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Enjoy this retrospective—a comprehensive overview of the renovation of the historic Ingalls Building, now Downtown Cincinnati’s first Courtyard by Marriott.

The History of the Ingalls  |  June 2019 | September 2019 | December 2019 | February 2020 | March 2020 | June 2020 | July 2020 | September 2020 | December 2020 | February 2021 | June 2021

The History of the Ingalls

Leading into the 1900s, the tallest reinforced concrete structure was only six stories high. The cost savings and fireproofing benefits of building with concrete made the material very appealing to architects. However, many people in the engineering community, not to mention the public, were scared. They feared that because of concrete’s low tensile strength, a too-tall concrete tower would collapse under its own weight.

Not engineer Henry N. Hooper. Hooper believed the key was in Ernest L. Ransome’s patented systems of concrete construction. And fortunately for Hooper, there was another believer with deep pockets: Melville Ezra Ingalls.

Ingalls was an expert in corporate law, specializing in transportation lines. At the turn of the century, he was the President of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. He became the primary financial investor for a new construction of a 15-story reinforced concrete skyscraper—the Ingalls Building.

Explore HGC’s portfolio of historic renovations.

It took two years to convince city officials to issue a building permit. Once underway, construction took only 8 months. The contract price was $400,000—approximately $11.6MM in today’s dollars. Stories tell of a reporter who stayed up all night, hoping to be the first to capture the story of the building’s inevitable collapse. But the building remains. It was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1974 by the American Society of Civil Engineers. In 1975, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2018, SREE Hotels received key approvals from the City of Cincinnati to redevelop the historic building into a completely custom Courtyard by Marriott. SREE Hotels brought on HGC Construction as the contractor, and Luminaut as the architect—the same team that recently renovated the Cincinnatian Hotel as it became part of the Curio Collection by Hilton. SREE also previously worked with HGC Construction on the conversion of the former Enquirer Building on Vine Street into the dual-branded Hampton Inn & Suites and Homewood Suites.
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June 2019: The Project Begins

The Ingalls Building, located in downtown Cincinnati, was built in 1903 and was the world’s first reinforced concrete skyscraper. The building was considered daring for its time. Stories tell of the building’s completion and one reporter who stayed up all night in the hopes of breaking the story when the building crumbled. It is still standing, and its success led the way for the explosion of concrete high-rise construction across the country. HGC is proud to serve as construction manager, converting the historic building into an upscale hotel.

HGC started work in May of 2019. The building has needed renovating for some time, so comprehensive structural work was needed. The floors are a key part of that. Working from top to bottom, the team completed floors 15 through 4 by June. The levelcrete process required detailed logistics, due to the building being on a constrained urban site. Crews closed 100′ along the east side of Vine Street to allow for material delivery and holding.

Learn more about the levelcrete process.

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September 2019: Demolition and Abatement

Fall of 2019 focused heavily on interior demolition. Work centered around the roof and the basement to make way for removing large existing mechanical systems. The extensive abatement process was in full swing, as well, led by the Owner.

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December 2019: The Buckhoist

With a renovation this extensive, demolition and abatement continues for some time. Major existing mechanical shafts and a flue stack had to be town down. Abatement continued on several floors throughout the building.

At this time, teams installed the Buckhoist—the temporary external elevator that spans the vertical breadth of the building.looking up at Ingalls Building under construction with buckhoist

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February 2020: The Mock-Up

One of the early components in in a hotel project is the mock-up room. Despite all the other moving parts happening across the entire building, the project team makes sure to build out one guest room, finished and furniture, for the Owner to approve. It makes complete sense: you wouldn’t want to finish 50 guest rooms and then find out that the bathroom tiling does not quite match the vision. While not necessarily ready for a guest to sleep in, the mock-up captures the brand and experience that the hotel will deliver.

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March 2020: A Pandemic 

In March of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic came to a head in America and businesses all over the country had to drastically change methods. Fortunately for us, construction sites were deemed essential and work on projects like the Ingalls Building continued. HGC invested heavily in procuring PPE for the crews, training everyone in the best-understood COVID safety measures of the moment.

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June 2020: Behind the Scenes

As of June 13, more than 60,000 hours had been logged on this job site. A big milestone was hit when the crew used a 430 ton, 340’ crane to install the outside air unit, cooling tower, large rooftop fans, and other equipment for the attic mechanical space. The team installed close to 30,000lbs. of equipment by the end of the day.

This same month, the Ingalls Buildling was selected for the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the Society of Marketing for Professional Services annual tour of a highly anticipated local project. Being unable to provide an in-person tour due to the ongoing pandemic, a virtual tour was provided.

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July 2020: Mechanicals, Floors, and More

At this point in the project, mechanical piping, equipment and water heaters were installed in the attic. The third floor received the concrete pour for the final guest room, which required approximately 35 yards of concrete.

On the 15th floor, mechanical installations are underway to create the mezzanines for the room. The crew poured structocrete for the loft floors, which will then have the flooring applied over it.

Bathroom tiling was installed on the 13th floor. Next up the teams will complete the finishes: vanities, shower doors, barn doors, etc. The crew then moves down the building to the lower floors to follow the same process.

Additionally, repairs are being made to the detailed plaster ornamentation on the 2nd floor. The years have caused many pieces of the patterns to crumble, and now highly skilled artisans recreate the shaped by hand much like completing a puzzle. In the picture below, the new repaired plaster is white and fits seamlessly into the existing brown pieces.

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September 2020: Getting The Band Back Together

The Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati (AFC) hosted an event on Fountain Square meant to highlight The Ingalls project. The AFC’s purpose is to help people discover – and experience – the transformative power of design. They offer a variety of opportunities for people to get a closer look at Cincinnati treasures. For the Ingalls Building, the HGC team created a behind-the-scenes video tour of the project. AFC then made arrangements to show the video on the big screen on Fountain Square, where people could socialize outdoors and celebrate the progress of the project.

The event was a refreshing way to safely gather outdoors and celebrate the progress of the project. In the words of Zack Quill with SREE Hotels, “It’s like getting the band back together.”

Check out another SREE and HGC hotel collaboration

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December 2020: Facades and Finishes

The winter of 2020 saw extensive progress. The facade received a lot of attention, including the creation of new window and door openings, the installation of windows, and painting of most of the exterior windows. The exterior masonry work is complete, except for the areas currently inaccessible due to the buckhoist.

A new monumental staircase is taking shape, and has been quite an undertaking. Luminaut architects explored the history of the space and determined the original entry into the building. Through the years, the space had been repurposed and almost separated from what was still referred to as The Ingalls Building. The new vision reincorporates the space, brings the staircase up to code, and will preserve the spirit of the orignal entry. They will also restore as much of the original marble ceilings as possible. The grand entry will be the first thing guests see when they walk into the main entrance, just as it had been for visitors in 1903.

The second floor Kitchen received walls, framing, and rough-in. Upper level guest rooms are near completion, with all framing and drywall complete and most bathroom accessories and vanities installed. Heating and cooling units are up and running. This aspect makes it easer to continue finishes through these colder months.

All HVAC equipment is in place in the attic. The VFDs that control the Hyrdonic Pumps for the water system are also installed. This system is a single pipe hydronic loop that provides constant tempered water to all heat pumps through the building, maintaing temperature and conditioning.

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February 2021: Trimming the Halls

Trim, finishes and punchlist activities are making their way through the building. The mezzanine suites on the 15th floor are in finishing stages. The stairs are installed and handrails starting by the end of the month. Several lower floors have trim, barn doors, and nearly finished bathrooms. The hotel’s rich color scheme is appearing on the walls and highlight the historic arched ceilings that are being preserved.

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June 2021: The Final Details

Milestone after milestone is reached as the project nears completion.

  • The metal panels that adorn the reconstructed grand staircase have been installed.
  • The centerpiece light fixture in the grand entrance has also been installed.
  • Marble ceilings on the first floor are in the final stages of restoration
  • The guest rooms on the 15th floor are in the final stages of punchlist completion and have received furniture.
  • Guest rooms on levels 3-14 are complete and have furniture set in place for initial staging.

Spirits are high as Marriott and SREE prepare to begin the process of opening the hotel to guests.

new light fixture in grand staircase in Ingalls Building

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