Engine 20 And Ladder 5 Around 1895
Photo History of the Cincinnati Fire Department
The History of Northside
and Hamilton Ave.
The beginnings of Northside are not so different from many other towns in the midwest.
After the American revolution, the new American nation was weak and poor. The government promoted the development of the western lands to strengthen the nation. One of the first areas targeted was the Ohio territory. Its flat fertile land being well suited to farming and transportation and the Ohio river providing easy access.
The area was originally surveyed by Israel Ludlow who had replaced the original surveyor of Losantville after he disappeared on a surveying expedition. He was compensated for his efforts with a parcel of land by the Mill Station, where he settled. Mr. Ludlow went on to survey Hamilton, Dayton, Fort Wayne and a host of other towns about the midwest.
People were settling in the area known as Mill Station by the Mill Creek at the intersection of two old indian trails since around 1790 but as they were occupying indian lands, life was not too safe. Real settling did not occur till after the Treaty of Greenville was signed bringing an end to the Indian wars.
The settlers renamed the Indian trails after generals Arthur St. Clair and Anthony Wayne. St Clair's Trace followed the path of what is now Hamilton Avenue and Wayne's Trace followed along the Mill Creek down to the Ohio and Licking rivers on what is now Spring Grove Avenue.
There originally were only a few residents, several homes, a tavern and a few businesses. It was not till the 1820s and the introduction of the Miami-Erie Canal that a real population started to develop. Growth continued with the installation of the CH&D (Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton) railroad.
Cumminsville started to gain a reputation as a place where Cincinnatians could get away from the city. Depending on your idea of a good time it was called either Happy Valley or Hell Town. The latter name was generally reserved for the area around the canal on the western side of Cumminsville.
In the mid 1800s, there was a great influx of immigrants to America as people left the social turmoil in Europe for America's promise. Germany, having weathered a failed revolution, lost almost 10% of its population. In the census of 1870, 48% of the residents of Cumminsville listed their nationality as German.
In 1873 Cumminsville was annexed by the city of Cincinnati.
Cumminsville grew and prospered in the coming years, experiencing steady growth up through the 1920s. A wealthy citizenry supported high quality shops, merchants, and manufacturing, and Cumminsville continued to be a place for Cincinnatians to escape to. At one point, the business area called Knowlton's Corner was one of the busiest commercial areas in Cincinnati.
After World War II, there was a boom in industry. The housing and automobile markets exploded in conjunction with the development of the highway system. People no longer had reason to live near work and shopping. They were able to travel independently and conveniently in their automobiles across well paved roads. The passenger rail market waned. Where people had once escaped to the suburbs of Cumminsville, they now left there for more rural neighborhoods and villages. As the demand for housing declined in Northside, so did property values. The overall income level of the residents of Northside dropped and therefore they could no longer support the merchants who had once populated the business district.
By the 1960s most of the industry that had been in Northside had finally left.
In the 1980s Northside began to experience a resurgence in popularity. It's undervalued home prices and central location appealed to a large group of first time home buyers. The city designated the part of the business district around Hoffner Lodge as a historic district. The city has invested in several improvement projects in the last ten years.
Today, there is a healthy business environment, an active community council and a unified religious community. Northside boasts a business association that is more than a century old.
The history of Northside is still unfolding.
Other Historical Links
Knowlton's at the Corner by Robert T. Howe. Cincinnati Historical Society Bulletin 33 (Fall 1975): 188-215.
A great recap of the early history of Northside.
Copyright held by Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal.
Permission provided to the Northside Business Association for this one-time use.
Who were these streets and places named after?
Historic pictures of Northside
The History of Engine Company 20
Other historical resources
Index to Names Referenced in Souvenir - History of Cumminsville
Map of Cumminsville drawn in 1869 as part of county records
Map of Cumminsville, Spring Grove Cemetery & surrounding area circa 1914
Map of Northside and surrounding area circa 1920
Map of Northside and surrounding area proposed park system circa 1907
Short biography of Jacob Hoffner
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