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.

Next, the wings were constructed to accommodate the expositions that were so popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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.

The original design included patterns in the brick on top of windows and doors, around the rose window—in many places on the east and west sides of the structure.

These details were lost during the 1969-1975 renovation 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.

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

As part of our mission of preservation, Friends of Music Hall is financing the restoration of historic sandstone finials that are broken or have been lost to time. Check out the FMH blog detailing the significance of these finials and how they will 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