Joseph Thomas Carew, a Canadian American department store owner, was born in Peterboro, Ontario on January 2, 1848 to a well-to-do Irish family working for the British government in Canada. After schooling, he decided to move to America and became an American citizen, joining the clothing firm of C. R. Mabley in 1869.
He quickly rose to become manager of the Detroit branch and was offered a partnership by Mabley at a new store to be opened in Cincinnati, which he decided to take. Around this time, he married Alice E Stewart, daughter of a Detroit shipowner. They had two children together, Robert and Elaine.
The Carew family moved to Cincinnati where he organized the construction of a new, six story department store at the corner of Fifth and Vine Streets. Upon Mabley’s death in 1885, he became sole proprietor of the store and became well known in Cincinnati.
Over his career, he became a prominent Freemason and active public servant, ultimately being presented with the “Golden Key of the City” by the Chamber of Commerce. He was appointed a Trustee of the Cincinnati Southern Railroad in 1905. He was a loyal Republican and a three-time Presidential Elector from Ohio and chairman of the Ohio Electoral College.
He died at his home in Walnut Hills near Cincinnati on December 11, 1914. Joseph was buried in Spring Grove cemetery in a Victoria White Granite mausoleum provided by George Dodds and Sons Granite Company, now Dodds Memorials. The mausoleum is described as “true beauty of architectural refinement” in the George Dodds and Son’s Modern Memorial Art Catalog.
The Carew name is most well-known today as being the namesake to one of Cincinnati’s tallest buildings, the 49 story Art Deco Carew Tower, which was built in 1931 over the site of his office block. The tower remained the city’s tallest until the completion of the Great American Tower at Queen City Square on July 13, 2010, rising 86 ft higher than Carew Tower.