It is difficult to imagine St. Bernard without parks, but there were none in the early 1900’s. It was not until councilman Richard J. Coates proposed the acquisition of land for park purposes that construction of the first playground took place. Even before construction of Vine Street Park, described as one of the most beautiful in Hamilton County, the area of Bertus and Park Place* was chosen. After completion, residents from other St. Bernard locations demanded their own neighborhood park.
With the exception of Vine Street Park, most of the smaller parks were duplicates of one another; that is, they had a small wading pool, playground equipment of swings, slides, monkey bars, teeter totters, and a “comfort” building. One exception was Franklin Park. It was constructed following demolition of the water tower that previously occupied the site. Designed for tots, it did not have a wading pool or “comfort” station. Depending on the size of the parks, some featured basketball hoops, baseball diamonds and tennis courts. Other parks such as Ross Avenue and Bertus/Park Place boasted shelter houses.
Unlike Bertus and Franklin parks, Ross Avenue is a 7 acre park that has a track field, several baseball diamonds, grandstands and picnic areas with grills and tables. Often held family picnics and reunions take place in the shelter houses, which residents are able to reserve free of charge. The 4th of July festivities and fireworks display are also enjoyed by residents and are opened to the public.
Of the three, only Franklin and Ross Avenue parks remain. Ross Avenue has been redesigned over the years and no longer has a wading pool; the playground equipment at Franklin has a more modern, colorful appearance than the old metal slides and squeaky swing sets of long ago. To make way for new housing, demolition of Bertus Street Park was scheduled to begin in December 2009
*The area from Bertus Street to Church Avenue, originally known as Philomena Street, was officially renamed Park Place on 28 September 1910. KHP
Source: History Room archives; The Cincinnati Enquirer, 28 Feb 1928, p. 14; Fifty Years of Progress, 1878-1928, p. 29; St. Bernard, Ohio 1878-1978, p.82; The Cincinnati Enquirer, 26 May 1962; The Cincinnati Enquirer, 04 Dec 2009, p.23; Ordinance #1348: Name Change for Philomena Street to Park Place. Photos: Ross Field, Richard Berter; Franklin Park, KHP, Bertus Street Park, History Room Archives and Donald Middendorf.