Elm Street School, the Frederick Douglass School building, 1872

Walnut Hills north of McMillan Street annexed itself to the city of Cincinnati in 1870, at the height of progressive Black Reconstruction. The merger included Cincinnati’s Colored School Board. It resulted in the creation of a Walnut Hills district and the prompt construction of a new Elm Street Colored School. The report of the  Cincinnati Colored School Board at the end of the 1871-1872 school year, proclaimed:
“The new school building on Walnut Hills, erected within the year, is a handsome edifice. It surpasses in appearance and adaptation any which we have before erected. The rooms are large, well ventilated, and tastily finished. The furniture is of the latest style and best workmanship. The surroundings are pleasant, healthy, and attractive. In short, it is in every particular highly creditable to the gentlemen through whose energy and determined efforts it was planned and constructed, as well as to us as a people. Its dedication, which took place on the 10th of May, was very largely attended. The exercises were of a highly interesting character, consisting of singing and speeches.”
The three representatives to the Colored School Board from Walnut Hills, elected by the African American men in the district, included the coal merchant Robert Gordon, Joseph Earley and tobacco merchant Hartwell Parham. (Earley’s father Dangerfield had run an African American school from his home, and Parham’s son William served as the superintendent of the Cincinnati Colored Schools.)
The building on Elm Street (now Alms Place) near Chapel, which would later be named Fredrick Douglass School, immediately enrolled more than 100 students. It was designed by Samuel Hannaford, and illustrated in a lithograph by the great Cincinnati publisher Strobridge. Yet even five years after the end of the Civil War, in a neighborhood of affluent and influential African American families, the Colored School was completely separate from the white Common School building that still stands on William Howard Taft Road at Melrose.