Eden Park Reservoir, Cincinnati

I’ve long been interested in the now largely abandoned practice in Western civilization of combining utilitarian structures with pleasure grounds in urban and even rural environments. Take Compton Hill Reservoir Park in St. Louis or Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, for example. Such practices go far back in history until at least the Renaissance and even ancient Rome. Not surprisingly, not just St. Louis but other American cities accomplished the same fusion of practical and recreational.

Water Tower, Eden Park, Cincinnati, Ohio, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, c. 1900, Library of Congress, 2016808704

Cincinnati follows the post-Civil War trend of building a reservoir that doubled as park in the same Victorian Period model as St. Louis, Baltimore and others with its own Eden Park Reservoir.

So named because the property owner from whom Cincinnati purchased the rugged land in 1869 thought the area looked like the Garden of Eden, the new reservoir, now drained, featured a standpipe just like in St. Louis. There was even a public observatory deck on top of the tower that allowed sweeping views of the Ohio River and across to the Kentucky suburbs of Newport and Covington.

The tower, whose turret lost its pinnacle for scrap decades ago, follows the trends of historicist revivals, which in this case could be summarized imperfectly as an eclectic mix but leaning towards the Romanesque Revival.

It was designed by famed Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford in 1894, it shows the influence of Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and his reappraisal of Medieval architecture.

Down in the valley near the reservoir is the preserved Pumping Station No. 7, which was also designed by Hannaford and built in 1889.

Again it is a largely Romanesque Revival building with other eclectic details that make the structure difficult to categorize.

The evolution of the city’s water system caused the pumping station to fall into disuse and now is apparently a park maintenance building.

The reservoir itself was created by the construction of a gigantic stone wall that blocked off the valley, which can be seen below in this photo at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

Reservoir, Eden Park, Cincinnati, Ohio, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, c. 1904, Library of Congress, 2016799713

Most likely to obsolescence and the prohibitive expense of rehabilitating the wall, the reservoir was decommissioned in the 1960s, with the wall being preserved in an expansion of green space.

Pedestrians can now walk out onto the dyke and look out over lush greenery instead of water.

The views are stunning.

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