Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Bismarck Cafe Ladies Restaurant

The Bismarck Ladies Dining Room (Restaurant)
The Bismarck Cafe Ladies Restaurant

Location: Mercantile Library Building (414 Walnut Street), Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Opened: 1904

Closed: After 1915

According to Cincinnativiews, the Bismarck Cafe (also known as The Bismarck or Bismarck's) was originally located at 612 Vine Street and then moved into the Mercantile Library Building at 414 Walnut Street in 1904. The president and manager of the Bismarck, at least from December 1904, was the legendary Cincinnati "master" of the restaurant business, Emil G. Schmitt. Here's what Cincinnati Views says about the Bismarck:

Mercantile Library Building (1910)
It was the largest establishment of its kind in Cincinnati and served the higher class trade. It was divided into three large departments -The Lady's Grill Room, Grill Room, and Gentlemen's Cafe. They were well known for their German food and there were around 150 chefs, cooks, and waiters serving it. 

As we can see, the drinking/dining spaces at the Bismarck were very much separated and distinguished by sex. However, it does not appear that these various spaces at Bismarck's were consistently named or identified. Either that, or they evolved over time. 

More specifically, the "Ladies Grill Room" was also referred to at various times as the "Ladies Restaurant" or the "Ladies Dining Room."

Ad for the Bismarck Cafe, Hamilton Sun,
February 10, 1906

The 1906 ad reproduced from the Hamilton Sun (left), for example, only mentions a "Grill Room" and the "Bar" (which were apparently reserved for the gents) and the "Ladies Restaurant." No "Ladies Grill Room" or "Gentlemen's Cafe" as such. 

Ad for Bismarck Cafe (Pre-1904)

The (gorgeous!) ad reproduced at the Cincinnati Views site (right) also mentions at the very top that there was a "Ladies Restaurant" and that it was located (where else?) on the second floor. This was from the days when the Bismarck was still located on Vine Street. (Also note the surprising variety of foreign and domestic beer.)

Just to add to the confusion, a 1915 ad in the Lancet (not reproduced here) states that there was a "Grill Room", a "Gentlemen's Cafe" and a "Ladies Dining Room." The photo at the very top also refers to the "Ladies Dining Room."

So at any rate, Bismarck's Cafe was a place where the ladies were sequestered into their own space, separate from the men. Whatever it was called. Though, predictably, the gentlemen had more spaces. And spaces that varied from the quite formal to the relatively casual (for the upper crust of the early 20th century). 

Photos of the men's spaces are reproduced below. 

Gentlemen's Dining Room, Bismarck Cafe
Gentlemen's Bar, Bismarck Cafe

Bismarck Cafe - apparently the Gentlemen's Bar (1915)

(Men's?) Grill Room, The Bismarck

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