McMicken Hall

In 1857, noted philanthropist and Cincinnatian Charles McMicken died of pneumonia1. He left a large part of his fortune and his estate to the City of Cincinnati “for the purpose of building, establishing, and maintaining as soon as practical after [his] decease, two colleges for the education of white Boys and Girls.”2 But due to limited funds, only one college was erected on the McMicken homestead on McMicken Avenue (formerly known as Hamilton Road) near Elm.3, 4 His will revealed a deep-seated desire to make a quality education available to young Cincinnatians, but only to white students.5 Thus, McMicken College of Art and Design (also known as McMicken University) opened in 1869; in 1870 it was chartered as the University of Cincinnati.6

McMicken College was originally located on McMicken’s estate on Clifton.7 However, in the late 1880s, it was apparent that the University of Cincinnati needed to move. The estate’s position on a narrow, steep hillside made it difficult to expand a growing university.8 What started out as a rural area quickly became a manufacturing hub, where soot flew through windows, damaging lab equipment, and where dust was kicked up from the road into the building.9, 10 The building was also very hard to access in the winter due to slippery hills.10 University officials wanted to get away from the increasingly industrial site, looking at park sites in Washington Park, College Hill, and Burnet Woods.10 Burnet Woods was the most attractive and the University looked first to the McMicken heirs, and then to the courts for approval to move the university under the terms allowed by McMicken’s will.

McMicken’s heirs fought the proposed move. They stipulated that the campus’s current location was still suitable for use.11 They also declared that neither the directors nor the court had the right to move the school’s buildings.11 Charles McMicken intended the college to stay on his property. The heirs also claimed that by attempting to move the University, the directors violated the trust of the will.11 In this case, the property should be transmitted to Charles McMicken’s heirs.12

            The city argued that the will did allow the trustees to move the University, should its current location become unsuitable for the kinds of reasons stated above.12 They also stated that McMicken’s will specifically asked that a university of the highest character be built.13 A University of such high character would attract a large number of students that might require additional space.13 City counsel also argued that Cincinnati had statutory authority, granted under an Ohio law passed in 1870, that allowed the city to appropriate any public land not being specifically used for any other reason to the University.14

            The court ruled that changing circumstances since the will’s creation made it impossible to carry out the clear intention of the will.15 Based on McIntyre v. Zanesville Canal Co. 17 O.S. 363, the courts can direct trustees in the intent of the testator of a will with regard to such changed circumstances in an effort to act in the overall goal of the will.16 The Hamilton County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the City of Cincinnati. The Ohio Supreme Court later concurred. The cornerstone of McMicken Hall, at its new site on the former Burnet Woods park, was laid on September 22nd, 1894 and the building was completed in September of 1895.17

McMicken Hall was the first university building erected on the Burnet Woods Campus.18 Designed by famed Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford, the hall was of neo-Georgian design in an effort to connect the university with other universities in the country and evoke feelings of patriotism and academia (which is ironic considering the style draws its name from former English ruler King George). 19, 20 Old McMicken Hall would remain standing until the late 1940s when it was razed in order to build a new hall in the same location.21 Completed in 1950, the new (and current) McMicken Hall was of similar design to old McMicken.22 Designed by another famed Cincinnatian, architect Harry Hake, the hall maintained a Georgian style, repeating the two flanking wings of the previous building and even including 650,000 bricks from old McMicken.22 It was intended to resemble the student Union (now Tangeman University Center).23

Mick and Mack, the two lion statues outside of McMicken’s main entrance, also survived the razing. The statues originally belonged to Cincinnati real estate tycoon  Jacob Hoffner.26 They are copies of lion statues that reside at the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, Italy.

Jacob Hoffner lived on the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Blue Rock Street.27 Hoffner had no heirs and left his estate to the City in Cincinnati in hopes that it would become a city park.27 Problems with taxes and litigation prevented the creation of the park he had envisioned, and instead, the estate was demolished in 1894 to make a playground.28 The city offered the lion statues to the University before demolishing the estate.29 Formerly known as Northside Playground, the area is now known as Jacob Hoffner Park. Hoffner finally got his wish.

The lion statues have become a campus legend, earning the names Mick and Mack due to their location in front of McMicken Hall. They have been involved in many pranks including being painted by rival football teams (a tradition that has been discontinued) and being broken apart by a mysterious vandal in 1971.22, 31 Such a storied history has lead to the adoption of Mick and Mack as official mascots of McMicken College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Association.32

Endnotes

1.          "History of McMicken College," University of Cincinnati, accessed October 5, 2011, last modified 2009, http://www.artsci.uc.edu/collegemain/about/history.aspx.

2.          Charles McMicken, "The will of Charles McMicken of Cincinnati, Ohio: probated April 10,1858," 1858, University of Cincinnati Archives and Rare Books Library, Cincinnati, p. 19.

3.          Kevin Grace and Greg Hand, The University of Cincinnati, ed. James E. Turner (Montgomery, AL: Community Communications, 1995), p. 23.

4.          John B. Shotwell, A History of the Schools of Cincinnati (Cincinnati: School Life, 1902), p. 212-214, accessed October 12, 2011, http://hdl.handle.net/2027/loc.ark:/13960/t0dv25f37.

5.          "History of McMicken College.”

6.          Nancy Berlier, ed., Cincinnati: Days in History (Cincinnati: Cincinnati Post, 1988), p. 60.

7.          "History of McMicken College.”

8.          Shotwell, p. 190.

9.          Grace and Hand, p. 41.

10.       Reginald C. McGrane, The University of Cincinnati: A Success Story in Urban Higher Education (New York: Harper, 1963), p. 147.

11.       Hamilton County Circuit Court, The University case; records, briefs, and decisions (Cincinnati: Keating and Co., 1894), p. 4.

12.       Hamilton County Circuit Court, p. 2.

13.       Hamilton County Circuit Court, p. 9.

14.       Hamilton County Circuit Court, p. 3.

15.       Hamilton County Circuit Court, p. 10.

16.       Hamilton County Circuit Court, p. 11.

17.       Shotwell, p. 190-192.

18.       Berlier, p. 136.

19.       Paul Bennett, University of Cincinnati (New York: Princeton Architectural, 2001), p. 5.

20.       Bennett, p. 19.

21.       “History of McMicken College.”

22.       Bennett, p. 21.

23.       Bennett, p. 6.

24.       Hugh C. Leighton Co., "McMicken Hall - University Of Cincinnati OH - 1900s-1910s," Home-Town Archive, accessed November 23, 2011, http://www.hometownarchive.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=6153.

25.       Walter Smallings Jr., “McMicken Hall,” University of Cincinnati, by Paul Bennettt (New York: Princeton Architectural, 2001), p. 20.

26.       “History of McMicken College.”

27.       McGrane, p. 198.

28.       McGrane, p. 199.

29.       “History of McMicken College.”

30.       "Mick and Mack," University of Cincinnati, accessed November 23, 2011,

http://www.artsci.uc.edu/collegemain/about/history.aspx.

31.       “History of McMicken College.”

32.       “History of McMicken College.”

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