Discover / Cincinnati’s Icons
Save a National Treasure
REGION: Midwest
Cincinnati, OH
TYPE: Building
Union Terminal. Courtesy Cincinnati Museum Center
Union Terminal. Courtesy Cincinnati Museum Center
Union Terminal’s future has been secured thanks to passage of the Issue 8 ballot initiative, but we continue to support strategies to rehabilitate Music Hall.


Although Union Terminal and Music Hall are among Cincinnati's most beloved and well-used public buildings, they are suffering from significant deterioration and water damage. On November 4, 2014, Union Terminal's future was secured thanks to Hamilton County voters' overwhelming support for Issue 8, which will levy a one-quarter of one percent sales tax over five years to generate $170 million in restoration funds for Union Terminal. Combined with historic tax credits, contributions from the State of Ohio, and philanthropic fundraising efforts, this will allow for the complete repair and restoration of Union Terminal. A multi-layered, public-private funding strategy for the restoration of Music Hall is also under development.

National Significance

Union Terminal and Music Hall are both National Historic Landmarks with significant connections to major themes in American history, including transportation, art, architecture, and music.

Music Hall, designed by Samuel Hannaford, was built in 1878 with private money raised from what is believed to be the nation’s first matching grant fund drive. It is located in Over-the-Rhine, a nationally significant neighborhood that has undergone significant revitalization, and is home to the Cincinnati Arts Association, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Ballet, and the May Festival.

Union Terminal, an iconic symbol of Cincinnati and one of the most significant Art Deco structures in the country, opened in 1933 with a capacity of 216 trains a day. The second largest half dome in the world, the 180-foot-wide and 106-foot-tall rotunda features glass mosaic murals by Winold Reiss depicting the history of Cincinnati and the United States. As the Cincinnati Museum Center, the largest cultural institution in the city, Union Terminal houses the Cincinnati History Museum, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History and Science, and the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater.

Campaign Goals

  • Continue to support the Cultural Facilities Task Force's efforts to outline a restoration plan for Music Hall.
  • Raise awareness about the Music Hall's needs and build a broad base of support for rehabilitation.

Ways To Help

Donate to our campaign to save Cincinnati's Icons.

Posted on January 06, 2015

Excerpted from Cincinnati Enquirer:

State historic tax credits, especially when leveraged with the federal historic tax credit, have proven critical to enabling the restoration of historic buildings. Music Hall and Union Terminal are iconic buildings whose preservation was uncertain without state and federal historic tax credits.

More about Cinicinnati's Icons >>

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Posted on December 18, 2014

Music HallWritten by Jennifer Sandy, Project ManagerJsandy headshot

Christmas came early today for Music Hall, one of Cincinnati’s Icons, when the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA) announced that Music Hall’s rehabilitation effort will receive a one-time catalytic tax credit of $25 million. 

Music Hall was competing against three other buildings across the state for the special tax credit allocation, which is only awarded every other year to a project that will have a catalytic impact on its surrounding neighborhood. ODSA believes that the rehabilitation of Music Hall will have a significant impact on Over-the-Rhine, the West End, and parts of Downtown Cincinnati that are in need of revitalization, and will increase economic activity in local shops and restaurants.

The Task Force has now raised nearly $100 million of the $123 million needed to begin rehabilitation of this iconic building, and the catalytic tax credit will provide the momentum to close the remaining funding gap. Congratulations to our friends at the Cultural Facilities Task Force and the Music Hall Revitalization Company on this fantastic news!  

Please check back often for additional updates on Cincinnati’s Icons. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on November 07, 2014

Excerpted from Huffington Post:

Since it opened in 1933, Union Terminal has served as both a cultural hub for the city of Cincinnati and one of the most iconic Art Deco structures in the nation. Now, thanks to local citizens who voted "yes" on Issue 8, it will continue to fill both roles for generations to come. Yesterday, voters in Cincinnati and throughout Hamilton County decided overwhelmingly in favor of Issue 8. Roughly $40 million will also be raised for the project through state of Ohio capital grants, state and federal historic tax credits, and private funds. "One of the reasons we advocated for the passage of Issue 8 is that it wouldn't be just left to taxpayers," says Jason Clement, the National Trust's director of community outreach. "The financial burden is not on any one single group, and by voting yes, tax payers are eager to see how Union Terminal can be a model for partnerships going forward."

More about Cincinnati's Icons >>

Read the full story >>

Posted on November 05, 2014

Union Terminal savedWritten by Jennifer Sandy, Project ManagerJsandy headshot

Yesterday in Hamilton County, Ohio, preservation was on the ballot … and we had a big win!  

We are happy to report that voters there passed Issue 8, a one-quarter of one-percent sales tax levy that will help restore Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, raising $170 million in public funds over five years. The rehabilitation work at the 81-year-old building, a National Historic Landmark and one of the most iconic Art Deco structures in the country, will cover a major structural makeover, including a new roof and windows, as well as critical updates to outdated mechanical, electrical, and plumbing infrastructure, allowing Union Terminal to serve as home to Cincinnati Museum Center for generations to come.

This summer, you might recall that the National Trust named Union Terminal and Music Hall – two of Cincinnati’s most iconic buildings – to our annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. We also designed both buildings to our National Treasures program. Since then, the National Trust has been on the ground and actively involved in the Yes on 8 Campaign. We launched our first-ever pop-up campaign office, hosted numerous community events, and canvassed relentlessly with our partners. Ultimately, we interacted with over 12,000 voters leading up to Election Day.

As we celebrate today, we invite you to check out some of the highlights from our campaign.

Looking forward, the passage of Issue 8 was the piece of the puzzle that needed to be locked into place for the other icon of Cincinnati – Music Hall. The Cultural Facilities Task Force can now complete important historic tax credit work for both buildings, and will soon have more details to share about the plan to restore Music Hall.

We would like to extend a special thank you to our partners, including the Cultural Facilities Task Force, the Cincinnati Museum Center, the Cincinnati Preservation Association, and the Cincinnati Preservation Collective. We look forward to continuing our work to ensure that both of Cincinnati’s Icons are saved for future generations.

Please check back often for additional updates on Cincinnati’s Icons. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

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Jud Kline, FAIA on November 07, 2014
As a student at Miami University in 1970, I joined with others to work to save the Union Terminal. We initiated a campaign titled "Landmarks are for People". I am pleased to read the Terminal has survived and is now assured of the future for the community. It is interesting to see this process has taken 44 years to complete.
Gretchen Olheiser on September 02, 2014
I'm happy to see some of Cincinnati's icons. My paternal roots started in Riley, Ohio in a blacksmith shop run by my great-grandfather. Any Ohio connection is interesting to me.
Michael Manning on July 01, 2014
Although my broadcasting career has taken me outside my hometown of Cincinnati, at this time, my online series on Union Terminal and the need to maintain this "crown jewel" of the city's cultural history, along with its bright future is very important to me. Please count on my ongoing support. Michael Manning former Helicopter Reporter WLWT TV 5
Jennifer Sandy, National Trust for Historic Preservation on June 25, 2014
Cincinnati is full of architectural treasures, but few stand out as prominently as Union Terminal and Music Hall. As an Art Deco fanatic, it’s hard for me not to gasp every time I walk inside Union Terminal’s dramatic rotunda. Cincinnati Museum Center has been a phenomenal steward of this building, painstakingly restoring the spaces that are less frequently seen by the public, but it’s time for an extensive rehabilitation to make this jewel shine even more brightly. As for Music Hall, its commanding presence along Washington Park is one of the focal points of a truly unique urban neighborhood in Over-the-Rhine. Cincinnati has inherited an amazing architectural legacy, now it’s time to show support for saving these icons!
Paul Muller, Cincinnati Preservation Association on June 25, 2014
The creation of Music Hall and Union Terminal represented civic commitment at its finest. In both cases Cincinnati built innovative structures that served the public and inspired awe. Today we have a rare chance to be part of that original effort and to extend the vision of the early leaders. They made Cincinnati a great city for their time, we can renew these buildings for a great future. Don’t miss out on being part of your own history!

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