Lytle Park Historic District Renewed
by City Council with a vote of 9 to 0
Strong support emerged from an inclusive public process
Today Cincinnati City Council reaffirmed its commitment to historic preservation by voting to renew the Lytle Park Historic District. The city’s oldest historic district, it was created in 1964 with a 50-year sunset date. ”This continues the city’s support for our historic resources and shows that Cincinnati leaders recognize how much value they add,” said Paul Muller, executive director of the Cincinnati Preservation Association.
Lytle Park was created to protect and honor the area of the city’s oldest settlement, where the Taft family set the stage for important cultural institutions.
Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton Co.
The neighborhood also was the scene of an important early preservation victory. In the 1960s, downtown development endangered the park’s character, and an interstate highway threatened to slice thru the Taft Museum’s front yard. The park and its neighborhood were saved when the road was recessed and covered with a lid. Western & Southern Financial Group helped pay for the lid and has followed with years of stewardship in the area.
Lytle Park’s beauty now attracts people back to the neighborhood. They are committed to preserving its unique character and were active advocates for the renewal. Lynn Patterson Jacobs, co-chair of the Lytle Park Historic District Coalition, noted, “Now, well beyond the time any of us here are making decisions, a new district will forever protect the historic fabric of one of Cincinnati’s most beloved neighborhoods. That’s a most satisfying accomplishment.”
The Cincinnati Historic Conservation Office did an excellent job of managing the process and drafting the guidelines. They are clear and rational and incorporated comments from many stakeholders. The guidelines protect historic character while accommodating new uses essential to a healthy, dynamic city. While the new boundary is a compromise, it was developed with input from stakeholders in an open process. It includes most of the buildings in the original district, such as the Literary Club and Anna Louise Inn, and protects the essential zone of the park.
Cincinnati History Library and Archives
Lytle Park during construction of I-71, disaster was avoided when W&S helped fund the lid over the roadway
Local historic districts are well-developed zoning tools used with great success in Cincinnati and across the nation. As shown in neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine, Columbia Tusculum, East Walnut Hills and Observatory Place, they raise property values and attract quality development.
City Council responded to a strong show of support from residents, businesses and institutions around the park, and people across the City. We commend them for their leadership and hope the City builds on today’s success by designating more districts to protect its matchless historic resources.
Cincinnati Preservation Association was an active participant throughout the designation process just as it was for the original district in 1964. At that time the organization was known as Miami Purchase Association for Historic Preservation. S. Frederick Starr, an early leader of MPAHP, placed the area in perspective recently with the following:
“Lytle Park was created as a Historic District in 1964 as an island of tranquility surrounded on all sides –including beneath!– by the bustle of a modern city. Anchored by the historic Taft Museum, arguably the finest piece of architecture of any period in the metropolitan area, and by the Literary Cub, where such Cincinnati-based discoveries as the excavations at Troy and the Salk vaccine were made known to fellow Cincinnatians, Lytle Park has fulfilled its promise for half a century. … City Council (should) congratulate itself on a job well done over fifty years.”–Dr. S. Frederick Starr, former President of Oberlin College, and co-author of The Archaeology of Hamilton County, Ohio (1960) S. Frederick Starr
For more information call CPA at 513 721-4506 and see an Enquirer article at:
Lytle Park Historic District Overview
“Things that belong to Cincinnati and give it character should be preserved.”– Dean Pickering, Chair, Cincinnati Planning Commission (Cincinnati Enquirer, April 4, 1964)
- City recognized as leader in city planning beginning in 1920s
- As part of planning process, City recognized early on importance of preserving historic areas
- First historic preservation legislation–protection area ordinance—enacted 1964
- Created specifically to protect Lytle Park, Dayton Street and other historic areas City might seek to designate
- Put forward-looking step in context: 2 years before National Historic Preservation Act, 14 years before Supreme Court Penn Central decision, 16 years before City’s 1980 conservation legislation
- Lytle Protection Area created 1964, followed by Dayton Street in 1965: among first districts in country
- Lytle district created to provide protection for key buildings in and around park, protect character of park as special place, enhance views for those enjoying the park
- Lytle district enacted with 50-year sunset date, will expire without decisive action; critical that district be renewed
The Taft Legacy
- District also honored efforts of Taft family to preserve and beautify corner of downtown, memorial to great civic-minded family
- Tafts persuaded clubs, institutions to locate there so buildings would be preserved
- Also built or endowed buildings around park: Anna Louse Inn, named for daughter; Earls Building, rector of Christ Church; Phelps Townhouse, upscale apartment house, in-town residence for wealthy families; and, of course, Taft museum.
Benefits of Local Historic Districts
- After Lytle and Dayton designations enacted, City went on to designate 20 more, including 5 in downtown: more than any other city in state
- Local district designation often requested by neighborhoods to help control their destinies
- Include commonsense design guidelines for renovation, demolition, new construction, a useful tool
- District designation: Recognition that ensemble is greater than sum of parts
- Buildings derive their importance not only from their own historical or architectural significance, but from context
- Value of individual buildings diminished if too many pieces are lost or setting is diminished
- Local designation helps neighborhoods direct change; gives owners/residents a seat at table; preserves place worth saving
- Redesignation of Lytle Park also compatible with Plan Cincinnati
- Sustain Goal 2: Preserve our natural and built environment
- Objective B. Preserve our built history
- Action step: Preserve our built history with new development incentives and regulatory measures
- Short-range: Use the recently completed historic inventory to create new historic districts.
“City policies should be designed to enhance and encourage such efforts.”–1964 City Planning Department staff report supporting enaction of Cincinnati Protection Area Ordinance