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     Cincinnati Parks: Emeralds In The Crown


“It is surprising what one can discover in a small area: a few acres, ten feet, or even one square foot. But most of us are too occupied to enjoy the earth; and that is why the parks are so extremely important to city dwellers...

                              Cincinnati Parks booklet; 1953. John Travers Moore. (pp. 39-40).


Five thousand acres in over one hundred parks and preserves…

Eighteen scenic overlooks…

And sixty five miles of trails…

All set in the beauty of the Ohio River valley and connected by ribbons of green.

This abundance of nature didn’t happen by accident. It blossomed out of the gifted design of an historic plan. And grew by the hands of laborers during the Great Depression. Through the actions of generations of devoted people it evolved into one of the top urban park systems in the country.

SOT - Mayor Mark Mallory: It's one of the undeniable assets that we have in this city.  And there are so few cities that can compete with us on this level. Our parks system is one of the things that makes us special.

The green backdrop to everyday life in Cincinnati…

Outdoor entertainment for over a hundred and fifty years…

Gems to be cherished…

A legacy that’s endured…

Cincinnati Parks.

MUSIC UP / Graphic - Program Title:

Cincinnati Parks:

Emeralds in the Crown

MUSIC UP /  Segment Title:

A Call for Parks


Whether it’s the view from an overlook…

A daily walk in a neighborhood park…

Or an outdoor lunch break…

Parks are so integrated into Cincinnati life that they’re sometimes taken for granted.

It wasn’t always so.

The need for parks wasn’t even considered until the middle of the 19th century,when Cincinnati became crowded with rapid growth.

City officials were hesitant to use public land because of maintenance costs and reduced tax income. The city even rejected early donations of land for parks, afraid that patrons like Nicholas Longworth, a wealthy landowner and pioneer in American winemaking, were trying to unload worthless property.

Andrea Tuttle Kornbluh:  There are certainly stories told about Nicholas Longworth repeatedly trying to give land to the city and the city fathers saying they were not interested in getting it.  By the 20th century, people sort of lamented the fact that the city could have greatly increased the amount of park land it had and refused to do that in the 19th century.  But it seems as though the city council was not really interested in parks until after the Civil War.


In the middle of the 19th century, the first parks were pieced together out of properties that had originally been designated for other purposes. Piatt Park was donated by John and Benjamin Piatt for use as a market in 1817 and later became a park. Today it’s a favorite outdoor destination for downtown residents and workers. (Super: acquired 1817)

Lincoln Park, demolished to make way for Union Terminal, and Washington Park were originally cemeteries. (Supers: Lincoln Park – acquired 1834; Washington Park - acquired 1855)

Andrea Tuttle Kornbluh:

Lincoln Park had about ten acres, the city used land that it already owned which had been for a pest house and pauper's graveyard.  And for Washington Park they purchased cemetery land adjoining Washington Square.  In places like Lincoln Park you could rent a boat and go boating, you could go ice skating in the winter.  So it offered recreational opportunities for citizens. (Super: Hopkins – acquired 1866)  They also in 1866 got their first park land donated to them which was land in Mount Auburn, just one acre called Hopkins Park which was the first land the city accepted as a park.

Steve Schuckman:

The city was growing at a tremendous rate, it was a very dense city,  particularly in the West End.  And as the city was filling up all the space in the basin and started to go up the hillsides it became clear that the city needed some breathing room.  And this is the city of the 19th century, the smoky city because of the way people were heating homes.  So the city started to set aside not many but a few parks.

Transition to images of Mt. Storm Park

NARRATOR: Mt. Storm Park sits majestically atop a hill overlooking the Mill Creek valley. In 1851, it was the estate of Robert Bonner Bowler, a wealthy man in the dry goods business. Moving to the hilltop suburb of Clifton to escape the filthy air and crowded conditions of the basin, Bowler and other wealthy families, built large homes on extensive tracts of land.

The Temple of Love, Mt. Storm’s most notable landmark, stands as a reminder of the grand estate that once occupied the site. It was the cover for a reservoir that supplied water to Mr. Bowler’s seventeen greenhouses, gardens, and orchards.  The Corinthian style pergola was designed by the first great Cincinnati Parks superintendent, Adolph Strauch.

Vivian Wagner:

Adolph Strauch was a Prussian landscape architect.  He studied in Vienna and other places around Europe and was working at The Great Exposition in London when he met Robert Bonner Bowler.  They chatted it up for a while.  He said, “If you’re ever in the United States, stop and visit me.”  Well, Strauch did come to the United States.  He had a delay in his train schedule in Cincinnati, decided he would visit Bowler and got to the Mount Storm estate and ended up never going back to Europe.  He ended up settling in Cincinnati.  Bowler hired him to manage the estate.

Jim Fearing:

He started getting other jobs here in Clifton, the Neff estate, the Buchanan estate, Probasco and it goes on and on.  He probably did virtually every estate in Clifton.  He would open up the scenery, he would take down fences, he would take down tree lines that blocked views.  And if your barn he considered ugly, he would come to you and say, “You know your barn is a blight on the landscape and I'm educated in these things, I have the taste to tell you this and you have to tear it down.”  Most of the time people complied.

Vivian Wagner:

He became superintendent to Spring Grove Cemetery and brought a whole new idea of how to do cemeteries, this idea of the lawn cemetery.  Before everything was divided up into little square plots with fences around it and you put whatever kind of stitch you wanted into it.  He tore down the fences and he's the reason that Spring Grove Cemetery is as gorgeous as it is now.

Andrea Tuttle Kornbluh:

And people used cemeteries in much the same way we might think of parks: as places to go for walks, picnic areas.  And that sort of landscaped outdoor space became a model, kind of visual model for what a park should be like.  It also became a legislative model because when the State of Ohio first creates legislation allowing cities to have parks, they base that on the legislation for cemeteries.

NARRATOR: Under Strauch’s supervision, Spring Grove became an internationally renowned landscape gardening site. Frederick Olmstead called Spring Grove ‘the best cemetery in the United States from a landscape gardening point of view.”

Jim Fearing:

There's a wonderful quote from Frederick Olmstead, the designer of New York's Central Park saying that when he needed inspiration, when he was just stumped and didn't have any ideas, he would come to Cincinnati and visit Spring Grove Cemetery and walk through it with Adolph Strauch.

Vivian Wagner:

Heck, you can't let a guy like that get away, he got hired to be superintendent of Cincinnati Parks.  And he brought that same kind of landscape vision to the parks  instead of focusing on little square lawns with fences around them, you know, and statuary all stiff.  He brought in this idea of vistas, groves of trees that would guide people's visions to a beautiful sight, a focal point. /  So we have him to thank for a lot of beauty that you find in Burnet Woods, in Eden Park.  That's who he was, he was the first big visionary who turned this into a gorgeous system.