• Fri. Jun 9th, 2023

By Dan Yount

and Christina Hartlieb 

During a ceremony May 12 to dedicate a new permanent Ohio historic marker honoring the work of businessman Horace Sudduth and the legacy of the Manse Hotel & Annex at the corner of Chapel and Monfort Streets in Walnut Hills, you could almost sense the presence of Nat King Cole in his room dressing for a performance at The Cotton Club in the West End, or James Brown returning from a recording session at King Records in Evanston, or respected Cincinnati physician Dr. Luther Lemon sitting in the coffee shop with owner Sudduth.

Horace Sudduth. Photo Provided

While the audience listened to speakers in The Manse Community Room, formerly the hotel’s ballroom, due to rain, everyone went outside after the rain stopped for the marker dedication.

Several notable speakers and performers were present honor this Cincinnati history, including:

  • Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney – Vice Mayor, Cincinnati
  • Bernie McKay – President and CEO, Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation
  • Kathryne Gardette – President, Walnut Hills Area Council
  • Gina Ruffin Moore – Author and Board Vice President, Friends of Harriet Beecher Stowe House
  • Aaron Scott – Minister, First Baptist Church of Walnut Hills
  • Svetlana Ter-Grigoryan – Community Engagement Coordinator, Ohio History Connection
  • Steve Smith – Principal, The Model Group
  • Jimmy Wilson – Vice President of Affordable Living, Episcopal Retirement Services
  • Cincinnati Choral Academy at Frederick Douglass Elementary School.
  • This Ohio Historic Marker was funded by the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation and the African American Chamber of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky. The Manse is currently operated by Episcopal Retirement Services as 60 affordable housing units for seniors with limited incomes.

Bernie McKay, President and CEO, Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation, said, “The Manse Hotel and Annex represents Mr. Sudduth’s philosophy and methods of over coming discrimination in Cincinnati. Not only did this space cater to celebrities, dignitaries, leading figures in business and Civil Rights activism, it also allowed ordinary African Americas to experience a lifestyle usually reserved for Whites. It was a safe place that treated all members of the Black community with dignity and respect. This historical marker is a testament to Mr. Sudduth’s creativity and business prowess in overcoming prejudice through Black enterprise.”

Bernie McKay, President and CEO, Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation, talked about The Manse Hotel being a safe place in the city for Blacks. Photo by Dan Yount/The Cincinnati Herald

Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney said Sudduth was a member of her family, and the favorite place of her father Dr. Luther Lemon was the coffee shop at The Manse Hotel.

Cincinnati Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney presented a City Proclamation commemorating the event. Photo by Dan Yount/The Cincinnati Herald

Darryl Lumpkin, a resident of the present Manse Apartments, remembered seeing recording artist James Brown talking to young people on the steps outside the entrance, as well as seeing football and basketball stars there. “I love the place,” he added.

Darryl Lumpkin, a resident of The Manse Apartments, spoke at the event. Photo by Dan Yount/The Cincinnati Herald

According to an article written by the Walnut Hills historical Society, Horace Sudduth (1888-1957) was the wealthiest African American of his generation in Cincinnati, and its most influential Black businessperson. Sudduth moved from the city basin to Walnut Hills, did much of his business in that neighborhood, and he owned and developed the Manse Hotel & Annex.

The Manse Hotel back in the day when it was a center for Black celebrities visiting Cincinnati and Black events. Provided by Cincinnati Historical Society

Sudduth’s core work was real estate, and he made most of his fortune brokering, buying, selling, and managing housing properties. He founded and served as the president of the Industrial Building and Loan, a bank that provided savings accounts and mortgages to African Americans in the old West End and in Walnut Hills; for his efforts he took only a token single dollar as annual compensation. He grew especially close to Wendel P. Dabney, the editor of the Black newspaper in town called The Union. He also, through both business and philanthropic connections, knew and cultivated many wealthy, progressive Whites.  Horace Sudduth, the child of poor working African American parents, graduated from the school in 1906.  He went to work for the Pullman company, the country’s largest employer of African American men. The all-Black workforce, in railroad terms poorly paid and overworked, nonetheless constituted a well-educated elite. While many of the porters made a full career of the grueling life on the rails, the job also served as a steppingstone for young, articulate men to gain some experience in the world, make some money, and launch careers in the segregated Black economies of American cities. Economically settled, Sudduth returned to Covington to woo his high school sweetheart Melvina Jones. She accepted his proposal, and the Sudduths settled in Cincinnati in 1910.

Walnut Hills has been home to a significant middle- and working-class Black community since the 1850s. In 1931, Sudduth bought purchased the Hotel Terry, an 11-room boarding house owned by Mrs. Mozella Terry at 1004 Chapel St., as well as a row of buildings across Monfort Street, which he called The Manse Hotel and Annex. He added to the property year after year, and in 1950 invested $500,000 ($6.2 million in 2022 dollars) in improvements on what became a 108-room hotel, equipped with rooms equal to any in a downtown hotel, a ballroom, the Sweetbriar Room fine-dining room and a 24-hour coffee shop.

The Manse Hotel and Annex historic marker messages and a photo of Horace Sudduth with the present Manse Apartments in the background. Photo by Dan Yount/The Cincinnati Herald

The Manse provided comfortable residential and transient lodging during segregation. It appeared in the Negro Motorist’s Green Book between 1940-1963. Among its many famous guests were future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who attended the NAACP convention at the Hotel in 1946, and Frank Robinson, who lived in the Annex while playing for the 1956 Cincinnati Reds during National League Rookie of the Year campaign.

The Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society, is a statewide history organization with the mission to spark discovery of Ohio’s stories. As a nonprofit organization chartered in 1885, the Ohio History Connection carries out history services for Ohio and its citizens. 

Jimmy Wilson, Vice President of Affordable Living, Episcopal Retirement Services, spoke at the dedication ceremony. Photo by Dan Yount/The Cincinnati Herald

Since 1951, Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS) has worked to enrich the lives of older adults in a person-centered, innovative, and spiritually based way. ERS owns and operates three CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Communities), including two in Cincinnati and one in Louisville.