“A Place Called Terrace Park”

(From an article by Sue Porter for the Village Views, March 2016)

APCTP bookAs Terrace Park approached the 100th anniversary of its incorporation in 1893, a group of residents decided it was time for a local history book. After nearly two years of research and writing, an 88-page, hardcover book was initially offered for $10 a copy in advance of the community’s centennial celebrations.

Today, anyone interested in reading “A Place Called Terrace Park” can find it online HERE. The book, which was recently added to the site, was written by Ellis Rawnsley with research assistance from Esther H. M. Power and John Diehl; project support from Lynn Nelson, Bob Halley and Alan McAllister; design consultation from Mark Eberhard and publishing expertise from Skip Merten of Merten Printing Company, where 1,100 copies were made.

Power said the book was conceived as a “permanent legacy” to mark the centennial and Rawnsley was the perfect person to write it. His journalism career spanned nearly seven decades and included work as a writer and chief copy editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer. He’d also founded Terrace Park’s Village Views, and served as its editor for 15 years.

But, according to Power, more important to the project than his expansive and award-winning career was his great love and knowledge of the village. He helped found Terrace Park’s volunteer fire department and served as chief for nine years, helped launch the life squad, co-founded the first Boy Scout troop and served as cub master, and with his wife, Bonnie, donated property to the village for construction of a new administration building.

Rawnsley.Ellis.1992
Esther H. M. Power took this photo of author Ellis Rawnsley researching the centennial book, “A Place Called Terrace Park,” in the village archives.

Rawnsley brought this deep dedication to the reading of 100 years of council meeting minutes , decades of school board minutes, letters, private papers, previous histories and narratives, and then turned to Power for the details and records she’d compiled as the village’s volunteer archivist. From the voluminous notes he’d meticulously gleaned, Rawnsley wrote the essays that became the book’s 15 chapters:

  • “In Ancient Times” takes readers back about 12,000 years to the hunters and gatherers, who followed mastodons, wooly mammoths, sabre-toothed tigers, bison and other wildlife.
  • “On Bloody Ground” tells of “pioneer settlers and Shawnee Indians who fought and died for possession of what is now Terrace Park; the Indians almost won.”
  • “Romance on the Frontier” recounts a touching tale of tragedy and triumph in just 186 words.
  • “A Rise and Fall” is about the legend of John Smith, the area’s first resident of national prominence.
  • “Laying the Foundation” explains how Terrace Park got its name (a contest that offered a sewing machine to the winner; however, no one entered) and evolved into incorporation (a process that cost $197 and was assessed against owners of village property, which had a total valuation of $125,000 in 1893).
  • “Founding Fathers” is a list of 48 names.
  • “Circus Days” offers anecdotes about Robinson’s Circus that spent winters in Terrace Park and its elephant named Tillie who won residents’ hearts.
  • “They Were ‘Characters’“ introduces readers to a clown and a snake-charmer who traveled with the circus.
  • “Growing Pains” depicts the village as it becomes a proper place to life. An excerpt: “In its first few years, the new village council took action against coal smoke pouring from the Little Miami Railroad locomotives, planted more than 800 trees, restricted the slaughter of the livestock some villagers raised, set its face firmly against allowing industry in the village, banned barbed wire fencing and banned the robbing of bird nests.”
  • “A Proud History” profiles George and Rachel Corey, one of Terrace Park’s first families, who helped establish the Baptist church on Elm Avenue that was bought by the village in 1922 for $2,000 and is today known as the Community Building.
  • “Mail Call” tells the story of the Terrace Park Post Office and lists postmasters from 1891 to 1991.
  • “Tying Things Together” offers insight into the village’s first public transportation and utilities and the transformation of housing along the Little Miami River from summer resort for “weary Cincinnatians” to year-round homes for “Appalachian migrants.”
  • “Some Beginnings” witnesses the creation of the Terrace Park Country Club, a branch library, the Woman’s Club, Terrace Park Garden Club and Boy Scout Troop 286.
  • “When Money Didn’t Help” tells the story of life in Terrace Park during World War II, a time when cigarettes, gasoline and hosiery were rationed and stamps were traded for coffee and sugar.
  • “Changeful Times” visits Terrace Park post-World War II when more than half of the homes in the village were built and there was discussion of annexing property opposite the Little Miami River. Winds of change also blew through the Ohio Board of Education office and brought consolidation of small school districts and the end of K-12 education under one roof in Terrace Park.
  • “Up Until Now” took a look at Sunday School attendance at St. Thomas Church that topped 500, the arrival of the village’s first commercially-built fire truck in 1946 and, with proceeds from pancake suppers and a village directory, two ambulances. This excerpt describes other changes: “The village got its only traffic light in 1951; had a rabies scare in 1952 that called for mandatory inoculation of 180 dogs as compared to only 48 treated in 1948; established the Wilderness Preserve in 1971 as the first step in a green belt; and established 24-hour police protection in 1964, building on the foundation laid by Matt Cook, the village’s first officer with any professional background . . . And the last of the once-common outhouses disappeared, after village council discovered to its horror in 1952 that there were still four of them in use.”
  • “Terrace Park Mayors” lists 27 residents who served during the village’s first 100 years.
  • “As Kermit Says: It Isn’t Easy Being Green” provided census data on village trees that showed in 1992 Terrace Park had 240 trees per street-mile as compared to Mariemont with just 140 and Cincinnati with only 50.
  • “Those Railroad Houses” discussed the dozen homes built in a similar design during the late 1890s and debunked the theory they were constructed by the Little Miami Railroad for employees.

“I like to think of it not as a formal history of Terrace Park, but a story of how the village developed over the years,” Rawnsley said in a 1992 Cincinnati Enquirer interview about the book.

He was delighted to see how quickly copies of his “labor of love” sold and Power thinks he’d be especially pleased to know that now – nearly a quarter century later – new generations of readers and residents will have access to it thanks to the Terrace Park Historical Society.