From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Birch, Ernest O. and Edward E. [Birch Bros.]

The Birch brothers Ernest (1884-1951) and Edward (1887-1974), were born in Winchester, KY, the youngest two sons of Jane and barber Samuel Birch. Their older brother was Arthur Birch, a hotel porter, according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. The family of five lived at 125 E. Third Street in Winchester.

Ernest and Edward Birch would go on to create a partnership in 1908 known as Birch Brothers, an architecture business in Cincinnati, OH. They were not licensed in Ohio but are recognized as two of the earliest African American architects in the city. Ernest  was a graduate of Kentucky Normal and Industrial Institute for Colored Persons [now Kentucky State University], where he first studied to become a teacher  and later switched to carpentry.

Edward Birch studied architectural engineering at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute [now Hampton University]. According to the 1910 census, the two brothers were managing their business while lodged at the home of William and Eliza Ford on West Canal Street. [Eliza Ford was born in 1867 in KY.] By 1920, Ernest was married to Corenna Birch (born 1891 in KY); she is also listed as Ernest's wife on his World War II Draft Registration Card in 1942, a period when Ernest was employed by the Rubel Baking Company. He is listed as an architect at 3146 Gaff Avenue in the 1946 William's Cincinnati (Ohio) City Directory.

Also in 1920, Edward Birch was the husband of Susie B. Whittaker (born 1890 in KY); at that time, Edward was employed as a Pullman porter. The couple and Susie's sister lived on Mountfort Street in Cincinnati. Edward Birch was previously married to Eva Downey (born 1890 in KY), with whom he had a son, Augustine E. Birch, ( born 1908 in KY). The couple divorced in 1916; Eva and her son Augustine are listed as living in Winchester in the 1910 and 1930 censuses. Edward Birch is listed as a draftsman at 1123 Yale Avenue in the 1936-1937 William's Cincinnati Directory. He is credited with designing the Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

For more see the Ernest Octavius Birch and Edward Eginton Birch entries in African American Architects, 1865-1945, edited by D. S. Wilson.

Ernest: b. Sept. 16, 1885 - died Mar. 3, 1951 (Walnut Hills, OH); Buried in Union Baptist Cemetery, Cincinnati
Edward: b. Oct. 31, 1888  -  died July 31, 1974

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Clark County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Winchester, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Williams' Cincinnati directory (serial)
NKAA Source: African American architects : a biographical dictionary, 1865-1945

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry: Birch, Augustine Edward

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Birch, Ernest O. and Edward E. [Birch Bros.],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-08-19 15:50:47