Wednesday, March 21, 2012

from Greater Cincinnati Memorial Project
History of East Walnut Hills from Sotheby's
Early in Cincinnati’s history, Walnut Hills included East Walnut Hills, Mount Auburn, Avondale, and an area north of Eden Park. Therefore, the history of East Walnut Hills must begin with Walnut Hills - supposedly named for the many walnut trees that were there to greet the first visitors.

The recorded history of Walnut Hills begins with the arrival of Presbyterian minister, Reverend James Kemper, in 1791. In 1804, Rev. Kemper replaced his original make-shift dwelling with a sturdy log cabin for his family. The Kemper clan lived in this cabin until 1897. It was considered such an important artifact in the early development of Cincinnati, that it was moved first to the Cincinnati Zoo, and later to the Heritage Village in Sharon Park. It’s one of the very oldest residences in Ohio that is still standing. 

By 1819, the Walnut Presbyterian Church was built in the area of what is now the corner of William Howard Taft and Gilbert Avenue. In the East Walnut Hills area the first church was actually a converted barn that Francis Fortman donated so that resident Catholics could gather. This barn was located on McMillan Street opposite Hackberry. Soon thereafter, the first stone church was built in 1850 on the SW corner of Taft and Hackberry. 

In 1866, East Walnut Hills officially became a separate neighborhood entity. Founders include Henry Westjohn, W. W. Scarborough (grocery merchant), Francis Fortman, and Joseph Kleine, and John Baker (lumberman). These original landowners built fantastic homes, such as John Baker's home, that matched their success.

These empire builders wanted church that reflected their own magnificent success and which would rival the great churches of their European homeland. Thus, in 1879, the St. Francis de Sales Church was completed. Created in a Middle German, French Gothic architectural style, this church cost $200,000 to build. Inside, you will see one of the most magnificent altars in the Midwest. Outside, at 230 feet, this is also one of the tallest churches in Cincinnati.

It was in their homes, however, that these early wealthy citizens expressed their place in society. East Walnut Hills has, for its size, one of the largest collections of stunningly beautiful homes in Cincinnati. Many are on quite large lots. A substantial number of homes in this neighborhood are made of brick or stucco. This is because, in some areas, a condition to build was that the home could not be a wood frame house. 

Two styles of architecture were popular among the early residents. Romantic and Colonial Revival. Examples of Romantic architecture can be seen in the homes at: 1887 Madison Road - (The Baker House), 1831 Keys Crescent - (The Keys/Hollister House), 1831 Keys Crescent - (The Dexter House), and 3036 Fairfield Avenue - (The Bates House).

Some excellent examples of Colonial Revivial architecture are: 2957 and 2999 Annwood, 2928 Wold Avenue, 1854 Keys Crescent, and - 2766 Baker Place - which is currently for sale.
2766 Baker Place was designed and built in 1902 Elzner & Anderson, one of the most prestigious architectural firms in early Cincinnati. Built for Charles & Lily Livingood - Charles was the personal executive to Mary Emery, one of the pillars of early Cincinnati and noted philanthropist. It was Charles Livingood who supervised Mary Emery's visionary development of Mariemont. Lily Livingood was the great-grandaughter of General William Lytle, for whom Lytle Park was named. William Lytle was the surveyor of the Northwest Territories.

The Luedeking House  Luedeking House on Keys Crescent was the last architecturally important residence constructed before the start of the Great Depression.

Other landmarks of note.The Seventh Presbyterian Church was erected in 1886 and the firehouse was built in 1888. East Walnut Hills is home to The Cincinnati Tennis Club, one of the oldest tennis clubs in the nation! It is located on Dexter Avenue, in the same place where it was originally built in 1899.
With its fantastic architecture, views of the Ohio River, lovely parks, shopping, dining, proximity to downtown, O’Bryonville, and Hyde Park ... East Walnut Hills is truly one of Cincinnati’s gems. Here is a link to the East Walnut Hills Community website.

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