The 1948 City Plan For Cincinnati: Ballparks, Airports, Heliports, and more!

February 24, 2020

The 1948 Cincinnati Master Plan

Post-World War II America was a place of boundless optimism and tremendous economic growth. One thing that illustrates that, quite literally, is the 1948 City Plan for Cincinnati. Comprised of 17 chapters, the report detailed how the city and surrounding area should approach the planning of freeways, the riverfront, schools, other public buildings, and more. The more intriguing ideas are listed below.

Downtown ballpark and convention center

The idea of a stadium on the Cincinnati riverfront dates back to at least the late 1930s. Indeed, in the image below, dated 1939, a stadium sits just to the west of the Roebling Suspension Bridge. Oddly, it appears to be a football-only facility. 

Cincinnati riverfront proposal, 1939

At the time, Cincinnati was home to the original Bengals who began in the second American Football League in 1936. They were still in business when this rendering was created and had just joined the third American Football League.

Under this plan, the Reds would presumably have stayed at Crosley Field with the (old) Bengals as the sole tenant of the stadium next to the bridge. The 1948 plan, though, shows a baseball park in the same spot, reflecting the Bengals’ demise in 1941. Also, right next to the stadium is a fascinating structure. 

The riverfront plan, 1948

Helluva a lot of heliports

The concept of the helicopter had been around since the Wright Brothers’ time, but the craft wasn’t perfected until the mid-1940s. It was too late to have any practical influence on World War II. It wasn’t until a year after the war ended that the first helicopter, the Bell 47, was certified by the Civil Aeronautics Administration. It was a Bell H-13 Sioux, the U.S. Army equivalent of the Bell-47, that was used in the movie and TV series M*A*S*H.

Cincinnati city planners were keen on the idea of helicopters, even while many in the aviation industry remained skeptical. The 1948 Master Plan called for a huge facility, as big as the adjacent baseball stadium, to be used for these new flying machines.

Their primary purpose was to be in the movement of mail from downtown to the airport. The plan noted experiments with such a system underway at that time in Chicago and Los Angeles. It further urged reserving land along the riverfront in Cincinnati for a heliport should that system be adopted which, of course, it wasn’t. Heliports were also proposed for the West End and St. Bernard.

Blue Ash International Airport

In addition to heliports, the 1948 plan called for new, large, Class V airport to handle commercial air traffic as well as several smaller fields to handle growing private aviation needs. It was suggested that several of these smaller fields be built before 1956, including facilities in Western Hills (west of Cheviot), Mt. Healthy, Wyoming, near Sixteen Mile Stand, Cold Spring, and just outside of Newtown in Anderson Township. After 1956, airports were to be built in Cherry Grove, in Anderson Township, as well as Green Hills, and Taylor Mill.

Proposed Blue Ash International Airport

The main airport was to be located in Blue Ash, where the airport already in existence there would have been massively expanded. The enlarged airport was going to occupy the land north of Cooper Road, across from what is today the Blue Ash Recreation Complex. The airport entrance would have been on Kenwood Road, just north of Zig Zag.

The international airport, of course, wound up in Hebron, which the 1948 plan foresaw CVG as remaining a Class IV airport, larger than Lunken, but smaller than Blue Ash.

Motorways

The planned freeway system looks remarkably similar to the layout we have today, with a few notable exceptions.

I-275:

Most of I-275 is in the 1948 Plan, but it doesn’t enter Kentucky or Indiana. On the western side, it interchanges with US 50 near Cleves. To the east, it runs off the map, never turning southward through the Eastern Hills as it does today.

No interstates, at least not in name

The Interstate Highway Act was signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1956, however many of the roads in the system were well into the planning and even construction stages. In 1948, though, the highways that would become I-75 and I-71 were known as the Millcreek Expressway and the Northeast Freeway, respectively. South of the river, the combined highway was going to be called the Dixie Freeway.

No Cross County Highway:

The Norwood Lateral is in the plan, but the Cross County Highway is not. Also, there is a stretch of limited-access highway that was supposed to run from the Columbia Parkway in Walnut Hills, essentially following, or possibly replacing, Taft and MacMillan, north of downtown, into Western Hills, running across the Viaduct, and connecting with US 50 west of Delhi.

Other missing highways:

Colerain Avenue appeared as a limited-access highway connecting to the Millcreek Expressway just north of what is now I-74. In Anderson, there was a proposed highway that was to run off Beechmont (Ohio 125) immediately past the old El Rancho Rankin Hotel (the Skytop Pavilion today), through the Township between Beechmont and State Route 32 into Clermont County where it would have rejoined Ohio 125.

Twain was sort of right:

Mark Twain (probably never actually) said: "When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always twenty years behind the times." The area’s detractors often repeat this when talking about some failed project, but if you look at the 1948 Master Plan, the city was very forward-thinking, and a lot of the ideas discussed (eventually) came to fruition and are things we enjoy to this day.




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