Thursday, April 4, 2013

[Views of Cincinnati] Legend of the Larz Andersons


Last week I resumed shooting my 224 Views of Cincinnati series. After struggling to find Cincinnati's Larz Anderson Park; I eventually arrived, made my photograph and nearly a week later sat down to edit and post it. A simple photograph lead to the uncovering of a historical tale about two cities, two skylines, two views, two parks and two Larz Andersons.

View 224 Views of Cincinnati Locations in a larger map

I haven't updated 224 Cincy since December and only came about halfway to making it to my goal of 224 unique photographs within the year of 2012. Between school and work, the series of photographs kind of fell by the wayside. I was also growing frustrated trying to find unique views and unique ways to make photographs with the end of the year deadline approaching. I eventually just stopped and wasn't sure if I'd continue the photographic series or not. Then I saw a view of Cincinnati I had always envisioned photographing, but could never find the right place to compose a shot.

I was browsing my Instagram feed when I saw this shot posted by Seth from the OTR Matters blog. I had seen Cincinnati's skyline from the East before, even photographed it from that side of town, but I had never seen a view that high up before. I had wanted to get that shot for so long: the city skyline poking up over the hillside of Mt. Adams with the necklace of streetlights known as Columbia Parkway in the foreground. So the next day, I set out to find that view and shoot my own version of the photograph.

I had seen the instagram photo tagged as being taken from "Larz Anderson Park." I had never even heard of that park before. I dropped my camera bag on the passenger seat and pulled up Google Maps on my phone. Having used Google Maps for several years now, I find it's always pretty accurate. However, as I typed out "Larz Anderson Park" it was only pulling up a park of the same name in Brookline, Massachusetts - just outside of Boston.

"God Damnit" I thought. Daylight's fading fast and now I'm looking for the one thing that's inaccurate or not even listed on Google Maps. I even tried Apple Maps, which had no listings, not even for the Massachusetts park. Nevertheless, I went looking for the view based off the location description in Seth's photo's comments. Despite not being listed properly (Google Maps has it listed just as "Anderson Park"), I saw the sign and the park.

- Larz Anderson Park's green space and the nice houses around it.

The park itself isn't much to see. There's a lonesome stone bench and a large green space, but the real highlight is the view. You can look East towards the Columbia-Tusculum neighborhood and down the Ohio river. If you look West, you can see this great view of the city - just how I wanted to photograph it and did as seen in the first picture of this post.

- Looking East from Larz Anderson Park at the Ohio River.

- Columbia-Tusculum as seen from the park.

So here I am a week later about to post the photograph as an update to 224 Cincy with a quick paragraph, some supplemental photos and a link to the map. Business as usual. I wasn't even going to mention the other park outside of Boston. Then I got curious and halfway through getting the post ready, I googled the other park.

Turns out that not only do Cincy and Boston have parks of the same name, both Larz Anderson parks overlook their respective city's skylines.

- The skyline of Boston as seen from that city's Larz Anderson park. Photo by andrewjosephkatz on Flickr.

So then I thought since the park's share similar viewpoints, it'd be worth mentioning the Larz Anderson Park in Brookline, MA just outside of "Beantown." Then I got even more curious and thought what are the chances that both parks are named for the same Larz Anderson?

The Cincinnati Park Board site doesn't reveal very much about the history of the park or who Larz Anderson was, just that his wife donated the land for the park in his memory. However, there was much more information to be found about the Larz Anderson park in Boston and about who it was named for.

"Boston Larz" was born in Paris, France in 1866 while his American parents were visiting the French capital. He went to Harvard, served in the Spanish-American War, was the American ambassador to Japan for a short time, and eventually became a wealthy businessman that had an incredible collection of cars and homes. Larz had a summer home in Boston that had been in his wife's family for years. He died in 1937 and when she also kicked the bucket eleven years later, she left the estate to the town of Brookline who turned it into a public space. Today, the estate's former land is known as Larz Anderson Park.

- "Boston Larz" and his wife Isabel. Image via Wikipedia.

As I read more about "Boston Larz," I found that he was a member of the "Society of the Cincinnati." Not knowing what that society was right at that particular moment, I thought maybe it really could be the same guy who the Cincinnati park is named after. I came to find out that the society is based out of Washington D.C. and serves as a group that promotes public interest in the history of the American Revolutionary War. The society is named after the famed ancient Roman leader and the city of Cincinnati is actually named after the society.

Since that connection and the park board's website didn't confirm anything about who the Cincinnati park was named for, I had to do some more digging. What started out as a simple post regarding a photograph was now becoming an adventure in hunting down some random guy's lineage.

Finding anything on the internet about "Cincy Larz" was tough. I wanted to know if he was the same guy as "Boston Larz" and if he wasn't, was there a connection? Ten years ago I probably would've had to go to the library and read a book. Thankfully the internet brings books to me now, which is where I finally found out some facts about "Cincy Larz."

- "Cincy Larz."

I stumbled upon a book entitled Cincinnati, the Queen City, 1788-1912, Volume 4. Originally published in 1912, the entire book is now available for free as a Google E-Book. According to the book, "Cincy Larz" was born in the Queen City in 1845. He went to Harvard and was successful businessman just like Boston Larz. He served as Vice President of the Union Savings Bank & Trust Company (which eventually became part of 5/3 Bank) and managed several other local financial institutions while also serving as the director of Cincy's famed Spring Grove Cemetery. He eventually died in 1902. In 1920, his widow donated several acres of land to the city of Cincinnati and that area today is known as Larz Anderson Park - the location of this post's first photograph.

So were "the Larzs" the same guy? Given that their wives had different names and their birth/death dates were different, the answer was most likely "no." Yet, their photographs bear a striking resemblance. So what's their relation?

Now, here I am several hours and a several beers later after wanting to just post a photograph and I'm determined to figure out who these guys were. Between two computer monitors, my laptop and my tablet I had several documents and articles pulled up. In all of the publications, I noticed similar names regarding these dude's lineages. So I scribbled up my own crude family tree for them.

- The "family tree" I drew up. 

So, here's how it lays out (abridged version):

- Colonel Richard Clough Anderson, a resident of Virginia, fights in the American Revolutionary War. After America wins, he settles down in Kentucky and gets married. Wife #1 dies, so he re-marries. When all was said and done, this guy had sixteen kids. Out of those sixteen, he names one Larz who comes to find himself in Cincinnati.

- Larz marries a girl named Catherine Longworth (whose father is the famous Longworth of Cincinnati). Together, they have children named Larz (II) and Nicholas as well as seven other random kids.

- Larz II is "Cincy Larz," the guy who Cincinnati's Larz Anderson Park is named for.

- Larz II's brother Nicholas eventually gets married and names one of his son's Larz (III) as well. This third Larz is the nephew of "Cincy Larz" and the guy I've been calling "Boston Larz," who Boston's Larz Anderson Park is named after. 

- Cincy Larz on the left, Boston Larz on the right.

So there you have it. Two cities with two parks overlooking two skylines named after two guys who had two similar moustaches - all in all - two Larz Andersons and one photograph that prompted a look into a family's history.

Special thanks to Seth of OTR Matters for visiting Larz Anderson Park and setting off the string of events that lead to this post.


  1. Great story. Keep up the good work.

  2. Just amazing. Thanks for the research and pictures. I want to visit the park and see the views.

    I hope you continue 224.

  3. LOVE IT!
    I visited that park in the summer of 2011 on my quest to visit all of the Cinci parks, a quest that has yet to be completed... there are over 100!!

  4. Very cool! This article kept me on the edge of my seat, glad you got to the bottom of the mystery. Great photos as well, I really love the colors of the main photo - it could easily be a postcard.

  5. I was also on the edge of my seat!! I think I am still a bit confused ...or I just need another cup of coffee. I am telling you, your blog stories need to be made into a book, photos included of course! Great coffee table book stuff.

  6. Thanks for another great article, and for doing that research for me! Pretty sure I would have given up before I got the answers!

  7. Great research. We lived in the apartment house at the end of the street which is now a residence. Larz Anderson was our private park.

  8. WE HAVE HAD MANY GREAT TIMES IN THE BOSTON LARZ PARK. We were driving by the other day and I wondered to my husband who works in that are about how beautiful it must have been in the 1920's. he said betcha if ya googled it there wold be something on it. Which is how I found YOU!! Thank you. She was just as I imagined her. Had no idea there was another Park let alone another LARZ. HOLY COWBELLS. I too would have kept digging. It is truly a hidden gem here in Boston/Brookline and one of my favorite places when boys were small and as they grew many birthday parties were held and everyone who attend still says " remember that Park" and "Ohh what a beautiful Park that is , where was that?". Thanks to you my mystery is solved and when my husband gets home his mind is going to be blown about this whole thing. Great work detective!!