Queen City Underground Tour

18. 06. 11
posted by: Luke Mauer

On Sunday, June 10, Andy and I decided to finally do something for the podcast (better late than never, right?).  We decided to do an underground tour of Cincinnati.  It was a spur of the moment type thing but we were both committed.  Proudly wearing our TBPYHN t-shirts, we set out for an adventure.  Our first stop - The Coffee Emporium where the motto is "Really Good Coffee."  Can't argue with that, right?  We both got a cold brew (my new guilty pleasure) and enjoyed a seat on the Cincinnati streets before we headed to our tour. (photo withstanding because I can't figure out how to rotate it).

The tour began with a nice intro on Over The Rhine (OTR) where we learned of the best gunfighters in the West (Ohio was considered West at one point) and we walked the streets to discuss some theatres and then our first brewery - Wilert's - built in 1873.


 The story of prohibition and how it affected Cincinnati and OTR especially was the theme of the early tour.  There were 36 breweries during the time of German dominance and they all wound up closing when prohibition hit.  More on the breweries later.

We, then, headed over to one of the more fascinating stops on the trip - the courtyards at St. Francis Seraph.  The courtyards were still used today as there was a friar sitting outside when we arrived.  The monastery was a beautiful places as depicted in some images below:

 The friendliness of the people makes you feel right at home and the beauty of the scenery allows you to feel what it must have been like in the 1800s.  What's more - we were standing upon the graves of the first citizens buried in Cincinnati just below our feet.  They (literally) picked up the church and moved it and asked (politely) for people to dig up their dead and move them to the new cemetery.  Some were dug up (based on the shovels sitting outside) and some were left below in the crypt to remain forever.  Yes, there is a crypt underneath the church.  Don't you wish you could have seen that?  Well, boy aren't you in for a treat!  That's where we headed next.

Before walking into the crypt, we got to see some interesting sights.  (from left to right) an original floor piece from the church.  There were two, the other was taken by the movers as payment.  An old baptismal fount in all it's glory and lastly a very interesting crucifix sitting right outside the crypt - whether creepy or cool, the sight was one for the memory bank.

 Upon walking into the crypt - you could see "tombstones" of the departed dating back to the 1800s.  The latest tombstone was 1835 (pictured on the left).  Most people in the crypt were (presumably) buried upright - but a pretty cool place to visit.

As we walked back upstairs, we got to check out the actual church (still practicing today).  We were in about an hour and a half after mass as some people were still visiting the friars outside.  A large crucifix greeted us as we walked in, but it wasn't until I moved to a different angle that I got to see the rare double sided crucifix.  The reason was because the friars would come in and pray in the back of the church so the crucifix would face them; however, the crucifix would always face the congregation as well.  Very rare to see this anymore in any church, but we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse.

As we moved on from the church, we walked a couple blocks to the best story of the day.  A man buys an old brewery about 9 decades after it had gone out of business and notices a dotted line in his basement on the blueprints.  A dotted line, of course, denotes that it is hollow beneath the floor.  So what's a guy to do?  He calls up some of his buddies, grabs some beer, and rents a jackhammer.  In the mid 1990s, this group of friends decided to drink some beer and find out what was under the mysterious, creepy, Andy's parents like basement (callback to the haunted episode - number 9).  The group of friends jackhammered through the floor and then the jackhammer fell down, disappearing into the dark.  What the hell were they to do?  They left, got more beer, and drank up their courage to repel down into the deep dark hole.  What they found underneath would change what Cincinnati and OTR is today.

 Brave people going down into the deep, dark abyss.

When you go down the very steep, creaky old stairs - what awaits is a pretty cool sight.  The underground lair of brewing history.  When these friends finally repelled down, they discovered something pretty cool.  I can only imagine how they must have felt in the mid 1990s when they went to a place that hadn't been used since the 1900s.  It looks like something the Romans built (it was Germans, actually).  They had some cleanup to do, but the photos (and memories for them, I'm sure) are great.

Mounds of coal ash remain underground as the old breweries were turned into trash bins after the prohibition.  All of the trash was burnt and the coal ash is the only lasting memory.

Air ventilation systems were put into place as we learned how they brought the year round temperature of 58 degrees down even further to 45 degrees to brew the lagers.  We were 30-40 feet underground, where, as I mentioned, the 58 degrees was a welcome cooling on a hot day.  The tunnels took 3 years to build.  Possibly the more exciting part is since the mid 1990s, there have been a ton of tunnels discovered and more are coming to these tours soon.  It's somewhat unreal if you think about discovering these underground "civilizations" 90 years after anyone has touched them.

A walk back upstairs concluded our tour with a couple more cool bits.  The first was wood (turned art) from an old church that was struck by lightening and caught on fire.  The wood was brought over and is displayed proudly (pictured below).

And, lastly, the tour ends as we walked up the stairs to find ourselves in a brewery that has been revitalized - The Morlein Lager House (one of two Cincinnati locations).  It was here that we talked to the tour guide and told her we were two of the very successful co-hosts of The Best Podcast You've Never Heard and warned her we were going to review the tour.  She was going to listen (and recommend to her boss, don't you forget Laura) and probably fall in love with our comedic genius and make us a global sensation.  No?  Okay, but still - it was here where I learned what Cricket (the dart game) was and saw a Jenga game that was larger than Andy (3 stacks high). 

Shout out to American Legacy tours (https://www.americanlegacytours.com/) and our great tour guide Laura.  It was a blast for us to see and we will be doing one of the other tours I feel very soon (Adam, the haunted one has your name on it).  A very nice history of Cincinnati and OTR with plenty of great sights to see.  A formal review gives this 5 stars and a must from The Best Podcast You've Never Heard.