Exploring Avoca Park through the Years by Jen Buchholz (orignally printed in the May 2015 Village Views)
Go on skates or go by bike. Go by foot–run, skip, or hike!
Now that we’re in the season of soccer games, bike rides and romps through the woods, a trip to Avoca is likely in your near future. Frisbee games, soccer practice, picnics and river views are likely to draw you to this trailhead, known for its beautiful, open green space. However, Avoca, a Celtic word that means “meeting of the waters” has evolved over time from a mill, to a family picnic grove, to a social gathering spot.
In 1800, shortly after Abraham Covalt built his fort in Terrace Park, the Armstrong Family, arrived in Ohio from Baltimore, Maryland. A farming family that had claimed several hundred acres as part of a government program for veterans following the American Revolution, they sold their farmland and ventured this area by wagon and flatboats down the Ohio River. The family built several mills in the area, including one in Avoca in 1802, which was possibly the second mill built in the Miami Valley. The patriarch, Nathaniel, was also responsible for the construction of Armstrong Chapel in Indian Hill.
In 1878, the land was sold to the Hartmann family and named Hartmann’s Grove. A mill may have still operated with this family’s new ownership, possibly expanding from a grain mill to one for pull and card fiber. The family also had a picnic grove on the banks of the Ohio River. They sold the land in 1907.
Avoca Park soon became a camp, run by the Disabled American Veterans of World War (DAV). In the 1920s, the camp included a Club House, camp cottages, tennis courts and croquet grounds. Described as the envy of all summer camps, the Club House hosted dances on Saturday Night, where couples would dance the night away to the tunes from Jimmie Size’s Orchestra on a new dance floor—for the hefty admission price of 25-cents for ladies and 35-cents for gentlemen. Sunday dinners were served on the front porch for 50-cents. Campers were treated to sunbathing on the riverbank, rafting, canoeing and even playing water baseball.
By the 1960s, summer camps still remained at the park, but several were condemned, despite efforts from nearby residents to restore the park back to its condition decades before. In the 1990s, still owned by the DAV, homeless veterans were brought to the area for medical checkups, food, and clothing.
This 65-acrea park is now owned by Hamilton County Park District and is preserved without development, with the exception of parking and restrooms. As a trailhead for the Little Miami Scenic Trial, voted the best Ohio Bike Trail in 2014, Avoca remains a hub of activity to this day, explored by people from all over. Yet it’s past remains an important part of our village history.
Information for this article was found in a Village Views article from 2006 (https://villageviewsarchive.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/vv0606.pdf), the Armstrong Chapel website (Armstrongchapel.org/history) and a website on the history of Cincinnati (http://www.cincinnativiews.net/other_parks_4.htm)