Historic hotel will get new life as senior apartments

The Manse was once a hotel for African Americans in the mid 20th century, a time when segregation was routinely practiced in in restaurants, hotels, and other public spaces.

Built in 1876 as a single-family home, it was later converted to a boarding house and purchased in 1931 by an African American businessman named Horace Sudduth. He converted the building into a hotel where African Americans held weddings, meetings, and other social gatherings.

The hotel played hosted to numerous celebrities during the days of segregation. Frank Robinson, Cincinnati Reds first baseman and rookie of the year in 1956, lived there that year. The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, stayed many times in the 1950s, as did Duke Ellington. The hotel was the site of the post-match press conference after Cincinnati boxer Ezzard Charles defeated Joe Louis for the world heavyweight title in 1950.

Located in Walnut Hills on Chapel Street near Gilbert Avenue, The Manse is now planned as part of a development that will provide new, affordable living spaces for senior citizens.

The entire project, called The Manse Apartments, will provide 60 affordable housing units for low-income seniors. The overall project — developed by the Model Group — includes the demolition of three blighted buildings, the rehabilitation of the former Manse Hotel and Annex, and the new construction of a three-story, 18-unit, LEED Silver building.

Because of the senior target population, all units will incorporate “aging in place” and “visitability” design standards and 20 units will be ADA accessible.

Episcopal Retirement Services will serve as property manager and will provide a variety of services to the senior residents.

The plans include a fully equipped fitness room and outdoor and indoor community spaces.

“This project helps broaden our reach in Walnut Hills,” says Kathy Ison-Lind, Episcopal Retirement Services’ vice president of affordable living and in-home services. “We already operate Walnut Court Apartments, and this will expand our offerings.”

The Manse project is one of six ERS projects in the works. The developments encompass five communities, including two in Kentucky.

“There is a tremendous shortage of affordable options,” Ison-Lind says. “Our goal is to help seniors age in place through quality housing and on-site activities for wellness, spirituality, and enrichment.”

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Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is an award-winning journalist and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading, or watching classic movies.