Architect Samuel Hannaford designed Music Hall in the style of High Victorian Gothic.

When Music Hall was constructed, the center building came first. It was primarily designed to be a "music hall" primarily for choral works, such as the May Musical Festival.

The façade's pressed brick came from Philadelphia and reportedly cost about $40 per thousand.

The following year the wings were constructed to accommodate the expositions that were so popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The brick for the wings came from Zanesville, Ohio, and was less expensive, at about $12 per thousand.

Architectural Symbolism

To reflect the purposes of each section, Hannaford designed themed sandstone carvings:

  • musical instruments, such as a French horn, for the center building
  • flowers and birds for the south wing, representing Horticultural or Art Hall
  • engineering and science tools are shown, like a clinometer, compass and plumb bob for the north wing, which was called Machinery or Power Hall

Both wings also feature the intertwined letters CIE for Cincinnati Industrial Exposition.

There are other features on the structure's façade—symbols that convey meanings and that represent the architectural style of Music Hall.

Design Details in Black

The original design included decorative geometric patterns in the brick under arches, over main entrance doors, and around the rose window—in many places on the east and west sides of the structure.

The design also included tight black mortar joints, set 3/16" deep.

These details were lost during renovations in 1970 when the structure underwent a sandblasting to refresh the exterior.

During the most recent renovation, the black brick patterns were repainted, helping to restore the exterior to its original design.

Preservation and Restoration

As part of our mission of preservation, Friends of Music Hall financed the restoration of historic sandstone finials that were broken and had been lost to time and the elements. Check out the FMH blog detailing the significance of these finials and how they were be restored.

Take a Music Hall Outdoor Walking Tour and get the full story—and more!—on the design and details of Cincinnati Music Hall.

Sandstone carving of music symbols representing center

Music symbols for the center building
Carving representing the south or Horticulture wing

Carving for the south or Horticulture wing
Sextant amid oak leaves and acorns

Sextant amid oak leaves and acorns