From a meeting place for labor unions, to a beer and dance hall, to a bowling alley and indoor putt-putt course, to a lighting manufacturer and eventually a night club, the history of Cincinnati can be traced within the walls of 1313 Vine Street.
So when future historians examine its transformation in the early 21st century, they will find in it the story of Cincinnati’s emerging tech industry. The building, known now as Union Hall, sits in the middle of a 38,000-square-foot, three-building complex that was vacant and abandoned as recently as a decade ago. After a $17 million renovation, Union Hall reopened in 2016 as a hub for Cintrifuse, CincyTech and The Brandery, the three organizations that provide support to several hundred of the region’s start-ups. As Cintrifuse began working with start-ups, they identified a need for a space to serve as the physical center of the region’s new-tech ecosystem.
While the 300 or so companies supported by Cintrifuse are able to use Union Hall, it also serves as a co-working space for about 100 individuals and small companies drawn by its convenient Over-the-Rhine location, as well as by the energy and connections found across its six floors.
“We’ve opened it up to anyone who wants to work, everyone from graphic designers to lawyers,” says Laura Hughes, Union Hall’s events and operations manager. “It helps build community and it’s really helpful for tech companies to have access to other creatives.”
The buildings that make up Union Hall were constructed around 1850, and directories from the second half of the 19th century list the many trade unions and social groups who gathered there. By 1900 it was known as the Cosmopolitan Hall and Bowling Alleys. Coral Gables Indoor Golf was a tenant by 1930, and those who lived in Cincinnati during the 190s may remember it as The Warehouse, a late-night dance club that closed in 2004.
It’s a long way from beer hall to start-up haven, where free coffee and tea keep teams of entrepreneurs caffeinated as they pore over laptops in the hall’s sun-drenched offices, but Union Hall still manages to host plenty of fun. Larger local companies host events of up to 1,000 people in its two event spaces, and the rooftop with views of the city are a cherished spot for warm-weather happy hours. 3CDC, the building’s owner, is looking to develop the sub-basement, a long-ago beer cellar, into a cozy, candlelit restaurant.
“Union Hall isn’t just a building; it’s a community,” Hughes says. “Working here has so many benefits that you don’t get sitting in your basement.”