Born in 1868, young Joseph Steinkamp attended parochial schools and Xavier College and later graduated from the Ohio Mechanic’s Institute. When Joseph’s father passed away in 1890, Joseph became the youngest architect in Cincinnati. They had shared an office on E. Court Street in downtown Cincinnati, he later moved to W. Court Street, and in 1897 took on his younger brother Bernard F. Steinkamp to form Joseph G. Steinkamp and Bro., Architects and Superintendents.
Following the completion of the Mercantile Library Building they moved into a suite of offices on the twelfth floor. Over the next forty some years, the brothers designed close to 300 structures in and around Cincinnati and beyond, often collaborating with Thomas Emery’s Sons.
Some of their notable buildings in the downtown, in addition to the Mercantile Library Building, include the Art Deco skyscraper, the American Druggist Fire Insurance Company building and the Hotel Metropole, now the 21c Museum Hotel.
In 1902, Joseph and his wife Laura (Menke) and their two sons Albert and Eugene, moved to an 1860s farmhouse at 912 Suire Avenue in Price Hill. Almost immediately, the brothers started designing homes on Suire Avenue and in the Price Hill area.
Joseph purchased two lots next door to their home in 1927 and designed his unique stone home at 916 Suire Avenue. Unfortunately, just over a year later, the new home sold at auction and the family moved back to the farmhouse.
The family moved to Anderson Ferry Road in Delhi 1934 and three years later the brothers designed a home for Laura’s sister and her husband, Ed Siefke across the street from their home.
Although there was little work for the architects during the Depression, by the mid-1930s they started designing buildings again. With the automobile rapidly gaining popularity, they designed several large automobile garages/showrooms in the downtown area. Towards the end of the 1930s, the partnered with C. Howard Gillespie and Nelson Felsberg in designing several homes, mostly in the Westwood area, and the beautiful, Art Deco Western Hills Pumping Station in South Fairmont.
Following the deaths of Laura and Bernard in 1943 and 1944, respectively, Joseph moved in with his son, Albert who lived on Relleum Avenue and for a short time, he had an office in Proust’s Corner.
Joseph spent the last year of his life in St. Francis Hospital and passed away in October of 1948. His obituary appeared in many newspapers, including the New York Times.
During his lifetime, Joseph was instrumental in developing the Building Code for Cincinnati and was involved in building codes on the state and national level. He had been president of the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and was made Member Emeritus in 1940. The brothers’ impact on the growth of Cincinnati was substantial. In addition to designing many “Streetcar Suburb Apartment Buildings” for Thomas Emery’s Sons that allowed people to move up the hills that surround the city, the designed buildings for many companies that grew into industry leaders, including Kroger, Castellini, and others. The designed banks, schools and churches, including St. William Parish, just two blocks from Joseph’s home on Suire Avenue. They also designed the recently renovated Elberon Apartments in Price Hill. Many homes around the city were designed by the brothers and they did a considerable amount of work in St. Bernard, Walnut Hills, Avondale, Clifton, and of course Price Hill. Many of the buildings they designed are still in use today and some have been renovated or repurposed for a new life.