Thursday, February 14, 2013

Before Cutter Playground

The Over-the-Rhine Blog mentioned my blog in their posting, Over-the-Rhine Streets of Yesteryear. The author was wondering what happened to the block north of Woodward Street between Sycamore and Broadway streets that is now the Cutter Playground. So I did some digging...
CAGIS Aerial 2011 - Source
As you can imagine in a dense neighborhood as Over-the-Rhine, this block was not originally left as vacant land for a park. This block was filled with businesses, tenements and single family homes. You can see the remnants on the property map below:
CAGIS 2013 map showing property lines. The vacated portion of Woodward Street is clearly seen, along with the property lines of smaller parcels. - Source

1887 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
I searched for older maps that showed even more information. On the above map, you can see just how dense a block it was in 1887. At the southwest corner of Sycamore and Franklin Streets (now Woodward Street) was The Franklin Furniture Company. You can also see the houses that surrounded the old Woodward High School building, which was actually the second building for the school. The first building was built on land donated by William Woodward and his wife, Abigail Cutter Woodward.

This school was built in 1855, the second school building on this lot. It was demolished in 1907 to make way for a new school building. - Source
1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Not many changes from 1887
In 1910, the "new" Woodward High School was opened. When this building was built, buildings to the east and west were demolished. According to a Cincinnati Enquirer article from 1907, it cost the Board of Education $100,000 to obtain this extra land.

1904-1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
If you look closely, you can see the old parcels underneath the "new" school building. These same maps were updated every year with any changes that occurred.
1949 Aerial Photo of Woodward High School and the block just north before the buildings were demolished for the Cutter Playground. - Source
As early as 1936, conversations began on the need for a playground to serve five schools in the area. The talks continued in 1951 and debate was started on whether the block north or south of Woodward High School should be demolished for the playground. Either block would cause a street to be vacated. By 1956, plans were finalized for the north block to be the site of the playground and fifteen buildings were demolished.
The caption reads: " For the healtier minds and sounder bodies of children of the densely populated downtown district, Cincinnati is clearing away part of the past... Fifteen buildings made way for Woodward Playfield north of Old Woodward High School. This view was taken from Sycamore Street looking east on East 14th Street.
Cincinnati Enquirer; August 27, 1955
Woodward High School moved to Bond Hill in 1953 and the Over-the-Rhine school building became Abigail Cutter Junior High School. The playground was also renamed to match the school. While the building changed once again in 1977 to the School for the Creative and Performing Arts, the Cutter name stayed with the playground to the present.
Cutter Playground - Source


  1. Sad that they're turning the playground into a parking lot. You should dig into 2225 maplewood in mt. auburn.

  2. Lots of people who have preceded the current "new finding" about the early history of Cincinnati may find this amazing and seemingly revealing information. However, lots of folks knew this....the historians already past. Yes, the block was filled with buildings; as expected in an early urban setting such as Cincinnati was and is.

    1. Bonnie,
      This blog is written for everyone, but especially for those who may be new to Cincinnati and our history. They may not be aware of just how much has changed.

  3. Great recap of the history would be nice to see what the plans for the future (the garage and park above) as a what happening now to this location... keep up the good work!,


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