Provided by the Norwood Historical Society
History of Norwood
When the Ohio River Valley was first settled in the early 1800’s, the region that would become Norwood was originally used as farmland. In 1809, a businessman named Samuel Bowman purchased a plot of land along the state and county roads, which is now Montgomery road and Smith/Carthage Ave. There, he established a tavern. Across the street, he was joined by one John Sharp, who constructed a general store. This crossroads would come to be known as Sharpsburg. Years later, Sarah Bolles, the wife of a local proprietor, decided that the name “Sharpsburg” wasn’t pretty enough. She proposed the name “Norwood,” an abbreviation of “North Wood” for the dense forests around the area.
As time went by, the area developed slowly, gradually becoming a small, sleepy village. In 1866, everything changed with the introduction of the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad. Developers saw an opportunity to run a new line through Norwood to avoid the expensive fees on shipping goods to Cincinnati using the Little Miami Railroad. They first ran lines from Loveland to the Millcreek, and by 1882 had built tracks from Lebanon to Cincinnati.
Norwood’s population grew quickly, with a wealth of available property and an easy commute to jobs in the city. As subdivisions cropped up around the area, there was soon a demand for public services. Wells were drilled at the site of what is now Waterworks Park, and a new water tower was soon constructed. In later years, as the city of Cincinnati rapidly annexed surrounding villages, Norwood’s infrastructure may have contributed to the village’s ability to remain independent—though Norwood wasn’t quite yet an official village.
In 1878, the Norwood Town Association was founded, with local property owner and stockholder L. C. Hopkins as it’s first president. Four years later, in 1882, a town hall was constructed and was soon used for community functions such as church services, plays, and town meetings. The community continued to grow and develop until inevitably, in 1888, Norwood was incorporated into Hamilton County as an official village, with Dr. John Weyer as the first elected mayor. In 1889, the village expanded, annexing the entirety of the old Sharpsburg school district. Norwood became a city on May 4, 1903.
Throughout the twentieth century, Norwood grew from a residential community into a major center of industry. Now with infrastructures such as sidewalks and streetlights, and the mass transit systems of the railroad and the streetcar, Norwood was an attractive locale for many businesses. Major companies like U. S. Playing Cards, U. S. Printing, and General Motors/Fisher Body moved factories to the area, and the city continued to develop alongside them. In 1913, the city ordered the construction of a masonry municipal building, which is now known as City Hall.
In the years to come, many of these companies would shutter their doors, or relocate elsewhere. The most significant loss was the General Motors plant, placing Norwood into a dire financial situation. To revitalize the economy and adjust to fewer industrial jobs, the city shifted towards a retail and businesses centered fiscal model. Retail centers like the Swifton Mall and the original Kenwood shopping center, constructed in 1956, soon took the place of industrial labor. To this day, Norwood maintains a proud reputation as the birthplace of numerous retail, service, and manufacturing businesses.