The Queen of Suburbs Then and Now
Niche.com recently ranked Wyoming as one of the top suburbs in the country. The City’s reputation is longstanding: In 1892, Chic Magazine, a Cincinnati publication, called Wyoming “The Queen of Suburbs,” praising the elegant houses and lush trees. Today, Wyoming’s architecture and tree-lined streets continue to draw residents. The 19th century houses provide history and charm, and subsequent waves of homebuilding in the 20th and 21st centuries add variety. There is no single “Wyoming” architectural style. Homeowners value Wyoming as an alternative to the “cookie-cutter subdivision.”
Many of Wyoming’s features are related to its history, initially as a farm community and then as a “bedroom” community. This article is the first in a series that will look at Wyoming’s architecture and how the community was developed. Documents and books at the Wyoming Historical Society were the source of information for the story.
Finding Land Away from the City
Wyoming’s location is ideal for residents who work in downtown Cincinnati or other suburbs, both now and in the past. Settlers arriving in Cincinnati in the 1800s wanted to live away from the busy riverfront town, too.
The first settlers in Wyoming were farmers, and they cleared land west of the Mill Creek for cultivation. One of the first homes was a log cabin built by Alexander Pendery, where Wyoming High School now stands. Pendery arrived in 1806 and built on land given to his father as payment for service in the Revolutionary War. By the 1840s there were 15 farms in the area. Some of the early landowners’ names are memorialized on our street signs: Allen, Burns, Fleming, Oliver, Reily, and Wilmuth.
As the community grew, new residents wanted bigger homes. In 1832, a log cabin on what is now Springfield Pike was torn down and a large brick home was built by Isaac Riddle. This Federal-style house, with its symmetrical proportions, still stands today, at 507 Springfield Pike. A developer proposed demolishing the house to build condos in the 1970s, but the Wyoming Planning Commission rejected the plan.
Home Sites Change Over Time
By the mid 1800s, the area east of the Mill Creek, in what is now Lockland, was booming. A canal in the Mill Creek Valley allowed mill owners to use the hydropower of the canal locks to run flour, cotton, paper, and lumber mills. The mill owners didn’t want to live near their businesses, however, and they looked to the rolling hills west of the Mill Creek for home sites.
The tree-covered hills of Wyoming offered attractive locations to build homes. In 1854, Colonel Robert Reily, a prosperous merchant and prominent Wyoming citizen, chose a site for a country estate on what is now Liddle Lane. He built a stone house on a tree-covered hill and named it Twin Oaks. The once-large property was sold off in later years and subdivided into smaller lots. The Reily house faces south, into a neighbor’s backyard, while the contemporary homes face Liddle Lane, built in the late 1960s. (insert photo #3 Reily House, 626 Liddle Lane)
Another older home tucked into a newer development is the Tangeman house, at 550 Larchmont Drive. The house was built in 1857 on part of the Riddle Farm. John Tangeman owned a paper mill in Lockland, and built his home facing east on the crest of a hill with beautiful larch trees. The nearby houses were built in the 1920s to the 1950s.
Early homes built on what was to become Springfield Pike were typically set far back from the dusty street. One such home is 411 Springfield Pike, built in 1855, now tucked behind St. James of the Valley Church (insert photo #5: 411 Springfield Pike). The home site provides a clue to the size of the original lot before descendants sold portions of the property.
Occasionally, a house might literally be moved. For example, there have been instances where homes were built along Springfield Pike, but did not remain there. Dr. Emerson North purchased an 1860s farmhouse at 715 Springfield Pike. In 1930 the house was lifted onto railroad tracks and moved west to its present location, 53 Dorino Place.
An adjacent 1870s cottage on Springfield Pike was also moved, to 731 Brooks Avenue to save it from being demolished in 1929.
Multiple Generations Seek Convenient Access, Good Schools
When the Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Dayton Railway line was completed in 1851, it increased Wyoming’s value as a residential community. A trip by horse and buggy would take a full day to reach downtown Cincinnati, but the train reduced the travel time to only 24 minutes. Three train stations served the Wyoming region: the Park Place station at the northern end of Wyoming, the Lockland-Wyoming station (at the site of Crescent Park), and the Maplewood Station, just south of Mills Avenue (in Hartwell).
In the 1870s, farmland was subdivided into small lots for homes, and developers marketed the easy access to the railroad and good schools. A brochure advertising lots on the Burns farmland, spanning the area between Burns, Wyoming, and East Mills avenues and Springfield Pike, boasted about easy access to the railroad and the excellent schools. The location was marketed for its healthfulness, “free from the ordinary intermittent fevers…“ found closer to the river.
Beautiful trees, excellent schools, convenient access: just like today, Wyoming was ready to welcome new families to the thriving community.
Look for future articles on Wyoming’s architecture in the 19th and 20th centuries.