"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 two 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 owners have yet to reply.
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 hotels 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. No, 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 1990'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 the hallway.
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 the staff 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 crystal chandeliers and large windows still looked impressive as the lights from the highway cut into the darkness as 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 lightpainting job with our flashlights, as we didn't want to use the on camera flash, thus this updates 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." 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 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.
- Main banquet hall.
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.
Until next time,
To check out Venkman's photos of the hotel, check out his blog: Local.Architecture Cincinnati.