Carew Tower

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Carew Tower.
Carew Tower.

Carew Tower is the tallest building in Cincinnati, Ohio. It stands 49 stories tall in the heart of downtown, overlooking the Ohio River waterfront.



The building was designed by the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates, the designers of the Empire State Building. The Carew Tower, built before the Empire State Building was conceived, served as the basis for the design of the larger Empire State Building, as evidenced by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates' ability to produce the building drawings for the Empire State Building in just two weeks.

Construction began in September of 1929, just one month before the stock market crash on October 24 that triggered the Great Depression. Because of this, construction was continued on a modified plan. The grand details (architectural motifs, friezes, and decorative metal) that are common on art deco buildings were stopped at the third floor and plain bricks were used on the floors above. Art deco themes can be found throughout the building, particularly in the metalwork and grillwork of the elevators and lights. Rookwood Pottery floral tiles add the "Cincy" touch to the building.

North side view from the observation deck.
North side view from the observation deck.

The total cost of the building was US$33 million, which at that time was an enormous amount of money. It took crews only 13 months to complete the construction, working 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

Today the building is home to a mixed crowd of tenants, including a shopping mall, the Netherland Plaza Hotel, and offices. Visitors can pay a small fee to access the observation deck, which is located on the 49th floor. On a clear day, visitors can see for several miles in all directions and three states (Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio).


  • The building has an underground parking garage which has an elevator rather than traditional ramps for access. There is also a turntable for vehicles to assist in pointing delivery trucks in the right direction.
  • To get to the observation deck on the 49th floor, you have to take an elevator to the 45th floor, change to a tiny elevator to get to the 48th, and walk up a flight of stairs to the 49th.
  • During the mid- to late-1980s a giant inflatable gorilla was attached to the upper floors.


Name & location

Official Name: Carew Tower
Namesake: Joseph Thomas Carew
Address: 441 Vine Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Cross streets: Vine Street
West 5th Street
Zone: Fountain Square
Neighborhood: Central Business District / Riverfront
District: District 1 (center)
Current status: In use (designated National Historic Landmark in 1994)

Technical data

Height (structure): 574 ft (175 m)
Floors: 49
Construction begin: September, 1929
Construction end: January, 1931
Elevators: 41


Type: High-rise building
Structural materials: Steel
Facade materials: Brick
Architectural style: Art deco
Original cost (1929): $33,000,000


  • 1.383 million square feet (128,000 m²) of total floor area
  • 9 miles of brass piping
  • 15 railroad cars full of glass
  • 37 miles of steel piping
  • 40 railroad cars full of stone
  • 60 miles of floor and window molding
  • 60 railroad cars full of lumber
  • 4500 plumbing fixtures
  • 5000 doors
  • 8000 windows (upon its completion in 1931)
  • 15000 tons of structural steel
  • 4 million bricks in the outer structure
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