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A Brief History of Old Seminary Square

Old Seminary Square began its life as the location of the Western Baptist Theological Institute. The Institute was founded by the Kentucky Baptists, and was authorized by the Kentucky Legislature on February 5, 1840. The Institute was built in the area bounded by Robbins Street on the North, Eleventh Street on the South, Russell Street on the West and Madison Avenue on the East.

The issue of slavery divided, and ultimately destroyed the Institute. The buildings were sold in 1855. The only remaining structure is the President's House, which is now known as the Sandford House (pictured above), and was for many years a popular bed-and-breakfast in the neighborhood.

In the 19th Century, the area became a fashionable neighborhood, primarily because of its distance and elevation from the Ohio River.

Well-to-do businessmen built homes in the neighborhood. The area was also home to Henry Farny, a nationally renowned painter. Farny lived on Banklick Street from 1890 until his death in 1916. Farny's illustrations appeared in Harper's Weekly and the McGuffey Readers. One of his best-known works, "The Song of the Talking Wire," showing a Native American on horseback leaning against a telegraph pole in a wintry scene, now hangs in the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati. The OSS Neighborhood Association, along with the Westside Action Coalition, created an art park in 2009 to honor Farny's legacy. It's located at the corner of West Robbins and Banklick Streets.

Like many inner-city neighborhoods, Old Seminary Square suffered through a period of decline in the 1960s and 1970s. But a dedicated group of urban pioneers re-discovered the neighborhood in the late 1970s. Many historic homes have since been rescued from blight, and turned into showcases of historic preservation.

Recently, the neighborhood experienced a blow when four historic row houses on Russell Street caught fire. The properties were heavily damaged, and tragically, one resident perished. However, a developer has recently purchased the properties and intends to rebuild the homes in the historic style of the neighborhood.