Grant Park wasn't always a park...
Liberty Street was Cincinnati’s original northern boundary. As small clusters of homes and businesses pushed just beyond these city limits (mostly along Vine Street and McMicken Avenue, which was then called Hamilton Road), this area was unofficially called “The Northern Liberties”. Roughly 710 people lived in this area in 1830, but immigration caused the population to explode. By 1840 roughly 8,000 ethnic Germans lived north of Liberty.
The Northern Liberties became part of the City of Cincinnati in 1849, adding thousands of German-Americans to city voter rolls. This exacerbated ethnic and religious tensions between the city’s more established, ethnically English and Scottish residents and its newer, German and Irish populations.
The Northern Liberties are often recalled as an outpost of lawlessness. It paints a romantic picture to imagine that Cincinnatians of the 1840s could step from a well-regulated society into a nihilistic wonderland simply by crossing Liberty Street, but this legendary image of the Northern Liberties has almost no basis in reality. It is true that the area was beyond the reach of Cincinnati’s municipal law, but for practical purposes this had very little impact on daily life. City Council did outlaw saloons in 1847, but with only one city marshal and two deputies to enforce the law against roughly 400 open taverns, efforts were quickly abandoned and the law was repealed; and while laws against gambling and prostitution remained on the books, they were rarely enforced. The truth seems to be that it was far more frustrating than liberating to live so close to, yet just beyond the reach of city services. As a result, the residents of the Northern Liberties voted to become part of the City of Cincinnati in 1848, and Cincinnatians approved the annexation the following year.
Brewery and Malt House
As the neighborhood developed, a portion of today's Grant Park became home to the F&J.A. Linck Brewery. Brothers Frank and Joseph Linck grew up above a family tavern (located around the middle, north side of this park) while this area was still the Northern Liberties. The brothers opened the F. & J.A. Linck Brewery here in 1855, but it was out of business by 1859. Their facility, however, did still have a long second life as a malt house that was owned first by the Kauffman Brewery and then by Christian Boss and the Gambrinus Stock Brewing Company on Sycamore Street. All of the original facility was demolished to build this park.
The 1907 General Plan for System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Cincinnati laid out a new vision for this corner of Over-the-Rhine. This plan was commonly known as the Kessler Plan after the landscape architect George Kessler, who was commissioned by the Cincinnati Park Board to develop the first comprehensive park plan for the city. It called for a new park on the site of the old brewery, with baths, wading pool, and playground.
The Cincinnati Park Board moved forward with portions of Kessler's plan, and purchased the old brewery and malthouse. It was demolished and a new Grant Park was formed with a shelter house and wading pool. Over time, the park was further expanded to the northwest and a larger public pool was added. Operation of the park eventually was turned over to the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, and the pool was demolished in the late 1990's.
The Park Grows
In 2014, the city administration selected the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood around Grant Park as part of the semi-annual Neighborhood Enhancement Project. As part of this project, all new playground equipment was donated and installed in Grant Park along with additional improvements like regrading low spots and historic looking fencing.
Then, in 2015, the non-profit Brewery District CURC helped expand the park as part of the Brewing Heritage Trail project. The city's Department of Transportation and Engineering allocated funding to close a portion of Walnut Street for additional park space and improve pedestrian safety at a number of crossings. The same year, the Brewery District CURC installed the second mural along the forthcoming Brewing Heritage Trail along with Artworks: "Grain to Glass" by Jim Effler. This mural celebrates Cincinnati’s brewing heritage and honors the people, past and present, who have worked to support it. The story of a seemingly simple glass of beer unfolds from left to right highlighting each step of the process, starting with the harvesting of grain through the brewing, bottling, and transportation process and finishing out of the tap of a local watering hole. This mural honors the wide range of professions within the brewing industry and the community they create.