Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mount Storm - Estate and Park

At the suggestion of a follower, I have been working on the history of Mount Storm park in Clifton. This park was established in 1912 and sits on Lafayette Avenue.
Source
Originally this land was purchased in 1845 by Robert B. Bowler, who was born in Rhode Island in 1803. He  moved to Cincinnati as a young man and began a dry good business on Pearl Street. He married Susan Louisa Pendleton, daughter of Nathaniel Greene Pendleton. His business was successful with the help of his brother-in-law, Elliott Hunt Pendleton and eventually Robert left the business to Elliott to pursue his interest in the Kentucky Central Railroad.

The following was written about the home in the Cincinnati Enquirer on January 13, 1917.
Many years ago, when East Fourth and Pike streets were the centers of the exclusive residential district of the city, Robert Bonner Bowler desired for his family a summer home “in the country.” In 1845 he purchased from Lafayette Bond the Mt. Storm site. A small frame house was erected. Ere long the Bowler family fell in love with the wonderful place from which an awe-inspiring view may be had. It was decided to make the spot a place of residence throughout the year.
It was then that Robert Bowler sought the aid of Strass, a famous European landscape gardener. Strass (Adolph Strauch) was employed to arrange the splendid gardens of Mt. Storm.
Strass it was who planned Spring Grove Cemetery after he had finished his task at Mt. Storm.
Lakes were a part of the landscape plans. Mr. Bowler sent abroad for swans to grace the water views. It was then that the first Australian swans were brought to the United States. Descendants of this same family of swans are those seen in the summer at Spring Grove. 
Adolph Strauch was from Vienna, Austria and the former supervisor  of the Imperial Gardens there. His work at the Bowler estate, named Mount Storm by Robert Bowler, occurred in 1850.

1847 Hamilton County Map - Source
1856 Hamilton County Map - Source
1869 Titus Map - Source
However, tragedy struck the Bowler family on July 4, 1864, when Robert Bowler was struck by an omnibus and killed. The home remained with his wife while she raised their children. If you look at the 1870 Census below (click for a larger view), you can see she had lots of help. There are 11 servants, maids and other household help listed!
1870 Census - Source
Susan Pendleton Bowler passed away in 1877 and ownership of the house and land were given to her children. Robert Bowler, Jr. eventually bought out his siblings and became the sole owner of Mount Storm. He married Alice Williamson and they had two daughters, Jane and Alice. Robert Jr. became Comptroller of the Treasury under President Grover Cleveland and once served as the Mayor of Clifton before annexation to Cincinnati.

Here is a description of the home from the Cincinnati Enquirer,  December 17, 1880
“Mount Storm” is the lovely and beautiful home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Bowler, in our handsomest suburb, Clifton. It is the old family mansion of the Bowler family. The old English home, odd in share and architecture, but spacious, with wide corridors, reception, and drawing-rooms, its little “lodge” at the gate, the wonderful conservatory and the magnificent grounds surrounding all are familiar to most Cincinnatians. They are familiar, because the gates of this aristocratic home are never closed, and every visitor who drives to Clifton “takes a turn” through the broad avenues of the grounds to get a glimpse of the beautiful views of the valley below, as well as to look at the velvety lawns, the rare plants and flowers in the conservatory or the statuary in the alcoves. This attractive place was a scene last evening of great brilliancy for the fashion, beauty and elegance of our Queen City and suburbs were gathered there…
The brilliant gas jets of parlor and hallways were reflected in the rich stained glass with which many of the windows were filled, and the prism’d gleams of light lent their aid in rendering a kaleidoscope of wondrous beauty… The entire residence was most lavishly decorated with rare plants, bright flowers and buds, exotics, evergreens and smilax, the perfume of which filled the air. 
Tragedy again struck the Bowler family when Robert, Jr. passed away in 1902 at the age 46 from heart problems. Alice and the girls remained at the home until 1911, when she sold the property, including the house to the City of Cincinnati for a park.

Before leaving the home, Alice had the tiles that lined the floor of the great hall removed and installed in the chancel floor (the space around the altar) at Calvary Church in Clifton, which had been their family's place of worship for three generations.

The house was used for various social gatherings from 1912 to 1916. The house had a caretaker, known as "Old Pat" who lived on the property until his death in 1916. Without a watchful eye, the house began to be used for "trysting" place and other social ills. Plans were made for its demolition.

Here is the article above from the Cincinnati Enquirer, January 13, 1917, with rarely seen pictures of Mount Storm:

City, Blind To Sentiment, Plans To Raze Bowler Mansion; Shelter House To Rise Where Stood Edward, King of England
 Walls that have sheltered a King; that have looked upon joy and sorrow alike, are about the be razed by a hand to which sentiment is a stranger.
The old Bowler mansion, Mt. Storm, Clifton, soon is to be but a memory.
The magnificent grounds upon which the stately old pile stands were sold to the city of Cincinnati in 1911 for park purposes. It is, in part, with the thought of gaining more space for that purpose that Cincinnati’s beautiful landmark is to be destroyed. Then, too, a shelter house is to be built where now stand beauty!
Many years ago, when East Fourth and Pike streets were the centers of the exclusive residential district of the city, Robert Bonner Bowler desired for his family a summer home “in the country.” In 1845 he purchased from Lafayette Bond the Mt. Storm site. A small frame house was erected. Ere long the Bowler family fell in love with the wonderful place from which an awe-inspiring view may be had. It was decided to make the spot a place of residence throughout the year.
It was then that Robert Bowler sought the aid of Strass, a famous European landscape gardener. Strass was employed to arrange the splendid gardens of Mt. Storm.
Strass it was who planned Spring Grove Cemetery after he had finished his task at Mt. Storm.
Lakes were a part of the landscape plans. Mr. Bowler sent abroad for swans to grace the water views. It was then that the first Australian swans were brought to the United States. Descendants of this same family of swans are those seen in the summer at Spring Grove.
The Bowler place is best described, perhaps, as being typical of the English country gentleman’s abode.
The interior of the mansion was noted for its conservatory and fountains, about which, under a roof of glass, birds of many kinds winged and trilled their way.
In its high-ceiled rooms men and women of the purple danced to the music of long ago.
In 1860 the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, visited the United States. He came to Cincinnati and was a guest at Mt. Storm. Upon his return to England he sent to Mr. Bowler a picture of himself. Accompanying it was a letter, in which was expressed the royal appreciation of the visit to the Bowler home.
Tradition has it that Charles Dickens, the novelist, was among those entertained at a brilliant affair given by the Bowlers.
More years, and the home again was improved – a conservatory and wings and a beautiful tower were added.
When the mansion was being built Mr. Bowler’s attention was attracted by the activities of a young Irishman who was carrying a hoe. He noticed that the young worked earnestly, and that he carried a double load of brick. Mr. Bowler called to him, asking him if he would accept a post as servant in the house. The youth was James Coxton, who subsequently served the Bowler family 53 years. He became a most trusted employee. He taught the Bowler children to walk, to play, to ride.
Coxton passed the remainder of his days at Mt. Storm. It was he who told the younger generations of the history of his charge.
And now on the site of Mt. Storm the city of Cincinnati is to build a shelter house.




Protests were made against the demolition of the historic property but no other solution was found. The article below describes the battle:
Save the Landmarks.
Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); Jan 13, 1917

Decision of the Board of Park Commissioners to raze the Bowler house in Mt. Storm Park has been heard with regret by those who are attached to the landmarks of Cincinnati having sentimental or historic interest.  One after another of our local fanes are being obliterated and the time probably is not far distant when all the physical links that bind us to the past will be wiped out by the march of modernism.
The Bowler house, perched on the crest of a towering hill, with unobstructed views of the sweeping, undulating acres about it, was a mansion when the late King Edward of England, found sanctuary and unbounded hospitality behind its sturdy walls. Bereft to-day of its sumptuous furnishings and denuded of fixtures and ornamentation, it still possesses strength of foundation and wall sufficient to make of it an ideal shelter house that would serve every useful purpose and preserve at the same time a historic shrine.
If this ancient landmark must go, as did the Lytle home and other monuments hallowed by time, memory and association, it is to be hoped that some of the distinguishing features of this ancient hospice, such as the Temple of Vesta, be left intact.
Credit - Tim Jeffries
Now known as the Temple of Love, but noted as the Temple  of Vesta in the Cincinnati Enquirer, 1917.
This was was an elaborate cover for the water reservoir for the property.
 And here is the response from the Park Board and police:
Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); Jan 14, 1917
ORDER: To Raze Bowler Home Is To Be Investigated By City Club Board of Governors
Structure Should Be Preserved, Dr. Samuel Iglauer Declares – Trysting Place, Says Friedlander

Dr. Samuel Iglauer offered a motion before the City Club yesterday providing for an investigation of the proposed razing of the Bowler mansion, on Mt. Storm. The motion carried and the Board of Governors of the club will consider the question.
The Board of Park Commissioners,” Dr. Iglauer said, “is not accustomed to destroying relics which ought to be preserved.”
He suggested a care taker for the building, if the Commissioners cannot police the property, or that the house itself be utilized as a shelter house, with certain improvements. Dr. Iglauer is a member of the Kemper Home Association, which caused the preservation of the old Kemper home in the Zoo Park.
Director of Public Safety Walter J. Friedlander, together with Canon Reed, of St. Paul’s Cathedral and I. A. Ault, of the Board of Park Commissioners, took exceptions to the statement of Dr. Iglauer.
Speaking for his confreres, Director Friedlander said:
“Attention of the Department of Safety was directed recently to unlawful uses to which the Bowler house was being subjected. According to information received by me, this house was being used for a trysting place. Numerous complaints from mothers of young girls and from other, accompanied by requests that the park police exercise stricter surveillance over the property, were received.
“As a matter of face since 1912 the police force under the jurisdiction of the Park Board has been so small as to be of practically no use whatever. Repeatedly the Department of Safety has been called upon by the Park Board to supply city policemen to patrol and to guard park property. By reason of the fact that the city is already underpoliced, with no prospect in the immediate future of being able to increase its force, this department was obliged to refuse assistance to the Board of Park Commissioners.
“It being impracticable to close the Bowler house against marauders or to protect it from those seeking shelter therein, this department advised the Board of Park Commissioners that the only step remaining was to raze the building, which, aside from any sentimental value it may have, is worth practically nothing.
“The Board of Park Commissioners concurred in this view, and for the reason the order was issued to raze the house. As soon as possible, I understand, the Boar of Park Commissioners will erect a suitable shelter house on the site of the Bowler house.”
Mr. Ault said last night Director Friedlander’s statement covered the ground completely, except he did not know when the Board of Park Commissioners would erect a shelter house in place of the present structure.
 The house was razed in 1917 but no shelter house was built for sometime. I came across another article from June, 1919 that complained there was no shelter in Mount Storm park for protection from the weather. Eventually a shelter house was built in 1935.
1950 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
Now Mount Storm park is known for its Temple of Love and the great sled riding hills. More pictures can be seen on a post on Urban Ohio.

3 comments:

  1. In 1843 Mr. Bowler's downtown home was struck by lightening....I have this documented in a handwritten journal I own. I've always thought he may have had a glimpse of an idea to name his new estate Mt. Storm because of the fear of lightening; as he soon moved (as was the 'thing' to do back then in Cincinnati in that time period) to Clifton, following suit of Buchanan and the rest...

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  2. Finally! A few photos of the Bowler estate! Thank you very much for sharing them. Mt. Storm is a special place to my husband and me -- we stumbled upon the park one day when we were first dating and eventually chose it as the setting for our engagement photos. I've always wondered what the mansion looked like. It's odd that, given its renown, that there aren't more photos.

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