Washington Terrace

Model Home by Schmidlapp

Model Home by Schmidlapp

Jacob Schmidlapp talked some of his friends into joining him in financing a half-million-dollar joint stock company called the Cincinnati Model Homes Company. Like his earlier housing ventures, the company sought to provide decent affordable housing for low-wage workers. The largest projects built by Model Homes went on previously vacant land in the northwest corner of Walnut Hills, west of Gilbert and north of Lincoln, now mostly displaced by I71 and the MLK interchange.

Schmidlapp acknowledged that the apartments were segregated – a fact he attributed to the prejudices of working class whites. The Model Homes Company presented the development as a “Community”: “The Negro, being an American, is opposed to the force which the word ‘segregation’ implies, while ‘community’ signifies invitation.” It seems the African American community embraced the distinction: even W. E. B. DuBois, the fiery editor of the NAACP magazine The Crisis, offered a clearly positive review in his column The Looking Glass in August 1919.:

“The site chosen was a plot of seven acres in that beautiful, wooded section of the city called ‘Bloody Run.’ Beginning at Kerper Avenue on Walnut Hills, the property extends to the boundary line of Avondale. It would have been difficult to find a more suitable location than this little spot nestling among the hills.

“The houses are built in rows. but to avoid monotony in architectural design they are so arranged that each one stands out individually. For instance, in the group known as the annex there are two, four and eight apartment houses of the detached and semi-detached type, so that the cheerless appearance of a straight row of houses is avoided.

“With but few exceptions all apartments have separate entrances, which is a great asset toward the moral side of housing because of the few points of contact it affords the tenants. Each flat has a bath and toilet and a separate water heater. Every room is [no] more than two rooms deep, insuring plenty of fresh air.

“It has been estimated by social workers that 90 per cent of the housekeeping would come up to a perfect grade, while about 8 per cent would be considered adequate from a sanitary standpoint. Only the remaining 2 per cent were found below the average during three years.

“The Terrace provides homes for 188 families. It is divided into four main groups – Washington Terrace, which contains seventy-eight flats; the Annex, which has thirty-eight; the Taft Lane group of thirty flats and the Kerper Avenue group of forty-two form the community.”

DuBois, ever the researcher, passed on the information about the high marks assigned to the housekeeping by social workers without any hint of offense at the idea that social workers should monitor this experiment. His introduction to the article reference to Washington Terrace as “a suburb of Cincinnati, where two hundred Negro families live together, with every facility for improving their industrial and educational status” seems as close to channeling Booker T. Washington as DuBois ever came.