Many people dining at Lenhardt’s over the years have noticed a similarity between the cherubs on the first-floor ceiling mural and the ones on the old Christian Moerlein crockery bottles. The bottles are one of Cincinnati’s favorite pieces of breweriana. (They’re also on the cover of the book “Over-the-Rhine: When Beer Was King”.) They were originally made to contain Old Jug Lager, a beer that pre-Prohibition Moerlein advertised as “recommended by physicians and connoisseurs,” but an error in the glazing process made many of them leak. As a result, hundreds were never used. They were placed in boxes and stored in the basement of the bottling plant, then re-discovered in like-new condition in the 1980s.
Cherubs are fat babies. By the nature of the subject matter, they don’t have too many artistic variations; and the medium of the crockery bottles did not permit a lot of detail. However, what makes the similarity between the cherubs on the crockery bottles and the cherubs on the ceiling of Lenhardt’s interesting is timing. The building Lenhardt’s resides in was originally the single-family home of John Goetz, Jr. and his wife Lizzie, one of the daughter’s of Christian Moerlein. Lizzie and John met when they were neighbors on Ohio Avenue and they were married in 1881. Ten years later, Christian gave the opulent home to his daughter and son-in-law as an anniversary gift. Interestingly, construction would have been taking place on the home in the summer of 1891 at roughly the same time the Old Jug Lager crockery bottles were introduced (in June 1891.) A lot of people could have painted the cherubs on the ceiling of Lenhardt’s, but if you were Moerlein and you wanted to have a mural painted on a ceiling of a house that you were building just a few blocks from your brewery, why not use the artist that you have on staff who has been designing packaging? Moerlein was a pioneer in marketing and beer packaging. At present, nothing is known about the artists who designed the intricate labels and ads that gave the brewery its iconic look, but the brush strokes of one of those artists may still be on the ceiling at 151 W. McMillan — for now.
Unfortunately, other than through these photos, you may never get the opportunity to make the comparison. The Lenhardt’s sold their business to their daughter and son-in-law, Joe and Erika Windholtz two generations ago. The Windoltzs kept one of the city’s great culinary institutions alive for decades, then handed the reigns over to their daughter. Today, the extended Windholtz family has the building under contract to an out-of-town developer, along with the surrounding parcels, with the intention of bulldozing it. The fight to save the property can be followed on “Save Clifton Heights” Facebook page, as well as through ongoing coverage of the battle reported at www.wcpo.com. In historic designation applications, the property is referred to as the Goetz House. In one of the more ironic twists in the preservation fight, the Windholtz family has frequently taken umbrage with the reference to the original owner, noting that most Cincinnatians know the building as the home of Lendhardt’s. True enough. Although John Goetz, Jr. was an extremely prominent and important resident of the city during his lifetime, there is no doubt that most of the people who refer to “the Goetz House” today would never have known the name Goetz without the pending threat of demolition. John Goetz, Jr. accomplished a lot more in life than just living at 151 W. McMillan, but his legacy is being revived because there is a beautiful physical reminder of his time on Earth in the center of what remains of the Clifton Heights business district. It is unfortunate that the current caretakers of that life, as well as the lives and legacies of their own family, fail to understand that future generations never look back at a legacy of demolition — not fondly at least.