock-faced limestone columns with simple unadorned capitals. Between each column on the main facades are bays with metal doors used for loading and unloading freight. Several bays are blocked up and small windows added. The original shed roof covering the doors has been removed. The second and third floors have recessed bays between engaged brick columns. Fenestration is composed of 6/6 wooded sash windows at each bay with flat brick voussoir lintels and plain sandstone lug sills. The decorative fourth-floor exterior is composed of large semi-circular brick arches springing from each engaged column and evolving across the whole facade. Decorative brick capitals and dentil course terminate the column treatment. Windows are 6/6 wooden sash with brick semi-circular lintels. The fifth floor has several corbel courses above the windows that extend across the facade. Roof trim is accentuated with machicolations.

When originally constructed the length was 1,277 feet. In 1961, the east end was reduced by approximately 150 feet to allow for the supporting piers of the elevated I-71 & 75. The city allowed for the construction of a five-story, 30,000 sq. ft. brick addition at the northeast corner. A fire, in the original building, destroyed part of the fifth floor. This was not rebuilt.

The interior is functional in design with each floor. basically the same. The width is 48 feet and two rows of columns extending along the length support the floor above. Freight elevators and wooden stairs complete the interior detail. Approximately 300,000 sq. ft. of space exist within the building.

Located in close proximity is a two-story, 40 x 60 brick building in deteriorated condition. This building housed the scales used to weigh freight as it was loaded onto waiting rail cars. The first floor exhibits an asymmetrical facade with large main door openings and four window bays minus windows. A stone interior cornice separates the floor above that has four blind window bays on the main facade.