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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Around the Neighborhood

 Article and Photos (except where indicated) By Grace DeGregorio

Take a walk, a run or a ride through the neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Mt. Lookout, Oakley, East Walnut Hills, Columbia Tusculum and  O’Bryonvile and you will be treated to a visual wonderland of history and charm.

The tree-lined streets, the green parks, the impressive architecture and - maybe most of all - the friendly faces you encounter make this area of Cincinnati special. 

In celebration of the communities Hyde Park Living is privileged to cover, we are undertaking a series bringing our readers on a mini-tour.  We hope to include many of the beloved areas you may pass every day, but not always have the time to stop and ponder. 

Some may bring you fond memories -  from your childhood, sharing time with someone special, activities with family or friends.  Others may bear some significance in your life - your school, your church, your favorite place to unwind.  It’s a chance to take a step back and recognize how much we appreciate the area that surrounds us.

There are so many places to include, we’re bound to leave some out unintentionally.  If you have a favorite place in one of the above neighborhoods you would like to see appear on our pages, please email the information to

Here is our first installment - we hope you enjoy it!

Hyde Park Square
Where else could we begin our mini-tour but in the heart of the neighborhood? According to, Hyde Park was established in 1892 by several prominent businessmen, the “Mornington Syndicate.”  The community was named after the elegant Hyde Park area of New York. It was incorporated as a village in 1896 and annexed by the City of Cincinnati in 1903.  Photos from the early 20th century show electric streetcar lines that ran along Erie Avenue and Edwards Road. 

Evening view of Hyde Park Square
The two-block area of Hyde Park Square has evolved since 1900, when Charles Kilgour donated the Kilgour Fountain to the people of Hyde Park. Restored in 1976, the bronze fountain is the focal point for patrons of the banks shops, galleries and restaurants in the Square and is a favored resting place for runners, walkers, bikers and families pushing baby carriages.. 

The Square is home to the annual Hyde Park Square Art Show and other events hosted primarily by local businesses. Within walking distance are the Hyde Park Fire Station, Hyde Park Branch Library, Hyde Park School, Hyde Park Baptist Church, Knox Presbyterian Church and the Hyde Park Center for Older Adults. 

For babes to nonagenarians, the Square is a happening place!
Kilgour Fountain

Hyde Park Fire Department - Station 46 is a source discussing some of the history of this historic building.  After Hyde Park was annexed by the City of Cincinnati in 1903,  Engine 46 was organized in 1906 and the station built in 1908.  Literally a “cornerstone” of the community, its location is at the corner of Erie and Michigan.

In an April 2008 Hyde Park Living article, writer Kelly Wilson reported, “In a 12 month period, the Hyde Park Fire Station made 1,348 runs.”  She also noted runs are made not only in response to fires but for other emergencies, mostly medical. 

Use of technology is key to a fire station, a stark contrast to what fire fighting was like in earlier days.  By way of example, the Cincinnati Fire Museum chronicles one of the most dramatic fires the Hyde Park station faced decades ago.  It was early Sunday, January 16, 1927, when residents of the Al’aise Apartments in Hyde Park were roused by a fire in the building.  After building custodian Arthur Wells - who lived in the Al’aise Aparatments -  rescued several residents, he ran to the fire house at the end of Hyde Park Square yelling for help. 

Then, “Firemen from Engine 46 were on scene in a matter of minutes.  Acting Marshal Hall recognized the threat posed by the fire and called for a ten blow response.  Firemen immediately whet to action evacuating the building.  It was a Sunday morning and the first floor shops had not opened for business.  Occupants were startled by the noise, smoke., and calls of ‘fire.’  Everyone was rushed into the freezing cold wearing only their night clothes. 

“One resident, Mrs. Holden, had to be carried down the steps by policemen who were at work helping the firemen.  Many of the residents managed to grab some small article of value as they left their apartments.  Soon after the policemen reached the ground level with Mrs. Holden, the stairway they were using collapsed.  All the residents escaped the building uninjured.

“On the street more fire engines and ladder trucks were arriving on the scene.  Fire hose was stretched into the building and an attack made on the fire.  Ice began to cover the outside of the building.  Fire lines started to freeze to the ladders from which they were deployed.  The firemen themselves were locked inside their frozen rubber fire coats. 

“Chief Barney Houston arrived on scene to take command.  As he made his way up an ice covered stairway he fell backward.  A sharp pain in his back necessitated his removal to General Hospital via police patrol. 

Hyde Park Fire Department - Station 46
“The Salvage Corps under the command of Captain Conway had arrived on scene and started forcing entry into the stores on the first floor.  Businesses included The Middlekamp Pharmacy, Kroger Grocery, Nagele Dry Cleaners, The "L" Shoe Store, The Charles F. Lahke Hardware Store, The Busy Bee Sandwich Shop and a Beauty Shop.  Tarpaulins were deployed to protect the stock, most of which was saved.

“Albert Toeffer and Frank Filusth, members of Engine 16, were working a hose line on the 4th floor when they saw the roof begin to sag.  They quickly abandoned their position as the roof came crashing through the attic.  Despite the frigid cold, the firemen managed to save the building, but nearly all of the apartments and their contents were destroyed.

“The residents who managed to escape found shelter from the cold in the firehouse and the residence of the Rev. Maxwell Long of the Episcopal Church of the Little Redeemer on Edwards Road.  Members of the church had been preparing a Sunday communion breakfast when word of the fire reached them.  The congregation went to work bringing the victims inside.  Other members of the church went into the street and distributed the breakfast they had prepared to the firemen and police officers who were unable to step away from the job at hand.”

The number of rescues over the many decades by the dedicated fire fighters and staff at Fire Station 46 can’t easily be counted.  Neither can the magnitude of gratitude they are owed for their selfless bravery.

Hyde Park School
According to,, there has been a school at Edwards and Observatory since 1823.  In 1872, with the area still mostly rural, a school was built adequately serving residents until suburban development proliferated in the 1890s and a new school was needed to accommodate the growth. 

The current Hyde Park School  building was designed by renowned Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford.  Its stunning  twin turrets and magnificent gabled red tile roof are the focal points of the four-story building, which was constructed and dedicated in 1902.

The impressive architecture of Hyde Park School is a source of pride for the neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Hyde Park School).
This building continued to be used until the 1920s.  However, the constant development in the neighborhood required additional space.  A two-story brick addition with a gym was connected to the original building and opened in 1927. Both of these buildings are still standing today.

When Hyde Park Elementary School was closed in 2005 due to a decline in the student population, the building became a temporary location for Kilgour and Mt. Washington schools during their renovations.  A grassroots effort - which demonstrated tremendous support for the re-opening of the school as well as ideas for its evolution to meet the diverse needs of all students - succeeded.

Enjoying the new community play yard at Hyde Park School.   (Photo courtesy of Hyde Park School) 
Hyde Park School again welcomed neighborhood students in 2012, providing education through three learning communities: the Cincinnati Gifted Academy – a gifted learning community serving students throughout the District in grades 3-6; a neighborhood school – a traditional learning community serving students from Hyde Park, Oakley and Evanston; and a preschool.

After the 2014-15 school year, the preschool was moved to accommodate the growing number of students in the neighborhood school. Also starting with the 2016-17 school year, the magnet Cincinnati Gifted Academy started moving out to make additional space for the growing neighborhood school. The 2019-20 school year will be the last year for any Cincinnati Gifted Academy classes.

The community play yard at Hyde Park School is well used!  (Photo courtesy of Ed Paff, current Hyde Park School PTO President)
A collaboration between the Hyde Park School Foundation, Hyde Park School PTO and Cincinnati Public Schools resulted in the construction of a creative, safe and multi-purpose play yard on the school grounds. Working closely with parents, teachers and the local community, an enthusiastic and talented organizing committee was gratified to see the play yard unveiled - on time as planned - for the 2018 school year.  Open to the entire community, children are welcome to enjoy healthy exercise and play in the beautiful outdoor setting.

In an effort to partner more with the Hyde Park community, a recently completed area of the community play yard called Harmony Park opened.  It includes musical instruments designed by students in one of the many electives in which they are involved.

The new Harmony Park installation (Photo courtesy of Ed Paff, current Hyde Park School PTO President)
Mrs. Jill Sunderman, Hyde Park School Principal, reports the school has over 550 students enrolled for the 2019-2020 school year, with faculty and staff numbering more than 60.  This year the school welcomed new assistant principal Tiffani Wills and seven new teachers.

Most importantly, as part of the Cincinnati School District's 2020 Program, Hyde Park School will be offering a flexible, adaptive learning environment that fulfills its goal of providing a personalized education program for each student.

Hyde Park Branch Library
The Hyde Park Branch Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has a long history, which started in the 19th century.  From 1899 to 1911, library services were offered in Hyde Park through a delivery station in a drugstore.

Hyde Park Branch Senior Library Services Assistant Clare Harless shares, “I guess the most interesting thing about our location is that our building was built in 1912 through a donation of funds from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. However, while we are still technically a Carnegie Library, the façade and interior were completely changed during the last renovation in 1970. People are always surprised to learn that we are a Carnegie!” The beautiful structure is one of seven remaining Carnegie libraries in Hamilton County.

The ADA accessible Hyde Park Branch sure a busy place!  According to Harless, “In 2018 we had around 104,000 patrons visit our branch (5,550,000 was around the total number of people to visit all of our library locations!)”

Patrons find an extensive collection at the Hyde Park Branch.  Harless notes in 2017 there were roughly 45,000 books; 12,000 movies, CDs and audiobooks; and 2,000 magazines.  “However,” she adds, “all the branches in our system are part of a floating collection (whatever items are returned here will stay here until they are checked out again.) The amount of items we carry can fluctuate every day because of this.”

Hyde Park Branch Library
To reiterate, it’s a busy place:  In 2018, 207,096 items circulated out of the branch!

In addition to the basic services of checking out items and offering book suggestions, some of the services provided by the branch include the following:
- My Librarian appointments (30 minute one-on-one session to help with things such as basic computer assistance, resumes, downloading ebooks, research assistance, basic genealogy, Reader’s Advisory)
-Discovery Pass (provides cardholders with free passes to specific attractions around the county, including a temporary Great Parks parking pass)
-Educator Cards/Teacher Collections (cards specifically for teachers and assistance with gathering books to be used in classrooms)
-Book Club Cards (cards for book club groups and assistance with gathering multiple copies of books for book club use)
-Curbside Service (call ahead- your holds or specific books you request will be brought out to your car)
·Meeting Room (available for non-profit meetings or study sessions)

In addition, programs (which Hyde Park Living is pleased to list monthly) are offered to all age groups.  They include everything from Babies Storytime to seasonal themes to book clubs.  Off-street parking behind the library makes it convenient to visit.

And, when you do visit, the friendly and knowledgeable librarians at the Hyde Park Branch always are happy to help you!

Hyde Park Baptist Church
The Hyde Park Baptist Church was founded in 1790 by a surgeon in George Washington's army. At its founding, it had nine members. It moved to its current location on the corner of Michigan and Erie Avenues in 1904. 

Hyde Park Baptist Church 
The beautiful architecture of the church houses a community with members born locally as well as in countries around the world.  In addition to worship services, many programs and outreach opportunities are offered.

Knox Church
In 1895 The Presbytery of Cincinnati established Knox Church at a time when Hyde Park was experiencing rapid growth. According to Cincinnati’s Hyde Park: A Queen City Gem by Gregory Parker Rogers, its 34 members initially gathered on the second floor of a feed store located at what is now Griffiths Avenue.  The Hyde Park Syndicate provided a 50' x 150' lot on the corner of Erie and Shaw (now the location of the Hyde Park Center for Older Adults) on which the cornerstone of the first Knox Church was laid in October 1895.  Built to accommodate 250 worshipers, the church building was dedicated in April 1896.

Knox Church
When the congregation outgrew its building, in 1928 the cornerstone of a new location on the corner of Observatory and Michigan was laid.  The new church, with its distinctive and beautiful Indiana limestone facing, was dedicated in 1929. Continued expansion has taken place in ensuing decades to include a school, chapel and remodeling to make the church accessible to persons with disabilities. 
In 2007 groundbreaking took place for a two-story addition to the original building that has become Knox Commons.  The multipurpose area that accommodates 275 people was dedicated in 2008.
The Knox Church Music Series presents different genres featuring programs for children, jazz and classical - all open to the public.

Hyde Park Center for Older Adults
Founded in 1974 by a committee of churches and neighborhood activists who saw the need for a center and services to support the independence of older adults, the Hyde Park Center for Older Adults is celebrating its 45th anniversary.  As noted above, it is located at the original site of the Knox Church.

An independent, community-based nonprofit, the Center welcomes anyone age 60 and older to attend programs, meals and activities.  Among its services are transportation to medical appointments, grocery and drugstores and Center meals and activities; access to an on-site licensed counselor to help with paperwork such as bill paying and applications for public benefits; wellness, nutrition and learning through its numerous monthly programs.

Hyde Park Center for Older Adults 
The Hyde Park Center welcomes volunteers of all ages.  The second floor of the building was filled at a recent Volunteer Appreciation Lunch, with servers from St. Mary School across the street volunteering to help honor the volunteers! 

Activities offered at the Center are interesting and varied.  They include cards and games, movies and discussion groups, as well as programs bringing in speakers (such as for the Center’s History Series) and entertainment (vocal and music groups).  Some of the activities offered at the Center benefit the community at large.  For example, a group which meets regularly to crochet and sew baby items donates their beautiful items to Cincinnati Children’s. 

In addition, there are activities outside the Center, including walks around the Square and a Travel Club which plans day trips based on input from Center patrons.

Older adults - whether or not family and friends are close by - will enjoy the camaraderie and ongoing opportunities for boosting well-being found at the Hyde Park Center.

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