The South Fairmount / Lick Run Project ( Part 6)
Updated: Apr 1, 2020
THE TRANSFORMATION 1870 - 1910
Transportation was critical to the growth and development of Cincinnati’s economy. The 1870’s marked the beginning of a transportation revolution in Cincinnati that lasted into the early decades of the 20th -Century speeding the transition of Lick Run from its peaceful rural roots to a bustling neighborhood of working-class homes and industry. An ever-evolving network of roads, street cars, steam powered incline rail planes and narrow-gauge commuter rail lines were built in an effort to link formerly outlying areas to the city’s expanding urban core. It was not a planned system. Rather it unfolded haphazardly over several decades driven by both the entrepreneurial spirit of those seeking profit and politicians seeking to satisfy the demands of their constituencies. Replete with both painful failures and stunning successes, an effective comprehensive public transit system began to emerge by the turn of the century.
From the 1870’s forward, Lick Run continued to fill with immigrants seeking relief from the densely packed confines of the Over-The- Rhine and other neighborhoods of the city basin. By the turn of the century it was an urban landscape replete with factories, rail lines and even an ethnic ghetto. An early version of urban sprawl, this pattern was repeated across the country as the market revolution exploded into a full-scale industrial revolution accompanied by urbanization and a new way of life.
Lick Run, Westwood and Cheviot were among these essentially semi-rural suburbs experiencing the transportation revolution that transformed them into suburbs of Cincinnati. Attempts to avoid the growing unpleasantness of urban life, were clearly evident in the growth and development of communities like Westwood. Perched like a crown on the hilltops above the valley peering down on transportation arteries and workshops that gave the region life, Westwood and North Fairmount became the beautiful middleclass neighborhoods that a growing number of Cincinnatians aspired to call home. An early farming community located in Green Township, Westwood was incorporated as a village in 1868. During the post war era it quickly turned into a refuge from the city. People like James Gamble, a founder of Proctor and Gamble , and Michael Werk built country estates there, while others established “roomy residences that served as summer boarding houses” for families trying to escape Cincinnati’s oppressive humidity.[i] Some were real estate speculators who saw the isolated hilltop land as a valuable investment with the steady march of transportation innovations.
AN URBAN TRANSPORTATION REVOLUTION
In 1874 a short steam railroad was chartered to link the newly minted city of Westwood with “downtown” Cincinnati. Built cheaply as a narrow-gauge line with its rails spaced only three feet apart, the 5.6-mile Cincinnati & Westwood Railroad was intended to spur the development of the tiny new city. The brainchild of a small group investors with significant real estate holding in the western highlands, the C & W began operation in May of 1876.[ii] Starting from a station just west of Cheviot on the farm of James Robb it paralleled Montana Avenue before descending into the valley between Harrison and Lick Run Pike requiring the construction of several trestles. Running the full length of the valley the C & W reached its end point near the Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Dayton Railroad station just north of downtown Cincinnati. From its origin the new railroad struggled financially. By 1880 Michael Werk, one of the original investors was pumping thousands of dollars into the venture and even stepped in to temporarily manage the C & W to stave off collapse as the tiny rail line averaged only 76 passengers a day. By 1886 a combination of safety concerns and economic problems forced the line to cease operations.
After a foreclosure, the railroad was bought and reorganized by a group of investors led by James Gamble, one of the original backers. In 1891 the reconstruction of the line to the standard gauge allowed C & W traffic to seamlessly connect to the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railway dramatically increasing ridership, but it was too little too late. The small railroad was doomed when construction began on an electric street car line in 1895 on Harrison Avenue that extended as far west as Cheviot.
Cincinnati streetcar lines began appearing in 1859 with the organization of the Cincinnati Street Railroad Company operating horse drawn carriages on steel rails. A transition to faster and more powerful cable cars that could easily climb the surrounding hills was an improvement on the horse drawn cars but both were overshadowed by a shift to even more desirable electric powered cars beginning in 1889.
By 1882 there were 295 streetcars operating in the Cincinnati area north of the Ohio River with six dedicated to serving the valley along a route known as the Westwood Avenue Extension.[iii]Though plans were made in 1887 it was not until 1895 electric street cars began making the long slow climb up Harrison Avenue to service Westwood, Cheviot and North Fairmount.[iv]The initiation of service on Harrison Avenue on September 1, 1895 was cause for a massive celebration by the residents of those outlying suburbs. The Enquirer announced it as “the most auspicious opening of any street car line ever held in this city”, with fireworks, cannonading and a massive bond fire accompanied by a banquet and music. “For Ten years”, the Enquirer noted, “The Fairmounters have plotted and planned to gain rapid transit service to their burg” but were met with opposition from railroad authorities who argued the hilltop communities did not have a large enough population to support a streetcar line.[v] Finally in 1893 a commitment to build the line was secured and construction began.
THE PROGRESSIVE ERA - FAIRMOUNT IS BORN
The Central Fairmount Improvement Association played an important role in getting the line built. A neighborhood civic association headed by John B. Morris as president, it successfully lobbied for the streetcar and other improvement projects including the building of a new firehouse and the paving of roads with crushed granite.[vi]One of many new civic groups arising across Cincinnati, the Central Fairmount Improvement Association was emblematic of the “can do spirit” of an urban middle class determined to solve the economic, social and political problem besetting American cities. In the coming decades this nationwide effort would become known as the Progressive Movement. The annexation of the valley and the rest of Fairmount by Cincinnati made these projects and other important infrastructure improvements possible. Things like natural gas lines, sewers and street lights were considered desirable amenities beyond the means of these communities without the involvement of the city of Cincinnati.
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION COMES TO FAIRMOUNT
Signs of industrialization began to appear at the eastern end of the valley in 1865. The Industrial Revolution began in the United States in the early nineteenth century accelerating during War of 1812 and growing to new dimensions during the post-Civil War era. Manufacturing facilities of this age grew larger and organizational structures more complex as corporations became the most common form of business ownership. In the decades following the war the industrial sector crept northward from the city’s boundaries up the flat ribbon of land that was the Mill Creek Valley. Offering easy access to rail transportation, a convenient means of disposing industrial waste and access to a large supply of cheap labor in the city basin, the Mill Creek became the spine of a diverse manufacturing sector that spilled into nearby valleys like Lick Run.
Once dominated by slaughter houses and related industries like soap and candle earning Cincinnati the title of Porkopolis, new enterprises began to appear like the Adler Underwear and Hosiery Manufacturing Company at the corner of Harrison and Lick Run Pike. A large woolen mill it was built by Bernard Adler in 1865 on land that had formerly been the county’s insane asylum.[vii] Initially, Adler manufactured jeans and Kentucky doe skins until shifting to underclothing in the sprawling four story factory that remained an anchor in the neighborhood well into the twentieth century. Bullock’s Curled Hair Factory, another large manufacturer, also appeared at the eastern end of the valley. As a manufacturer of high-quality mattresses this “mammoth facility” was spread across 10 buildings on five acres of land at the corner of Harrison and Spring Grove Ave.[viii] Curled hair was a term for processed horse and cattle hair used as padding in mattresses. By the 1880’s George Herancourt ‘s brewery had grown into a significant facility sprawling across six acres near Adler’s textile mill.[ix] However it was Edmund Lunkenheimer that built the largest and most important manufacturing facility in Lick Run.
Located near Adler’s mill Lunkenheimer produced brass fittings for steam engines and other machined parts. His father, Frederick Lukenheimer, immigrated to the United States from the Grand Dutchy of Hesse in 1845 where he learned the art of brass molding and finishing. After working in both New York and New Orleans, Lunkenheimer an experienced machinist, settled in Cincinnati in the 1850’s and started Cincinnati Brass Works in 1862. Throughout the 1870’s and 1880’s the business steadily expanded broadening the range of products it manufactured necessitating several moves to larger facilities.
In 1889 Cincinnati Brass Works was renamed the Lukenheimer Brass Manufacturing Company with Edmund taking the helm after the death of his father.[x]Edmund vigorously marketed the company’s products and succeeded in establishing an international presence requiring another expansion of the company’s facilities. It was at this point he purchased one- and- one half acres land in the valley near the corner of Lick Run (Queen City) and Beekman Street in 1890 though work on the massive facility did not begin until 1899.[xi] A series of expansions followed culminating in 1910 with a five story manufacturing building constructed of reinforced concrete.
Over time the Lukenheimer product line developed around the production of valves of all types: for steam engines, use in oil fields and eventually for automobiles as the gasoline combustible engine became common place. Employing more than 800 workers the facility was in a prime location with convenient access to two street car lines that brought workers who were not within walking distance of the factory as well as the tangle of railroads running through the Mill Creek Valley. In fact, Lunkenheimer’s relocation to Lick Run was part of a larger trend as numerous manufacturers outgrew facilities in the downtown basin and moved north up the Mill Creek Valley taking advantage of its newly developing transportation infrastructure.
The wide and flat Mill Creek Valley, stretching miles to the north of Ohio River, was the perfect terrain for railroads.The Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton was the first rail line to appear at the eastern end of Lick Run. Chartered in 1846 the C. H. & D. was operating by 1851 serving both the passenger and freight needs of Cincinnati and its surrounding communities. In 1872 a second line was operating nearby, the Cumberland & Baltimore, making Lick Run attractive to manufacturers. In addition to Lunkenheimer others also saw the advantages of Lick Run including Theodore Von Holle who built the Fairmount Flour Mill just to the south of the Lunkenheimer plant across Queen City Avenue. Also crowded in neighborhood were the Cincinnati Screw and Tap Company and Clark and Thompson lumber yard. [xii]
Between 1900 and 1904 one of the dominating features of the Lick Run ( South Fairmount) was built, the Chesapeake & Ohio rail line running from the C &O rail yard in Western Hills to the Mill Creek Valley. Part of the Indiana division of the C & O connecting Cincinnati and Chicago, the rail line had no impact on commerce in South Fairmount at all, simply running through the valley. Its nine high trestles however, dominated the skyline of the valley for almost 80 years becoming the most identifiable feature of the new South Fairmount.
By 1900 the eastern end of Lick Run Valley was a bustling industrial center employing nearly two thousand. A mix of industrial workers , clerks and company executives, they came from Fairmount as Lick Run was now called and nearby neighborhoods; the Over-The Rhine, the West End, Cumminsville, Mohawk, Camp Washington, and Price Hill. Some were close enough to walk to work while others took streetcars or came by horse and buggy. Though distance was not the limiting factor it once had been, it was still a factor in the daily commute to work even for executives who still generally worked in offices on the premises of production facilities. Company executives and managers often lived in communities adjacent to industrial neighborhoods. In the case of Lick Run places like Westwood, North Fairmount and Price Hill, were newly developing hilltop communities of larger homes with amenities not found in working class neighborhoods like the valley.
Though the growing presence of industry marked a significant change for the valley, as late the 1880’s nearby hillsides were still occupied by the grazing dairy herds of Henry Boeckerstette, Henry Grothaus and as least 20 other dairymen.[xiii] Like the nation at large, Lick Run’s roots in agriculture had not entirely disappeared. Lick Run’s steep hillsides would never accommodate manufacturing but were still suited for dairy herds. Milk did not travel well which kept Lick Run’s dairy farmers in business.
[i] Achievement in Western Hills, 1932, p. 50. [ii]Sherman Cahal, Cincinnati and Westwood Railroad, Blog Site-- Abandoned. The early investors include James Gamble and Michael Werk both of whom made fortunes in the soap and associated industries. [iii] Cincinnati Enquirer, October 1, 1882. The Cincinnati Street Railroad operated the vast majority of these. It was formerly known as the Consolidated Street Railroad. [iv] Cincinnati Enquirer, December 18, 1886. [v]Enquirer, September 1, 1895. [vi]Ibid. [vii]Opened in 1863 by Dr. John Alexander, Achievement: Cincinnati’s Western Hills 1932, p. 22. [viii]Cincinnati : The Queen City, 1788- 1912, Volume 3, p. 891. [ix]Was closed in 1919 as a consequence of Prohibition and never reopened. [x]Edmund Lunkenheimer changed his last name to Lunken and also wanted to change the name of the Lunkenheimer Company to reflect his name change but did not because of objections from the wider family. [xi]James Laux, The One Great Name in Valves: A History of the Lunkenheimer Company, 1983,Queeen City Heritage, p. 22. [xii]Von Holle immigrated from Saxony ( born 1835). [xiii] Cincinnati Illustrated Business Directory, 1886. As late as 1886 the dairy men associated with Lick Run included Henry Bockerstette, F. Bockertette and Brothers, Lambert Brinkman, Henry Brune, Budde Brothers, Bunker and Bernard, C. Dickhaus, Bernard Espelage, Henry Grothaus, Henry Haverkamp, H. Hesselbrock, Fred Horstmann, Henry Kemme, f. Michaelis, John Niehoff, Clemens Niemann, John H. Nordmann, Herman Olding, Bernard Schroeder, John Schuster, Herman Wibbeling, William Willen.