UC historian receives fellowship to study historic structures, spaces abroad

Visiting professor uses architecture to interpret stories of the past

A University of Cincinnati visiting assistant professor of history has received a 2022 H. Allen Brooks Travelling Fellowship from the Society of Architectural Historians.

Through the fellowship, Anne Delano Steinert — an urban historian and expert in American architectural history — will extend her research into Europe to further enrich the subject matter in courses she teaches in UC's College of Arts and Sciences. Her three-month itinerary will take her to key sites that she teaches about, among them Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Athens, Vienna and Bremen.

“My expertise is in American cities,” Steinert says. “This fellowship will allow me to use key European sites and cities to tell a larger story about urban history, public interpretation, and change over time.”

Using her scholarship in historic preservation and the built environment as a basis, Steinert will use the fellowship to explore how information about history and heritage is communicated in urban environment, and what strategies are used to tell the history of everyday buildings and people, according to the society.

I want to better understand how other cities have been successful in telling their stories, and how those stories preserve history.

Anne Delano Steinert, UC visiting assistant professor of history

“My proposal (for the fellowship) includes the idea that buildings in urban environments teach us about the past. I will be looking closely at how people read built environments to interpret the past — through plaques, museums, and more. I want to better understand how other cities have been successful in telling their stories, and how those stories preserve history.”

Established in 2010, the H. Allen Brooks Traveling Fellowship is designed for emerging professionals “to study by travel and contemplation with the goals of experiencing the built environment firsthand, thinking about their profession deeply, and acquiring knowledge useful to their future work.”

Steinert is one of two recipients of a 2022 fellowship nationwide. Learning she had received the fellowship was emotional, she says. “It was intense and amazing—this is the academic and intellectual prize best suited to support my work.”

Steinert says she appreciates the fact that the Society of Architectural Historians offers a fellowship geared specifically for scholars emerging in the field. “I am honored to be part of the amazing cohort who have had the fellowship before.”

Steinert cites the story of the Revelation Baptist Church in Cincinnati’s West End as an example of the importance of urban research and preservation. Built as a synagogue in the 1860s, the building housed a German Lutheran congregation right after the turn of the century. It later became Revelation Baptist Church, a Black Baptist church that was pastored for a time by civil rights activist Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, and visited by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“In the building, you could see all three layers of history,” Steinert says, “the original structure of the synagogue, the stained glass windows incorporated by the Lutherans, and much later, a wrap-around atrium to better serve the needs of the Black Revelation Baptist congregation. Most people couldn’t see the layers of history embedded in that building.”

Revelation Baptist Church sold the property to FC Cincinnati in 2019, and it has since been razed for parking space. “At the time it was demolished, it was the 10th oldest synagogue in the country,” Steinert says. “if there had been more ways to tell the story of the building, and make it meaningful today, it might be standing now.”

Steinert’s goal for her fellowship is to explore how the stories embedded in buildings get told in other cities to find strategies to use here at home. She plans to use her research abroad to complement classes she teaches in A&S and the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, among them Cincinnati History, Introduction to Historic Preservation Planning, and History of Urban Form.

In addition to teaching at UC, Steinert is the director of UC’s Center for City and founding board chair of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine Museum, which when complete will help preserve generations of OTR history through an immersive experience similar to that found in the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City. She also has curated several local exhibits, including the award-winning “Finding Kenyon-Barr: Exploring Photographs of Cincinnati’s Lost Lower West End (2017-2018).”

Featured image at top: UC visiting assistant professor of history Anne Delano Steinert in front of St. Michael and All Angels Church in Avondale. Credit/Seneca Steinert