Thursday, May 20, 2010

Series: Cincinnati West Side History, Part 2 Knox hill and the German Community

As part of the lead up to the West side Preservation summit, June 5th at the Westwood Library, we have been covering the history of west side neighborhoods. Yesterday we talked about the early history of Knox Hill and today we followup that history with "The German Community'
When the seminary proved to be a financial disaster a group of wealthy German businessmen were determined to buy the property and create a "Shooting Club". A place where people could gather and socialize. Go hunting on the acres surrounding the property and engage in shooting competitions. The already grand structure was further enlarged with huge verandas and a giant rooftop gazebo to take in the spectacular view of the city.

With it great location, overlooking the city in the distance it quickly became the perfect 'weekend getaway' for the monied elite. The beer garden became and immediate hit as well, This success spurred the development of the land around the area. many were attracted to the rather rural character of the area and many began to built weekend cottages on the hill. These cottages were a great relief from the soot and grime of the city and the proximity to the beer garden, made this a hot spot with wealthy German industrialists.
Families would make the couple of hour trek by horse and wagon across the mill creek valley on weekends to Knox Hill. Today with modern highways and roads its hard to think of the area as being 'distant' from the city but in the Victorian era it was far away.
Tragically the Schuetzen Verein burned in 1888. the only remains of the once grand structure can be seen on a house on Fairmount where columns from the Grand Veranda beer garden were salvaged and used to build a porch.

Times changed and the wealthy German industrialists were attracted to the new suburbs of Westwood and Avondale and auto transportation made the idea of having a city and a country house a thing of the past. the weekend cottages of Knox Hill were expanded and became year round homes to mostly German shopkeepers, businessmen and managers. The small pocket neighborhood became an 'enclave ' of the German community where German could often be heard as mother called their children.

Based on a "living history account" by the Grandson of one of those German families whose grandmother lived in Knox Hill in the late 1920's:

"On the weekends, after church we would all go to grandmothers house. As was the custom at the time when one entered the front wrought iron front gate German was the language of the day. We kids would play in the yard while the adults chatted away in German sitting under the large shade trees."

The old site of the Schuetzen Verein survived on as a military academy and medical school. The land was acquired through a donation of 10.661 acres by Louis J. Hauck and George F. Dieterle in 1912 and later purchases.

Louis Hauck (1866-1942) was the son of John Hauck who was founder of the Dayton Street brewery, famous for its "golden eagle" brand. Louis became president of the company in 1893 and oversaw great expansion in the John Hauck Beer Bottling Company. Louis at one time also owned the Cincinnati Zoo, was president of the German National Bank and president of the Cincinnati Reds in 1886.
George F Dieterle was a well known Cincinnati distiller and grandfather of Mrs Louise D Nippert. George F Dieterle was once president of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and Merchants exchange.

Today the park consists of 18.4 acres and is located at Fairmount ave and Iroquois street, overlooking the Mill Creek Valley. Part of St Clair Heights Park is operated by the City of Cincinnati Recreation commission. it was originally called Schuetzenbuckle Park but anti German sentiment during the war resulted in the change to St Clair Heights Park

The Knox Hill Neighborhood remained a German enclave well into the 1940's, after WW2 the area became settled by mostly young military families, however many of the homes were passed down among those early German families and some remained in the same family ownership for over 100 years!

Today after a more than a decade of decline the area is making a comeback and efforts are being made to have the area declared a national and state historic district.

No comments: