Your Destination Guide to Cincinnati

Destination Guide Cincinnati - Your Destination Guide to Cincinnati, OH

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Betts-Longworth Historic District

Betts-Longworth Historic District
Betts-Longworth Historic District

© Keller Studios

Driving on Clark Street through The Betts-Longworth Historic District is like traveling in a time machine. The muddled past of the area is clearly visible as each historic period is well documented in the area's architecture.

Coming from Central Avenue, Clark Street is lined with homes built in popular 19th century style. A majority of the homes in Betts-Longworth are Italianate with a few Queen Ann and Greek Revival intermingled. However, the most notable of these dons the name of the neighborhood and is the only Federal-style mansion in the district: the Betts House. When William Betts and his family took a flatboat down the Ohio River, the West End of Cincinnati was little more than a grassy river basin. In 1804, construction of the Betts House was completed, and the original structure has remained in that spot for over 200 years, making it the oldest brick home in the State of Ohio. Although the owners changed several times over the years, the house remained in fairly good condition. In 1988, Betts' great-great-grand-daughter purchased the home and had extensive renovations done. Since, it has become the Betts House Research Center, dedicated to understanding Cincinnati's history through the study of its architecture.

When crossing the intersection at Clark and John Streets, undeveloped lots replace the original stone walls and iron fences of the first block, a common site as a majority of the original buildings in this area has long been demolished after decades of vacancy. By the mid-19th century, the population of the city had boomed; nearly 30,000 residents were packed into the West End, making it the most densely populated area in the country. Over-crowding quickly became an issue and many of the area's affluent citizens moved away, including the Betts in 1855. The next 100 years would take a serious toll on the area. With the construction of I-75, the West End was split in half, thousands of homes were destroyed for the new highway, and the Betts-Longworth area was seemingly forgotten. By 1968, only 1,200 residents remained. However, it wouldn't remain that way for long.

By the time you reach Cutter Street, the neighborhood changes again. On the surface it appears like any other suburban enclave. The streets are lined with new townhouses and apartments, streetlamps and sidewalks, landscaping and fences. In the 1960s, the city started planning what would be a 25 million dollar restoration project. After years of battling bureaucrats and banks, groups of community organizers and the City of Cincinnati started building much of the current housing in the early 1990s. The homes are new and suitable for modern living; however, they do bear a striking resemblance to those of the original West End, and that's a good thing.

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