Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Series:Cincinnati West Side "Knox Hill History" Part 1 The Early History

This is part of a series on the History of the Cincinnati West Side leading up to the CPA West Side Preservation Summit on June 5th, at the Westwood Library. You can register to attend the summit here:
As a lead up to the summit we will cover and present various histories and photos of the west side and its history. Today Courtesy of the Knox Hill Neighborhood Association, a history of Knox Hill, Part 1: The Early History

The City of Cincinnati has 50 plus carefully mapped our neighborhoods, however there are dozens of small "pocket neighborhoods" that are unique in history because of their place in the development of Cincinnati or the community that populated them , such is the case of Knox Hill.

This unassuming Federal Style Center hall in Knox Hill may be one of the earlier homes in the city dating to the early 1840's, probably the centerpiece of one of the " country gentlemen farms" that populated the area.

Most are unaware of the Knox Hill neighborhood and its part in the early history of Cincinnati. Siting on the border where North and South Fairmount meet on the top of one of the highest hills in Fairmount sits the Knox Hill Neighborhood. The area was originally made up of several small farms. Most notably the Luckey, Kinsey, Clark and Walker Farms. in early maps . Some of the oldest Pre Civil war homes in the City of Cincinnati are in Knox Hill, some may be as early as 1840. In fact the earliest map found from 1869 shows 14 houses. Some of those original homes remain.
Much of the details have been lost over the years due to street name changes. It is interesting to note this early map from 1869 Knox Street was only one block long and was called Irwin as you went East. What is now Fairmount was known as Central Ave. Prospect street is now called Luckey Street in honor of one of the original founders. Locals simply called the area at the top of the hill Kinsey Farm or "Knox hill". Knox Street was named in honor of General Henry Knox, head of artillery under General George Washington.
General Henry Knox

It was the site where Christian Park is today that shaped the history and development of the area.

On June 22, 1848, a meeting of the Education Society was held in Cincinnati to consider the project of a new seminary. In July, 1848, four persons, acting on their own responsibility, purchased the Walker farm, comprising the whole of the Hill Fairmount except the slope south of a line running east and west along the ridge, a tract of 178 acres, extending from Mill Creek westward over the summit and back a quarter of a mile or more. It was at the time one of the most beautiful of the hills that encircled Cincinnati, with a fine outlook on the city. Thirty acres of this land were set apart for a theo­logical seminary. Ten acres on the summit of the hill at the east front, and twenty acres at the extreme west of the farm An exaggerated estimate valued these tracts at $20,000 each, or $40,000 for the whole. A company was organized to hold the other property in ten shares, and was known as the Fairmount Land Company. In May, 1849, the Education Society voted to accept the donation, and called a convention which assembled at the Ninth Street Baptist Church, October 31, 1849. The decision was made to build a seminary on the site.
It was a Gothic structure of brick, 112 feet, 8 inches in length, 54 feet, 8 inches broad, four stories in height, besides a basement above ground, the summit crowned with eight pinnacles, capped with iron finials. It had room for forty students, a chapel at the north end, whose dimensions were 44 x 41 feet, and 25 feet in height, a library across the second story, south end, 40 x 25 feet. The total cost was $20,8051.99. The students' rooms were furnished by the ladies of churches in Lebanon, Franklin, Lockland, Hamilton, Piqua and the First Church in Dayton, First Cleveland and Ninth Street, Cincinnati.

The seminary began its exercises October 27, 1853. During the first year there were seventeen students, ten of them being from Ohio. A library of 1,300 volumes had been secured, to which subsequently were added 2,363 vol­umes, purchased from the seminary in Covington for $4,200. After the discon­tinuance this library was transferred to Denison University.

At the com­mencement exercises, held in the chapel June 17,1857, five speakers were repre­sented on the program, and a sixth senior was reported who was unable to be present. In 1855 the financial report shows that subscriptions had been re­ceived for $26,224.49, of which $19,874.59 had been paid. During the year receipts had been $5,829.28, expenses, $7,098.03, including interest paid to the amount of $1,868.80, leaving thus for the year a deficit of $1,269.35, with a total indebtedness of more than $12,000. The increase of this indebtedness during the following two years, with the financial embarrassment of the land company, led to the discontinuance of the seminary. The property fell into the sheriff's hands, and was purchased by a German, who devoted the building and grounds to the pur­pose of a shooting park.

There began the most important chapter of Knox Hill

Tomorrow part 2: The German History and Neighborhood of Knox Hill

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