Attorney Charles Phelps Taft, half-brother of President William Howard Taft began construction on the Times-Star building in 1929. Charles Phelps Taft lived with his wife, Anna Taft, in now what is known as the Taft Museum, a federal home built downtown in 1820, their home and its artifacts generously bequeathed by the couple to the City of Cincinnati in 1927.
Charles' father, Aphonso, emigrated from Vermont in 1838 and was the founding member of the Cincinnati Literacy Society. Charles was the eldest son of Alphonso and his wife Fanny Phelps. Alphonso also has a child, William Howard during his second marriage to Louise Torrey.
Charles Phelps Taft purchased the Times and the Evening Star newspapers separately in 1879, then merged the two in 1880. He served as an editor-in-chief until he died in 1929 during construction of the building. After his uncle’s death, fifty-one year old nephew Hulbert Taft took over editorial control as well as the tower offices originally designed for his Uncle Charles. It was later reported by Time Magazine that Hulbert was the only Taft family member opposing the 1958 sale of the paper to Scripps-Howard, and at the decisive meeting the eighty-year old man wept.
The Times-Star Building was ultimately erected as a memorial to its creators. Mr. Taft’s widow, Anna, is rumored to have taken residence on the 16th floor, a huge penthouse suite, with a spectacular view, designed for her comfort. Anna died two years after the completion of construction. The building’s founders are forever immortalized in high metal relief plaques in the lobby, Charles (1843-1929) and Anna (1852-1931), and can be seen on the lobby walls as you exit the building.
Constructed of three-dimensional interwoven Bedford limestone blocks, the building was designed by Architects Samuel Hannaford & Sons to house the newspapers management offices including the printing, publishing and distribution operations. “The building itself rests on concrete-filled piling driven as much as 60 feet to reach solid rock”(Times-Star March 11, 1952). Immense, two story printing presses occupied the second and third floors on the eastern side of the building. “The concrete slab on which the presses are set is insulated from the remainder of the building by cork, thus eliminating vibration”(Times-Star March 11, 1952). Intricate futuristic grillwork covers the windows.
Upon entering through the gilded gold arched entrance, you’re drawn into an expansive marbled lobby, splashed with decadence, sporting underlying geometric floors. Art deco decorum is evident in the carved symbols depicting the printing trade, entangled with various depictions of American eagles, encompassing patriotism. Norman-style recessed ceiling panels draw your eye upward to the carefully appointed chandelier draped by a grand balcony. On the first floor and balcony, the elevators’ doors are designed with images of strong mythological women.
The entire statuary program by Ernest Haswell and Jules Byrs was created to symbolize journalism and learning. The front exterior of the building manifests tremendous statues of Franklin and Gutenberg, aptly representing the printing trade. Adjacent to these figures you’ll find Caxton and Elzevier, other saintly icons of profession.
Four large carvings anchored on the crown of the tower are purported to signify Truth, Patriotism, Progress, and Speed, honorable values of the newspaper business during the era. The southeast corner statue is presumed to be Dante, an educated philosopher and versatile writer. Another of the four is a bewigged jurist, representing Truth, a common aspiration of the newspaper business and court system alike.
The Post newspaper was originally known as the Penny Paper started in 1881 and became The Post in 1890. After Nephew Hulbert Taft retired from the Times-Star in 1958, the Post (Scripps-Howard) bought the Times-Star. After partnering its printing operation with the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1979. The Post moved out of the 800 Broadway Building. Burke Marketing Services moved in and conservatively restored the building. In the early 1980’s, the County of Hamilton purchased the building. In 1991, renovations began to house courtrooms and offices of the Hamilton County Court of Domestic Relations. In 1994 our Court took occupancy.
We welcome you to this historical building, rich in history, known for its elegance, its important work, but far more for its genuine and admirable service to the community. As our Court now proudly resides here, we like imagining the ground on which it was built and anciently predestined to perpetually serve the community and citizens well.
The Taft family of philanthropy lives on. The spirit of this building is now shared by our Court system, which continues to endorse all of the strivings and traditions of the American people, including Truth, Patriotism, Progress and Speed, honorable values indeed.