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Hidden Cincinnati: Secrets behind Twin Lakes and Eden Park's gazebo

Audit of Cincinnati Park Board, Park Foundation now expected to be complete in mid-July
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 21:20:46-04

CINCINNATI — Though the secrets behind Mirror Lake at Eden Park were focal points of a previous Hidden Cincinnati, Eden Park itself is still brimming with historical information left to uncover.

The gazebo at Eden Park is perhaps one of the most photographed locations in Cincinnati, but it still shelters a surprise.

"You know, for a lot of people, this is kind of the park icon structure, the Springhouse Gazebo at Eden Park. I think if you show this image to anybody in the city, I think they're gonna make that mental connection," said Michael George, senior naturalist with the Cincinnati Park Board. "So that's the building up of Eden Park."

The name gives the secret away a bit: the Springhouse Gazebo sits on top of a freshwater spring. The spring was once used by early Cincinnatians as a source of fresh water for homes and more.

"And the spring here was purported to have medicinal properties. People would actually bring their water kegs up here to fill them up," said George. "Well, originally, there was a straw shack that kind of covered this to keep the leaf and litter debris out. This gazebo was constructed in 1904. And people came up here and filled up their water kegs. And this went on to about 1912, when the health department came up and checked and realized we probably shouldn't be drinking this water either."

Up the hill, the Twin Lakes is another popular space to visit when walking through Eden Park. But there was a time when the beautiful dual lakes looked nothing like they do today.

"Where Twin Lakes is located today, and it's such a draw, so many people if they come to the park, that's probably their destination – was actually the site of an abandoned limestone quarry," said George. "They actually poured into the hillside, taking away the limestone that makes up the retaining walls in our city, the foundations for so many buildings. So when they started to design that park area there, you have literally no topsoil, no trees. The weeds could barely grow there. In its first design it was actually a Japanese garden."

The space, though certainly beautiful, is full of history of the city of Cincinnati that's not simply emblazoned on a sign but is instead kept in the landmarks that have evolved in the modern park.

"The comfort station, the restroom there, was a WPA project, as was the concession stand right across the road from these projects during the Great Depression. It helped put Cincinnatians back to work by building structures within our park system."

George said roughly half the structures within the city's park system, at one time, came from the Great Depression and the work of local citizens who worked to build up the park system.