Origin of a university: It’s complicated
Cincinnati Enquirer 8/23/18
Library Of Congress/ Provided
UC had just established itself near Burnet Woods, circa 1904.
The University of Cincinnati kicks off its bicentennial school year when classes begin Monday. Although UC traces its beginning to 1819, its origins are actually rather complicated.
The name University of Cincinnati didn’t appear until 1871, and its first classes began in fall 1873. So, what about that 1819 date?
Well, UC contains several separate colleges (for law, medicine, music, etc.), and many of those colleges began as separate institutions that were absorbed by UC.
The earliest colleges that have been acquired were Cincinnati College and the Medical College of Ohio, both of which were chartered in 1819, thus UC’s use of that date.
Cincinnati College became the city’s first institute of higher learning when Lancaster Seminary, founded in 1815, was elevated to a college. Held in a building at Fourth and Walnut streets Downtown, it lasted just six years, then ran out of money.
Dr. Daniel Drake founded the Medical College of Cincinnati at the same time, but he fell out of favor with the faculty. Drake then reopened Cincinnati College in 1835 and headed the medical department.
Cincinnati College, located on Downtown’s Walnut Street, north of Fourth Street, suffered two catastrophic fires. The Mercantile Library, which shared the space, paid $10,000 to help rebuild, and in exchange the college gave the library a 10,000-year lease for the space, renewable forever. Cincinnati College merged with UC in 1911.
UC as we know it was formed from an endowment bequeathed by Charles McMicken in 1858 to the city of Cincinnati to create “two Colleges for the education of white Boys and Girls.” The city ignored such restrictions and created a school for all In 1885, Jacob Donelson Cox was named UC president. One of his first orders of business was absorbing smaller schools into the UC ecosystem, adding colleges specializing in medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry. To accommodate this aggressive growth, Cox negotiated with the city of Cincinnati in 1889 to move the university up the hill from the McMicken estate to Burnet Woods.
While McMicken University (later UC) still existed only on paper, Joseph Longworth supplied more funds to create the McMicken School of Design in 1869, which became UC’s first college. The School of Design broke away to join the Cincinnati Art Museum in 1884, and became the Art Academy of Cincinnati.
UC first held classes in Woodward High School in Over-the-Rhine, then in 1875 moved to McMicken’s hilltop estate on Vine Street between Clifton and McMicken avenues. Classes were free to city residents. UC moved to Burnet Woods in 1895, and continued to expand and acquire more colleges.
The Medical College of Ohio was absorbed in 1896, the Cincinnati School of Nurses (established 1889) in 1916 and the Cincinnati College of Pharmacy (started in 1850) in 1954.
Ohio Mechanics Institute, founded in 1828 as a mechanical trade school, had homes in Trollope’s Bazaar, Greenwood Hall (Sixth and Vine streets) and the OMI building on Central Parkway that it shared with Emery Theatre. OMI became the Ohio College of Applied Science in 1958 and merged with UC in 1969. It joined the College of Engineering in 2009.
The College of Law began as Cincinnati Law School in 1833, then became part of Cincinnati College. UC added its own law department in 1896 led by William Howard Taft, and the two schools were affiliated before finally merging in 1918.
The College-Conservatory of Music was a merger of two competing music schools. Clara Baur founded the Conservatory of Cincinnati in 1867, housed in the Shillito Mansion in Mount Auburn. The College of Music began in 1878 adjacent to Music Hall. The rivals merged in 1955 and became a part of UC in 1962.
Sources: UC Magazine, www.uc. edu, Ohio History Central