Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Cincinnati North Hotel

"Awful Hotel. Stayed here two nights on a business trip. The hotel was horrible! It was dirty, old, broken down, and the shower was moldy! Will not return!!"

Those comments echoed so many other negative ones in the online review section of a hotel that had a "100% Do not recommend" rating on "TripAdvisor.com." I couldn't tell you from personal experience as that cold winter evening when Venkman, Lance Delune and myself ventured to the Cincinnati North Hotel was the first night I ever spent in the place. My only other memories were vague childhood thoughts of a ten-story hotel that is now a modern ruin towering over the Cincinnati suburb of Springdale, Ohio.

The late 70's/early 80's architecture style of this building was described by Venkman as "faux-modernism." Designed as a convention center style hotel, the 10 story structure once featured full scale restaurants, banquet facilities and other modern amenities. It originally opened in 1981 as an upscale Sheraton and over the years began to rapidly go downhill in quality. It came to be known as a Ramada, then briefly a Best Western before it closed its doors under the name "The Cincinnati North Hotel." In its post Sheraton years it gained a reputation for its poor quality and its upper floors were closed off due to a mold problem. In 2008, it closed its doors to guests completely. A year later the Cincinnati Business Courier reported that the city of Springdale had shut off power after the buildings owners defaulted on a $16 million loan and ignored requests by the fire department to inspect the buildings pipes which had likely frozen.

- The massive abandoned hotel is an ironic, contrasting eyesore in an otherwise nice suburban neighborhood.

I can remember dining in the hotels lower restaurant as a young kid, back when it was still a Sheraton. I have a very vague memory of climbing on a chair, trying to look at a Cincinnati Bengals pennant, similar to one that I had in my room at home, that was hanging on the wall. I apparently fell of the chair and can remember my Mom and Dad wiping the blood off my head in the hotel bathroom. When I was taking guitar lessons my freshman year of high school, my instructor gave me a ticket to a guitar convention that was being held in the hotel's banquet hall. At the time it was a Ramada. As my dad dropped me off, we wondered if we had come on the wrong day. The empty parking lot lead us to question the ticket information. Nevertheless, there was a convention going on inside. I remember sitting in the large banquet room listening to a Joe Satriani cover band with only 10 or so other people. The convention vendors far outnumbered the event attendees and after only a half hour or so I called my dad and went home.

Seven years later, the hotel finally closes, I still play some guitar and I'm standing on the frozen roof looking out across suburbia and the 275 loop.

- The faded area of the hotels exterior on the left is where the "Best Western" sign once was.

- Looking out at I-275 and the massive parking lot.

Designed as a convention center style hotel, I assumed it eventually failed due to its location. Although right off of I-275, the hotel is a good 30-35 minutes from downtown, 45 minutes at least to the International Airport. Similarly sized hotels flourished at the confluence of I-75 and I-275 just a few miles East, while smaller sized budget hotels have continued to thrive around this one. Sheraton even opened up a new location along the I-75 corridor after leaving the Springdale location.

Often times it seems the things we explore represent an architectural style from another era, a different time of thinking, a different time of prosperity in America. These places are often tagged up with graffiti, ripped apart by scrap thieves or providing temporary shelter to the homeless. Not this place though. This hotel is not some industrial remnant, it's a modern ruin in an otherwise well kept and nice suburban area.

- What remains of the sign from when the hotel was a Ramada.

The interior is a bit dated and the place seems like it would've been the kind of luxury airport hotel you'd see in some mid-90's movie. However, aside from the upper floors which were closed due to a mold problem in the building's last operating years, the place feels like everyone just got up and left, a real eerie feeling, like something out of a zombie movie.

- One of the hotels top floor suites, complete with its own bar.

- Another suite on the top floor.

The upper floor had once held a restaurant and bar along with lavish, large suites that offered panoramic views of the surrounding suburban sprawl. The view from these suites and the roof isn't terrible, but the surrounding massive asphalt parking lot really doesn't compare to the atmosphere staying in a downtown hotel would provide.

- Looking down one of the hallways.

The lower floors, which had been in use right up until the hotel closed, still give the feeling that someone is staying there. The empty hallway, aside from its lack of electricity, feels like any other hotel hallway late at night. The ruffled sheets on the bed make it appear as if the guest has just stepped out or if housekeeping hasn't come to make up the room yet. Many of the rooms still have plastic boxes set out for getting ice from the ice machine, ready for the next hotel guest to stay in the room.

- Like a room just waiting for housekeeping to come fix it up.

Cards laying on the bedside tables advertised a movie on HBO entitled "Taking Chance" which had premiered just over a year ago, while inside the drawers, Bibles could still be found.

Some floors and rooms were not as eerily serene, however. Construction materials and trash were strewn about in areas where someone had attempted to fix the mold problem.

- A room that was undergoing renovation in an attempt to fix the mold problem.

The hotel's grand lobby, with its chandeliers and large windows still looked impressive as the lights from the highway cut into the darkness and we made our way to the lowest floors. Given that all the hallways and rooms were pretty much identical, photographing them was pretty simple with the "if you've seen one, you've seen em all mentality." The darkness and dying of batteries lead us to make for a somewhat hasty light-painting job with our flashlights, as we didn't want to use the on camera flash, thus this update's photographs are somewhat rushed and sub par.

- The second story of the main lobby.

Downstairs the hotel's pool was still filled with murky, brown water that still reeked of chlorine and chemicals. "Caution: Do Not Run" and "Wet Floor" signs still adorned the tiled walls of the pool room. No lifeguard was on duty at the time of our visit.

- The hotel pool, still filled with water.

Dusty tables and chairs were joined with ketchup and hot sauce bottles that had still been left out, waiting for the next customers. The salad bar, however, was not well stocked in the first floor restaurant where I had fallen on my head as a child.

- The restaurant on the bottom floor.

- Nothing was being served on the salad bar at the time of our visit.

In the back of the hotel's lower restaurant was the bar. In its later years the bar had been converted into a night club known as "Roxzzzzz." That's not a typo by the way, the name had that many "z's." I remember driving by the place late one night on my way home from work one summer, because I thought the hotel was abandoned. With hardly any cars in the parking lot, the front desk clerk was busy watching television while, aside form the neon sign out front, I couldn't tell that there was a night club inside the place. I would imagine your night club wouldn't have much success in the bottom of a 10 story, half abandoned hotel that has a bad reputation.

- Roxzzz Night Club/the hotel bar.

Packing up our camera gear, getting ready for one last shot, we used what was left of the flashlight batteries to light up the massive main ball room. The same ball room I had been in for the guitar convention years earlier.

The Cincinnati North Hotel is like a mid 1990's time capsule, a modern ruin. The place reminded me of a low quality Stephen King movie I saw on tv once entitled "The Langoliers", in which the majority of the worlds population randomly disappears and the main characters arrive at a deserted airport and hotel in 1995.

With the buildings exterior and upper floors falling into disrepair along with the owners neglect to pay taxes and adhere to the Springdale fire departments requests to let them inspect the building, I imagine the 10-story modern ruin won't be around much longer. The current owners can't afford to fix it up or operate it and I can't imagine that the City of Springdale wants an abandoned 10 story tower on their skyline much longer.

To check out Venkman's photos of the hotel, check out his blog: Local.Architecture Cincinnati.

Updates | Oct. 16, 2017:
  • The Cincinnati North was never reopened or renovated. In May 2017, the building was finally demolished. My friend Jason shot some photos of the demolition with a drone here.
  • As of this update, no firm plans have been set for the redevelopment of the property.


  1. Great shots! It's funny how you guys are always exploring the places I'm thinking about. I just passed there on Saturday and wondered what had happened to that place.

  2. Thanks for checking out the update, Chris. I've driven by it on my commute to work the past few years and have watched it slowly degrade on the outside and the lights eventually turn off. It's a shame, it really once was a very nice hotel. I don't see anything becoming of it. I imagine the City of Springdale will want to take it down quickly.

  3. Absolutely love these types of explorations. Neat writeup and awesome photo's. How do you get access to these places? At your own risk? I'm looking forward to reading through all your old posts as well as new ones!

  4. Thanks for reading Ryan, glad you like the site. Sometimes people invite us out to photograph a place, a lot of times though its our "own risk." All part of the adventure though.

  5. Probably one of the nicer digs you've explored, amazing how some of the spaces look like someone had gotten up and walked out of the room moments earlier.

  6. I have to echo the first comment. I've been passing this everyday for almost 20 years now and I always think about it. And just last week I was considering going to check it out.

  7. wow! I can't believe they just left everything there like that. Thanks for the blog!

  8. I love this blog. Are you guys familiar with Scouting NY? It's a similar concept -- the author is a film scout in NYC who blogs about some of the unusual things he finds. Do you know of any other similar sites? I'd be especially interested in something for my hometown of Cleveland.

    Keep up the good work.

  9. @5chw4r7z: Definitely one of the most pristine and intact places we've ever explored. I bet a hobo would consider it a palace although it was freezing in there.

    @GoofyRobo: It's crazy just how big it is and its not in use. Seems like it would have some appeal to a hotel chain operator. I think the location is horrible for its size though.

    @Feoshia: Thanks for reading!

    @Jeff: Thanks for checking out QC/D. I'll have to check out ScoutingNY, looks cool. Most of the stuff we explore is in the Cincy area since we all live here, but I've taken trips to Detroit and Indianapolis to see stuff. I haven't seen much of Cleveland except for the subway beneath the bridge. You can check that out here: http://queencitydiscovery.blogspot.com/2009/06/catacombs-of-cleveland.html

    Can't say many nice things about Cleveland since I'm from Cincinnati and I hate the Browns and Indians, but I really did enjoy my visit there and loved the rail system. Not to mention being right on the lake is nice. I also like your hockey team.

  10. Great pics of a once great place! We had our wedding reception there and it was a blast. After closing the bar down afterward I couldn't tell you (remember) what it looked like upstairs, thanks for jogging my memory. While it's a shame what happened to it, it was probably over due. It was dated and kinda felt like the hotel in "The Shining" in it's later years. I would love to see more if you have it?

  11. Hey JLaFary, thanks for checking out the site. Unfortunately that's about all the photographs I have of the place. Would you happen to have any of your wedding reception you'd be willing to share to show what it was like when it was active?

  12. I bet I could dig some up. Shoot me an email.

  13. Once I get some free time later today I definitely will. Thanks!

  14. I was telling my father about this post tonight and he told me that the hotel is built on a former pay fishing lake that he used to go to. THen they filled in the lake and built the hotel, and that it had been slowly sinking for some time.

  15. Robo, I've heard that as well about the pay fishing lakes. If it was sinking, I don't know. Not entirely sure about that one.

  16. Great writeup and pics. A great location for sure! I am jealous.

  17. It does look like Langoliers....

  18. I was just looking at this wonderfull Blog post when all of the sudden I had an Urge to take a massive Dump. BRB.

  19. Back in the mid 80's myself and a friend used to hang out at the bar in the Sheraton. The bar was called Sheri's and it was adjacent to the restaurant. Some nights there was a live band others a DJ. One night a week they had singles night. On singles night they would get a name tag and if someone wanted to send you a message they could. The message was on those light bars that scrolled and everybody could see it.
    The hotel was the biggest in the area and had convention facilities. The larger manufactures in Hamilton would hold conventions and seminars at the hotel. I remember Batesville Casket was there once as well as a robotics seminar from Hamilton Tool. Unfortunately the hotel rooms were too expensive for many of the seminar goers so they would stay at cheaper hotels in the area. Sheraton messed up overcharging for the rooms and the convention trade dwindled.
    Thanks for the memory

  20. Is that place completely consumed by the mold yet? That asked my friend and I went to walk around a bit by there last night, how did you get in?

  21. I was in this hotel today. They were selling the contents. It was very eery walking inside. It was like walking into something that was dying of cancer. The smell was overwelming. We were allowed to go in the main lobby (which was filled with the hotel contents), in one of the ball rooms and an area to the right of the lobby next to the pool. I must say it was incredible to see some that was so beautiful turn into an expensive piece of trash.

  22. It would be great if this hotel would be restored back to it's beauty. It has great potential. I'm sure that renovations and the right marketing strategy would get that hotel back in business.

  23. Gordon - is this hotel still open for exploration, I would like to add this to my list since I am still in the Cincy area.

  24. I worked there from 1994 to 1996; first front desk, then night audit, then assistant controller. It was still a Sheraton. It wasn't long after I left that it was sold and became a Ramada. It seemed that after the sale of the property it went downhill. It was still a fairly nice place when I worked there. We had many contracts with local companies in which they had excellent rates for their employees/traveling guests. Additionally, some of the Bengels used to stay there from time to time, and I remember the UC football team staying there prior to one of there games. Marty Stuart (Country Music artist/Grand Ol Opry member) stayed, as well as famed mime (if there is such a thing) Marcel Marceau. But by far, my most memorable encounter came with a former member of Alice in Chains who stayed there about 3 times and would come in during night audit hours.

    Good times, good place to work for a little while. Hate to see it in such bad shape. The very tip top of the hotel houses a huge storage space. I spent 3 days hauling bankers boxes full of files and folios (pre-computerization) up there.

    Great pics

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, love hearing the experiences of people who were at these places before they were abandoned.

    2. I worked there as a co-op from fall of 92 to probably right around 94. I loved working there. The views from the roof was fantastic. We used to get really cheap meals in the dining room and the chef used to let us drink "the foam" when ever he cracked a new keg.
      It was a perfect first job. I will miss the building.

  25. Im glad i seen the page of this place it looks awsome for exploring an is by far in way better no comparison shape compared to thr dayton executive hotel on needmore road which i got to go see yesterdsy that one was a piece of cake to get into basickly just walk in about anywheres but this one msy be harder the stteet address for thst one is 2401 needmore road dayton ohio
    how did you get inside this one?
    Oh an hard to find a place! To park at the executive but best place is the mdonalds across from the bp gas station nrxt to thr hotel hope this helps fellow explorers:)

    Max the explorer dog

  26. its weird seeing these photos i worked there from 2003 to 2007 in the banquet department and i could tell you alot of stories about the hotel including what happened the day it closed, its just surreal seeing the photos where i once worked and all the memories i have. Its ashame with what happened there

    1. I agree I hate seeing things and buildings setting rotting away and just going to waste especialy a place that could be reopened and used again ive yet to go see this place was planning on it but some things happned so now my exploring plans are unfortunately on the back burner and temporary hold for awhile great pics of this place though id love to hear some stories about this place since you worked there

  27. Remember when the Holiday Inn to the east of this place at state rt 42 & I 275 used to have the rainbow painted along the side of the building? That used to seem so cool when I was a kid. Sometime in the last 10-15 years ago, they painted over it :(

  28. How hard is it to get into the hotel and explore?

  29. I was never in this hotel but I wondered what had happened to it. I worked at what used to be the Showcase Cinemas across the street in my youth and I watched that thing go up. I can't believe I never went inside.

    That is a great article. Thanks.

  30. Really bummed out they are tearing this place down before I would have had a chance to go into it. This year I have become fascinated with Urban Exploration and would have loved to go into the old hotel. Unfortunately, they are beginning demolition.

  31. The demolition is finally underway. Sad and exciting at the same time. I hope they make great use of the space this time around.

  32. Didn't this place have a train caboose on the property which was part of a restaurant on site or am I completely delusional?

    1. There was never a caboose there when I worked there in 1984-1985 while in HS. I started as a dish washer and got bumped up to prep cook. My BBQ ribs even got a mention in Cincinnati Magazine, of course Montgomery Inn was king. The ribs I made for the restaurant weren't even cooked over a fire, just in a typical kitchen oven.

      I do remember one weekend when NHRA was in to at Edgewater a few of the crews working on the cars out by the back loading dock. This was before the apartments/condos up on the hill were built.

      C. Tague