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UC Exhibit Recalls Downtown Cincinnati’s Historic Terrace Plaza Hotel

A UC exhibit, curated by alumnus Stewart Shillito Maxwell, pays tribute to Cincinnati’s historic Terrace Plaza Hotel and its original developer and owner, John J. Emery, Jr.

Date: 9/24/2011 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824

UC ingot   Cincinnati’s Terrace Plaza, America’s first International Style hotel, designed and constructed in 1948 by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP, (SOM), is highlighted in an exhibit of objects and images from the hotel currently on display in the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) library.

This exhibition, placed in cases at the entrance and inside the library, was curated by UC architecture alumnus Stewart Shillito Maxwell, founder and principal of Stewart Shillito Maxwell & Co. in Cincinnati’s Hyde Park neighborhood, in conjunction with Elizabeth Meyer, visual resources librarian at DAAP.

Many of the photos, furniture, and other items, such as the hotel’s SOM custom-designed Rookwood Pottery ashtray, have been collected by Maxwell over the years – before and after the hotel closed in 2008. Construction documents and original drawings of the hotel have been loaned by the property’s current owners and are also on-view. They will become a part of the UC Library’s Digital Collections. Even ephemeral items from this architecturally significant building have been borrowed from Emery family members for this show.

Maxwell explains, “I have many personal connections to the hotel. My parents had their wedding reception there on February 19, 1955. My father had his advertising office in the building. When I was a UC co-op student, I even worked in Chicago for the firm that designed the hotel, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. These factors combined with the fact that the hotel’s architecture and interior was of national and international significance motivated me to collect and preserve items related to it.”

The hotel was the first building by SOM to receive widespread publicity due to its spectacular interior design, modern artwork by major artists such as Miro, Calder and Saul Steinberg, and advanced technology. For instance, it was the first American high rise with fully automated elevators. Also, its revolutionary sky-lobby on the eighth floor brought it much notoriety with offices and retail below, and hotel rooms above.  

The exhibit will be on display until early November.