Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hessler's Dance Studio

This is a picture of 1033 Monastery or the building we usually call Hessler's Dance Studio. This interior shot is current.
The view out these windows looks out at downtown Cincinnati all the way to Music Hall and Cincinnati Museum Center. Doris Mary Ann Kepplehoff (from nearby Evanston neighborhood) whose stage name was Doris Day was a student at Hessler's.
Tyrone Power (1914 - 1958) was also a student at Hessler's.
as was
Vera-Ellen Rohe (1921 - 1981) Below is an interesting article from the Winter Edition of Mt Adams Grapevine HILL YES! Who is Doris Kappelhoff?
by Jim Steiner
"The one story brick building at 1033 Monastery Street near the corner of Monastery and St Paul is an interesting part of Mt. Adams history. As the story goes, it was built by Maria Longworth Storer (granddaughter of Nicolas Longworth and also founder of Rookwood Pottery) in the 1890's to house French lithography students.
Lithography was a new medium, and Maria was a cutting edge lady so she wanted to jump on the other artists. Unfortunately, the students never occupied the building and Maria's plan died. Fortunately, the building didn't. In 1904, its neighbor across the street, Holy Cross School rented the building and used it as a commercial school.
When students finished the eighth grade at Holy Cross, they went to work or attended a secular high school. The two year commercial school allowed students to get further training in business courses to prepare them for office jobs if they didn't choose to go to high school. The commercial school was taught by nuns from the Sister of Charity who lived in a convent at 1113 St. Gregory St. The school was closed in 1927 at the behest of Cincinnati Archbishop, John T. McNichols who began directing the archdiocesan assets toward the establishment of four year parochial high schools.
In the late 1920s, the building was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Hessler who ran the Hessler Studio of Dancing. The studio was the premier venue in the region for singing, dancing and acting instruction. It attracted students from the greater Cincinnati area and was the place where Doris Kapplehoff, Vera-Ellen Rohe and Tyrone Power went to get expert instruction.
Doris Kappelhoff, a Cincinnati native, became famous as Doris Day, a prominent film and TV star and popular singer. Doris Day is still living and works at promoting her favorite cause, animal rights.
Vera-Ellen Rohe, a Norwood native who shortened her name to Vera-Ellen, also became a Hollywood star and appeared in many movies. Her most enduring role was in the classic movie, White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. She also starred with Fred Astaire in Three Little Words and Gene Kelly in Words and Music where she did a famous dance sequence to "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue".
Tyrone Power, his real name, was also born in Cincinnati and attended Purcell High School in Walnut Hills. He was a classically handsome leading man and played in many swashbuckling films, including The Mark of Zorro his most well known film where he starred with Basil Rathbone. Power was also a leading man in many Broadway stage productions. He was first divorced in 1948, an event which was frowned upon by the priests at Purcell High School prompting them to cover his 1931 graduation picture in black.
The Hesslers built a beautiful rock garden behind their studio and opened it to the public. They also loved their new community and were very active in promoting events and businesses on Mt. Adams. Mr Hessler was a very close friend of Vera-Ellen and maintained that friendship even after she became successful. He frequently visited her in Hollywood and said that despite all her fame she still treated him as she did when she was a young girl. The Hesslers closed their studio in the 1940's.
The building again changed hands in the 1950's when it was purchased by artists Carolyn and Bill von Stein. Carolyn was a painter but got into art restoration to make money. Among her many projects were restoring the paintings at Immaculata Church in 1982, and repainting Our Lady of Lourdes statue, also at Immaculata, the same year.
She and her husband painted a Mt. Adams Landmarks mural on a large wall at Holy Cross School lost when the building was torn down.
In the summer of 2006, I attended a party at Carolyn's. She had a jazz trio playing her her front garden, people elbow to elbow in her studio, food and an open bar for all attending. When I finally made my way through the crowd to her (she was in a wheel chair, on oxygen and balancing a martini on her knee), I asked her what she was celebrating. In her typical straight forward fashion she replied that she wouldn't be around much longer and wanted to go out in style. She passed away ten days later at age 83. Carolyn and Bill had no children, so the building was left to a niece who sold it to another artist.
The fate of the building is again in play as it's currently for sale. Hopefully, someone will buy it and keep it alive.
Thanks to Allen Bernard for contributing to this article. Other resources were the 1931 souvenir book of the dedication of the Ida Street Bridge and the archives at holy Cross-Immaculata Parish."
Jim Steiner's articles in our neighborhood paper are always interesting and this one certainly was not an exception.
Last night after dinner John and I randomly found White Christmas on AMC. Even though I've seen it several time I watched the whole thing again because of my new interest in Vera-Ellen. John bailed at the part on the train where the 4 main characters start spontaneously singing about snow. I like musicals. I also think V-E was an amazing dancer. One of our neighbors up the street, Kath Hueneman (who has lived her entire life on the hill) actually remembers Vera-Ellen. Kath told me that V-E was her older sister (who played the piano @ Belvedere for the silent movies in the 30's) contemporary and knew her much better than Kath did. Apparently every costume (including the nightgowns) that Vera-Ellen wore for this 1954 movie had a high neckline because she was battling anorexia which made her neck look old.
It seems the fate of this building is no longer as "in play" as when Jim's article went to press since this morning I saw it's MLS status is pending sold. The list price of $330,000.


"M" said...

My husband and I are the new owners of 1033! We've researched the history of the building at the Cinti Historical Society, library and your helpful(and fun) blog. We still seek photos of the facade as it may have originally looked. Any ideas? We have seen historical rear views from the viaduct, but not from the street. We hope to make some history of our own there, but want to be true to the building's past.

awb said...

Congratulations on the purchase! I have some photos of the structure when Carolyn Von Stein owned it and would be pleased to share them with you.

bryanmock said...

Thanks. Can you email them to


Anonymous said...

Eleanor Hauck Hessler was my Great Grandfather's sister. I have a picture of her with Vera Ellen handed down in the family. So glad to see the studio hasn't been demolished! - Vicki