German immigrants play a large role in the history and heritage of Cincinnati. There are many events and places in Cincinnati, home to the Evergreen Retirement Community, that reflect this heritage.
Almost one in four of Cincinnati residents say they have a German heritage. The city reflects this influence with the largest Oktoberfest in North America, the Oktoberfest Zinzinnati.
Here is more about the German influence and heritage in Cincinnati and the area, along with some ways you can enjoy it.
The History of Germans in Cincinnati
German immigrants in Cincinnati started arriving in the 1830s, but the biggest influx came in the 1880s, according to the Hamilton County Genealogical Society.
A neighborhood of Cincinnati was named Over-The-Rhine in a reference to the German river. Residents equated crossing the Miami & Erie Canal with crossing the Rhine into Germany. The influx of German immigrants to land north of this canal was driven by cheaper rental prices for the gardens and farms. Germans would eventually build the neighborhood into a bustling community.
German immigrants often kept their language, using it in churches, schools and four German-language newspapers. Beer gardens, clubs, restaurants, saloons and theaters began to appear that preserved their heritage. By the turn of the 20th century, many residents of the area were German-Americans.
Anti-German hysteria that accompanied World War I impacted families, which lost businesses and jobs. Breweries that had thrived were curbed because of Prohibition, the growth of the industry stalled and German communities were impacted.
After World War II, the community came alive again with a new wave of immigration from Germany, and proud displays of German heritage resumed. Beginning in 1976, the Oktoberfest Zinzinnati was started, the largest in the United States. The festival also includes the hilarious Running of the Weiner Dogs race.
How to Explore the German Heritage of Cincinnati
Here are groups and places that embrace the German culture in Cincinnati.
German-Americana Collection – Housed at the University of Cincinnati library, this is one of the nation’s largest collections of German history in the U.S. It features books, documents, journals, manuscripts, newspapers and pamphlets covering the culture, history and literature of German-Americans.
German Heritage Museum – This museum displays artifacts of the German-American culture of the region. It also showcases the work of the dozens of organizations that form the German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati.
German Food and Drink
Cincinnati is home to a number of German breweries. Among the most famous are:
- Christian Moerlein Brewing Company – This brewery was founded in 1853 by a Bavarian blacksmith who immigrated to Over-The-Rhine in Cincinnati. Christian Moerlein started brewing and selling European beer out of his blacksmith shop.
- Hudepohl Brewing Company – This is another long-standing brewery in Cincinnati, founded by Hannover immigrant Ludwig Hudepohl II in 1885. By the mid 1890s, Hudepohn was producing 100,000 barrels of German beer annually.
- Listermann Brewing Company – This is a much newer German brewery, started in 1991 by Dan and Sue Listermann. They started brewing their own beer at the Hamilton County Business Center. Along with brewing beer, the Listermanns also run a tap room.
- Rhinegeist Brewery – The newest brewery on this list, Rhinegeist was started in 2013 as an outlet for locally brewed craft beer. Rhinegeist also runs a tap room in Cincinnati.
Some of the best German and other breweries are featured in a number of brewery tours. The Brewery Heritage Trail tours site has more information.
German restaurants also abound in and around Cincinnati. Among the most well known are:
- Hofbräuhaus Newport – This restaurant is also a brewery in nearby Newport, Kentucky. This restaurant features authentic Bavarian favorites like bratwurst and schnitzel, along with local beers.
- Mecklenburg Gardens – This beer garden was voted the best in America by Travel and Leisure Magazine. It has been open for 150 years and features authentic German cuisine, along with contemporary American food.
- Servatii Pastry Shop & Deli – German cream puffs are one highlight of Servatti’s, but pretzels and brats are also the order of the day. Non-German foods and treats are also available. Servatii food locations are a feature of the Oktoberfest Zinzinnati festival.
- Wunderbar Covington – This restaurant in Covington, Kentucky, just over the river, features popular German food and events.
See the best restaurants in Cincinnati and Covington with Riverside Food Tours.
A number of organizations bring German-Americans together to celebrate their heritage, and help others find out about this rich history.
Cincideutsch – This club focuses on German language and modern German culture. Since its beginning in 2011, it has discussed such things as downtown German events, the local music scene, homebrewing and other cultural topics. Members meet at a “Regulars’ Table” at Mecklenburg Gardens.
Cincinnati Donauschwaben – This society brings together authentic German cultural groups to preserve the language and the culture of Central Europeans of German descent. They sponsor such activities as authentic German dance groups and gatherings for all ages.
German-American Citizens League – This is an umbrella organization for other German heritage groups in Cincinnati and Ohio. It was established in 1895 and has helped establish the Oktoberfest Zinzinnati and the German Heritage Museum.
Germania Society of Cincinnati – This group aims to maintain and perpetuate the German heritage of Cincinnati, according to its constitution. The group focuses on customs and traditions of Germany, with events all year long.
Kolping Society of Cincinnati – This is one of 11 groups connected with the Catholic Kolping Society of America. This group and the national society cater to German-American Catholics under the vision of the founder, Adolph Kolping.
Munich Sister City Association of Greater Cincinnati – This group promotes exchanges of business, culture, education and sports between Cincinnati and its sister city of Munich, Germany. The sister city relationship was established in 1989, and the association was formed in 1993. The association often meets at local beer gardens or restaurants.
Old St. Mary’s – This Roman Catholic church caters to those of German heritage by reciting a Mass in German each Sunday.
Make Your Own History at Evergreen Retirement Community
Evergreen Retirement Community can let you connect to the German heritage and other resources of Cincinnati. The community can take care of the concerns of daily living, such as cleaning and cooking, while you can be free to explore and enjoy the area.