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
Support strategies to restore Cincinnati’s Icons – Union Terminal and 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. A multi-layered, public-private funding strategy for the restoration of these icons must be identified before they deteriorate further. 

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

  • Secure restoration funding for Union Terminal and Music Hall.
  • Raise awareness about the buildings’ needs and build a broad base of support for rehabilitation.

Ways To Help

Donate to our campaign to save Cincinnati's Icons.

Posted on September 11, 2014

Steel Workers Union TerminalWritten by Jennifer Sandy, Project ManagerJSandy headshot

Cincinnati’s Union Terminal is remarkable not only for the role it plays as the city’s largest cultural institution, but for the stories it tells about the hundreds of Cincinnatians who helped to build this architectural marvel.  Union Terminal was created in the 1930s by the city’s original “makers” – steel workers, masons, engineers, architects, tile workers, and painters.

It’s with that “maker” ethic in mind that we’re excited about this weekend’s events at Union Terminal.  On Saturday September 13 and Sunday September 14, this inspiring building will play host to the Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire, a community-organized event that is part of the national Maker Faire created by MAKE Magazine.  MAKE describes the event as "the greatest show (and tell) on Earth - a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement." 

Come out to Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire for workshops, exhibits, spectacles, and interactive experiences.  Over 30 makers of all ages and backgrounds will be showing off their gadgets and inventions, along with an independent craft show featuring over 20 vendors as part of a mini market where guests can shop for handmade items to take the experience home with them.

And while you’re there, make sure to show your support for Issue 8, a sales tax levy on the ballot this November that would provide funds to restore Union Terminal.  Stay tuned for more information on how you can support the “Yes on 8” campaign this fall!

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 August 29, 2014

Union Terminal CincinnatiWritten by Jennifer Sandy, Project ManagerJSandy headshot

Over the past few months, we have seen an incredible outpouring of support for Cincinnati’s Icons from across the country.  Over 10,000 people signed our petition to put rehabilitation funding for both Union Terminal and Music Hall on the ballot this November.  However, earlier this month two of the Hamilton County Commissioners chose to advance a quarter-cent sales tax in support of Union Terminal only.   

Today, the Cincinnati Museum Center Board of Trustees announced their intention to pursue the full restoration of Union Terminal using private donations, historic tax credits and grants, and the proceeds from the quarter-cent sales tax increase that will now be on the ballot November 4.  If passed, this will result in approximately $170 million in funds to repair Union Terminal for generations to come. 

Although Music Hall is not part of the sales tax, we remain strongly committed to its restoration and will continue to partner with the Cultural Facilities Task Force as alternate funding plans are developed.

The National Trust will be working closely with supporters in Cincinnati and Hamilton County to ensure passage of the sales tax levy this November.  Stay tuned for more information about how you can get involved and show your support!

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 August 07, 2014

Union Terminal and Music HallWritten by Jennifer Sandy, Project ManagerJSandy headshot

Yesterday, our efforts to restore Cincinnati’s Icons faced a major setback — the Hamilton County Commissioners declined to include a .25 cent sales tax referendum on the November ballot as part of a comprehensive private-public funding solution to restore Union Terminal and Music Hall.

Instead, two of the Commissioners voted in favor of a last-minute alternate plan for a five-year tax levy that would support repairs for Union Terminal only. Details of this plan have not been shared with the stakeholders or the general public.

As a result, the future of both of Cincinnati’s Icons remains uncertain.

These two buildings are truly among the nation’s architectural treasures, and the National Trust will continue to work with preservation advocates in Cincinnati to determine the best path forward for both of these endangered buildings.

Over the past few months, we were able to gather over 10,000 signatures on our petition to the Commissioners. Though we were unable to get these iconic buildings on the ballot, together we demonstrated a groundswell of local and national support that did not go unnoticed.

We invite you to stay tuned to as this important effort continues.

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 July 30, 2014

Jsandy headshot

Written by Jennifer Sandy, Project Manager

Cincinnati Icons Public Meeting“#SaveOurIcons is about more than two iconic buildings. It’s about legacy…both for the institutions housed within and for our region.” – Jason Dennison, @jasondennison

This tweet from Monday’s action-packed public meeting with the Hamilton County Commissioners encapsulates what the Save Our Icons campaign is all about – leaving a legacy for the next generation of Cincinnatians. And as you can see in the photos, hundreds of supporters turned out to carry that message in person.

As you probably know, the Commissioners are considering whether or not to include a .25 cent sales tax levy on the November ballot as part of a comprehensive private-public funding solution to restore Union Terminal and Music Hall. The National Trust for Historic Preservation supports this plan, which was thoroughly researched over eight months by the Cultural Facilities Task Force.

If you haven’t already, please contact the Hamilton County Commissioners ahead of their decision on August 6th and express your support for a public vote on restoration funding for Union Terminal and Music Hall. Also, please help us spread the word by forwarding this e-mail to your friends and family in the area.

Just like the hundreds of supporters at the public meeting, we need you to speak up for Cincinnati’s Icons.

PS: Will you be at LumenoCity this weekend? Stop by our table in the LumenoCity Village to pick up some Save Our Icons swag! And if you’re feeling really inspired, volunteer for the Save Our Icons Street Team.

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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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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