Walnut Hills kicks off Urban Awakenings series

Engineering, planning and design firm Bayer Becker is hosting a series of symposiums in 2013, each one focused on a different Cincinnati neighborhood. Walnut Hills was the first to be featured, and we were glad for the opportunity recently to talk about all the good things happening in our neighborhood!

Throwback Thursday: Frederick Douglass School

When Walnut Hills was annexed to the City in 1870, a private school for Black students was brought into the segregated Cincinnati Public School system. A new building was constructed and the school was soon named the Frederick Douglass School after the well-known ex-slave abolitionist spokesman. Starting in 1887, segregated schools in the Cincinnati Public School system began to be phased out in favor of an integrated school system. The last of these schools was Douglass, at the corner of Chapel and Alms, but it did not close. The school district faced pressure from the Cincinnati African American community concerned with high dropout rates in integrated schools and the rapid loss of teaching positions for African-American educators at all of the closing schools. So instead of shutting down, Douglass was rebuilt.

The second Douglass School, built in 1911, a beautiful building with Rookwood decoration (source: Cincinnati Historical Society)

While the new Douglass was open to all students throughout the city, it remained almost completely African American, and provided a prejudice-free learning environment.  The school became nationally renowned, and a center for Walnut Hills community activities. Because it remained a largely segregated school, Douglass certainly had its critics in the first half of the twentieth century. Yet it existed in a time when integrated schools were not providing truly equal opportunities for Black students to learn, or for Black educators to teach. It stands as an important piece of African American history in Walnut Hills. Not only that, Frederick Douglass School (rebuilt in 2007 at 2627 Park Ave.) is still a vital neighborhood school and community gathering place.

Douglass School faculty in 1914. Principal Francis M. Russell in center of front row. (source: Cincinnati Historical Society).

Data Sources: Douglass School was prominent in history of segregated Cincinnati schools, Cincinnati Herald, February 2010, (http://www.thecincinnatiherald.com/news/2010-02-20/Section_B/Douglass_School_was_prominent_in_history_of_segreg.html); Walnut Hills City Neighborhood, Cincinnati Historical Society.

State moves ahead with MLK Interchange

MLK Interchange Study Area
MLK Interchange Study Area (Source: www.uptownaccessstudy.com)

The State of Ohio yesterday approved spending $2.4 million to move ahead with the design of the new I-71 interchange at Martin Luther King Blvd. The detailed design process will also include work at the existing south-bound off-ramp at William H. Taft, and the north-bound on-ramp at E. McMillan St., according to this Enquirer article.

The article states that several neighborhoods, including Avondale, Fairview, Clifton, Walnut Hills and University Heights, will benefit from improved access to I-71 in both directions. Uptown institutions such as The Cincinnati Zoo and the University of Cincinnati will also obviously benefit from more direct I-71 access.

For Walnut Hills, this new MLK interchange will finally provide easy south-bound access for Walnut Hills residents who wish to travel downtown or across the river to Newport and Covington. In addition, downtown and Kentucky residents will now be able to travel north-bound on I-71 and have easier access to Walnut Hills and the McMillan Business District.

We will be following this project very closely in the coming month and years, as it moves from design to right-of-way acquisition and finally to actual construction.

Read more about the approval of design funds for this project in the Cincinnati Enquirer article: ‘MLK Interchange takes next step’