Evanston: A Kingdom Divided
In this episode, the first of our Lost Voices of Cincinnati series, we’re exploring the history of Evanston, the home of King Records.
Evanston, Cincinnati may be best known as the home of King Records, which was pivotal to the creation of Rock n’ Roll music. However, it’s also home to another important anchor, St. Mark’s, a beautiful church that has been left to deteriorate over time.
In this episode, we explain how the highway divided the neighborhood in the 70s, kicking off decades of disinvestment. And we talk to the people who are fighting hard to preserve the neighborhood’s precious landmarks — and bring the community back together.
Our guests include Evanston neighborhood community council members, Mr. James Stallworth (president), Ms. Marye Ward, Ms. Beverley Lamb, and Ms. Veta Uddin as well as members of the King Legacy committee, Kent Butts and Elliott Ruther, and also historian Dr. M. Christine Anderson, and preservationist and AmeriCorps member, Carrie Rhodus.
Part I: King Records [0:00–08:52]
Part II: Before the highway [09:45–17:12]
Part III: A neighborhood divided [17:13–28:22]
Part IV: Bridges to the future [28:23–33:02]
Support: Ms. Marye Ward has been part of The Mark, a group trying to purchase and preserve St. Mark’s. Consider donating to The Mark today! (UPDATE: As of December 2021, St. Mark’s is a local historic landmark!)
Sponsors: The Lost Voices of Cincinnati series was made possible by a Truth & Reconciliation grant from ArtsWave. We need help for future projects so please so considering donating to Urbanist Media.
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St. Mark’s Church…
Built in 1916 by architect Henry J. Schlacks at a cost of $150,00 (over $3.5 million today), St. Mark’s Church features a 130-foot tall bell tower that is visible from almost anywhere in the neighborhood, including Interstate 71, which was built through the neighborhood in 1972. This light-colored, painted brick ecclesiastical building, located at 3500 Montgomery Road, held services for the local Catholic parish until 2010 and now sits vacant. There is also a school building and cemetery on the adjacent street. The Evanston Community Council is dedicated to acquiring the St. Mark’s Church building and there is a group called The Mark that is working to raise funds to do so. (UPDATE: As of December 2021, St. Mark’s is a local historic landmark!)
King Records, a Household Name in Music History…
The same year that WWII ended, 1944, entrepreneur Syd Nathan converted this former icehouse into the home of the King Records company, and began working with local artists and workers to record, press, and distribute innovative, popular music that crossed genre lines. King made artists like Bootsy Collins, Phillip Paul, and Otis Williams household names and introduced artists like the Sisters of Righteous and Tokyo Happy Coats to new audiences. Notably, King Records also hired people of different races and backgrounds at a time when segregation was still the norm (although many King artists have noted that Syd Nathan did not give them their fair share of profits). Learn more about what the King Records Legacy group is doing to save this building!
This former Green Book site, located at 3334 Montgomery Road, was recently demolished. However, luckily, AmeriCorps member Carrie Rhodus (featured in our episode) was able to survey it before it was torn down.
In her survey, she notes that the 1915 vernacular-style structure with Italianate detailing, was part of the C.M. Holloway’s Subdivision, created in 1887. Holloway was an avid business man in the region, active in steamboats, real estate, banking, and a salt company. This property was part of the five points area of Evanston, historically a commercial hub.
This Green Book property had retained much of its integrity before it was torn down, although it appears that the store fronts had been altered. The property was originally known as Dunlap Flats and featured a hardware store and jeweler in the first-floor storefronts. There were four apartments, all occupied by working class individuals, aside from the owner of the jewelry shop below. The building experienced a high rate of turnover, in residents and storefronts, though it remained under the same ownership through 1946. It was demolished in 2021. Here’s a photo of what it looked like right after: