Wendell P. Dabney      

Guide to African American Resources
at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives




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Cincinnati History
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Cincinnati Model Homes Co.
  Appalled by the housing conditions for the working men of the city, Jacob Godfrey Schmidlapp (1849-1919), a retired distiller and banker, started building low-rent housing projects in 1911. This was one of the first attempts to furnish housing for low-income families in the country. By 1914, Schmidlapp had interested several other local civic leaders in investing their own funds in the formation of the Cincinnati Model Homes Co.  
The purpose of the company was to provide rental housing for both white and African American occupancy at the lowest possible price. While other landlords took from one-fourth to one-third of a worker's wages for rent, Schmidlapp's formula was one day's wages for one week's rent. The company also provided a 5% return for its investors. In addition to renting, an alternative plan was offered where one could purchase, over a ten year period, a two family house on terms comparable to the usual rent payments. By 1953 there were 118 building complexes with 453 apartment units. Most of the housing was concentrated in Oakley, Norwood, Walnut Hills and Avondale, with separate complexes for white and African American renters.
The company operated a co-operative grocery store on Kerper Avenue in Walnut Hills in the Washington Terrace complex. The store's profits were paid back to the housing tenants in the form of dividends.
Schmidlapp also built the Gordon Hotel in 1916 for the "self-respecting Negro stranger, who has no friends to recommend him to a private family." The hotel was located at Chapel and Ashland Avenues in Walnut Hills.
By 1974, however, some of the building complexes had been sold, and in March 1977, the shareholders approved a plan to completely liquidate.

To learn more about the Cincinnati Model Homes Co., consult the following resources:

Cincinnati Model Homes Co. Records, 1912-1977
Mss 657
This collection consists of 62 boxes and 113 volumes of records from the Cincinnati Model Homes Co. It includes minutes, annual reports, tenant records, information pertaining to the housing units, financial records, records of the Gordon Hotel and the Cincinnati Model Homes Sales Co. (known as the Grocery). For More information, a register for the collection is available in the library.   Request slip
Low Priced Housing for Wage Earners
By Jacob Godfrey Schmidlapp
Pamphlets 363.59 S348
The work of the Cincinnati Model Homes Co. at Washington Terrace and other housing developments and at the Gordon Hotel are presented here.    View catalog record   Request slip
Lecture on Housing
By Jacob G. Schmidlapp
Mss VF 4124
In this lecture, given by Jacob Schmidlapp before housing classes at the University of Cincinnati on November 6, 1919, he discusses his housing complexes and the similarities and differences between the white and African American tenants.   Request slip

Sources Used for Historical Sketch:
  • Register to the Cincinnati Model Homes Co. Records, 1912-1977,
    Mss 657, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.


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This online guide opened on February 10, 2004.