Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Avondale Athletic Club to Xavier University

As a student as Xavier University, I pass this sign in front of the Cintas Center when walking to class:
Source - Author
So I just had to know what the heck the AAC was. The little sign at the bottom gives a bit more information - AAC was the Avondale Athletic Club, once on the campus of Xavier. But what was this club, where was it located and what happened to it?

The Avondale Athletic Club was founded in 1897. The following article from the Cincinnati Enquirer details more about the club:
The members of the fashionable circles on the hilltops are very much interested in the organization of the Avondale Athletic Club. The clubhouse is now an assured fact, and a large force of men are at work on the grounds purchased by the club from Mr. C.C. Bragg.
The accompanying cut (picture) conveys an excellent idea of the magnificent clubhouse which is being built. The clubhouse is the design of Mr. Matthew Burton, a Cincinnati boy, who has already attained a reputation here and throughout the country as an architect. The Avondale Club is one of the best examples of his ability to combine thorough convenience and comfort with a design entirely artistic and pleasing.
The membership of the club is limited to 200, and already 158 members have signed the club roster.
The club grounds will afford ample facilities for all out-door sports, such as golf, football, baseball, tennis, croquet, bicycling, shooting clay pigeons, and a large swimming pool, which is now being built, will be ample in size to accommodate all who desire to swim in summer and skate in winter.
The entire valley in the back of the clubhouse will overlook the fields on which the out-door sports are to be held.
The club building will have large billiard rooms, four bowling alleys, shower bathe for athletes, lounging rooms, reading rooms, cardrooms for games without stakes, while the second floor will be a large auditorium capable of seating 500 people, and will be equipped with stage, scenery, &c., for entertainments such as lectures, plays, dances, card parties, &c.
A dancing school for children of members will also be maintained.
The by-laws of the club are framed on a liberal basis, and gentlemen in good standing in the community over 18 years of age are eligible to active membership. Each member must own at least one share of stock, par value $50, while the annual dues will be $25, payable semi-annually. Furthermore, sons of members between the ages of 15 and 20 years can enjoy the privileges of the club on the payment of $5 per year, and those between the ages of 20 and 25 on payment of $10 per year.
Tournaments of every description are to be given, and the Avondale Athletic Club’s flag and cups will no doubt be contested for in many future events…
Cincinnati Enquirer; Aug 15, 1897
Cincinnati Enquirer; Aug 15, 1897
The Avondale Athletic Club was the first location of the Cincinnati Master tennis tournament, now known as the Western & Southern Open. It is the oldest tennis tournament played in its original city in the United States.
Unfortunately, the club only lasted for six years and in 1903, it went into receivership after a dispute between the Club's Board of Governors and Mr. C.C. Bragg, who owned the land rented by the club. The clubhouse and the golf course was used by the Avondale golf club until 1911, when St. Xavier College purchased 22.5 acres and the building for $85,000.

The property’s existing clubhouse, built in 1898, was hastily renovated into a makeshift school building, complete with classrooms, a chapel, and a dining hall, while retaining the old bowling alley from the Avondale Athletic Club. Archbishop Moeller dedicated it in December of 1911, christening it Xavier Hall. It opened its doors with 87 students as a replacement for the Branch High School in January 1912, now under the name of Xavier Academy. Though the academy represented a bright hope for St. Xavier’s future, the pre-secondary and college students, as well as many of the high school boys, remained downtown.  "1911: A New Beginning Paper" by Mary Margaret Fletcher Source

Circa 1898 - Source
Financial difficulties and World War I delayed construction of buildings on the Xavier Avondale campus, but finally in 1920, Hinkle Hall and Alumni Hall (now Edgecliff Hall ) were completed.  Over the next 10 years, additional buildings were added to the campus and in 1930, St. Xavier College became Xavier University.
1950 Sanborn Insurance Map. Red box outlines the location of the Avondale Athletic Club building, then used as a dining and recreation hall. - Source

Many more buildings were added, especially in the 1960's and in 1965, the old Avondale Athletic Club building, known as the "Red Building" came down and was replaced with University Center, now know as Joseph Hall. But the memories of the "AAC" live on in the little mural in front of the Cintas Center.

More information on XU's history can be found in this presentation.

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