Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Knox Hill's German History and St Clair Heights Park

St Clair Heights Park is a great community asset located at the end of Fairmount. However few residents realize the illustrious history of this site and its place in Cincinnati History.

St Clair Heights Park was once virgin wilderness and farmland and that site was chosen for the Baptist Seminary in the 1840's and construction began on a large impressive multi story structure that housed the seminary. This High Gothic structure was completed in 1851.

In the 1860's the Seminary and the grounds were sold to a group of wealthy German industrialists and businessmen who created the "Schuetzen Verein" A German social club with a shooting range ("Schuetzenbuckle") and beer garden. The High Gothic strucutre had an elaborate veranda addition added to take in the view and a huge tower was contructed on top of the structure. It was this development that led to the construction of many of the homes in Knox Hill which were built as weekend retreats by prominent Cincinnati Businessmen and Families to get away from the grime of the city and be close to the resort. The Schuetzen Verein lasted until 1888 when the building was consumed by a devastating fire. The neighborhood however remained an enclave of German businessman who settled in the area after the weekend cottages were sold off by the wealthy who had moved on to build grand suburban mansions in Westwood, Walnut Hills and Avondale.

The remaining buildings were used as a military academy and medical school. The land was acquired by the city in 1912 through a donation by Louis J Hauck and George F Deterlie of 10.66 acres. Today the park is 18 acres.
The Park was known as Schuezenbuckle Park but when anti German sentiment ran high during the war the park was renamed St Clair Heights Park after General Arthur St Clair who was the first governor of the Northwest territory. Some have suggested the park be renamed back to Schezenbuckle to honor the cities German Community and Heritage,

The park was threatened with extinction years ago when the city was considering the construction of low income housing on the site. The plan was defeated by area residents and the German Community who wanted to see an important part of Cincinnati History Preserved.
Today St Clair Heights Park, with its nature preserve , is a wonderful attraction to many West side residents and an important anchor for the neighborhood. One can only wonder what might have been had the resort not burned in 1888.

1 comment:

Todd McFarland said...

What a stunning building. So sad it had a short life.