Reading Road, Avondale and the Riots, Cincinnati

I’ve looked at Fourteenth Street NW before in Washington, DC, and probably elsewhere, so I was interested in what had become of Reading Road in the Avondale neighborhood of Cincinnati. High up in the hills, there were two riots, one in 1967 and then less than a year later in 1968. The first one revolved around the arrest of the Cincinnati Strangler, and the second after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

While the rioting affected Burnet Avenue, I’m primarily focusing on Reading Road. I’m always interested in how a city rebuilds in the aftermath of the destruction of a large number of buildings, and how long it takes. It took forty years for the redevelopment of the 7th, 14th and H street business corridors in Washington, DC. In Cincinnati, hospitals made a successful move on vacant land left by rioting and successive urban disinvestment. Of course, St. Louis avoided major urban unrest in the 1960s.

Detroit Publishing Co., Publisher. Avondale cottages, Cincinnati, Ohio. United States Ohio Cincinnati, None. [Between 1900 and 1906] Photograph., Library of Congress.

Like many of the hilltop neighborhoods north of downtown, Avondale started out with rural estates, and then slowly transformed into a suburban streetcar neighborhood with a heavy Jewish population.

The streets are lined with typical early Twentieth Century housing, actually similar to what I would expect to see in other cities of the Midwest.

There are multi-family apartment buildings as well as single family houses.

Along Reading Road, there is the typical autocentric development, as well as a lot of vacant lots, no doubt surviving from the riots in the late 1960s.

But there is recent construction as well, as we look at the west side of the street first. It looks to have been built in the last ten years.

There are many churches such as Carmel Presbyterian Church below. Martin Luther King actually spoke and called for peace one day before the 1967 riots broke out.

The census statistics are shocking; the population of the neighborhood is one third what it was in 1960, and around half of the residents live in poverty.

Some apartment complexes are in good condition…

…while others sit boarded up and vacant.

There is beautiful housing stock, which shows how much potential there is; the area is not far from jobs in the downtown area, but it seems so far away.

At Clifton Springs Avenue, the Belvedere Apartments mark the northern edge of the neighborhood.

Turning around and heading back south on Reading Road, we see more vacant lots with the occasional house set among them.

The Alameda Flats, below, are still in good condition.

I wonder if this church below was originally a Christian Scientist congregation.

More parking lots, where I suspect there were once more buildings.

I really liked this church, sitting in a weird sort of isolated way far back from the street, looking like it should be part of a larger building.

The east side of the street is mostly vacant lots, no doubt the relic of the rioting. Before we know it, sixty years will have passed with little new development to take those vacant lots’ place.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Allison says:

    The current Southern Baptist Church was originally built as Adath Israel Synagogue, and the church which you mentioned is set back from the road is currently New Friendship Baptist Church and is the former Sh’ereth Ahabeth Achim Synagogue.

    1. cnaffziger says:

      Thanks! That makes sense the neighborhood was heavily Jewish at one point.

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