Women and children and family walk along the promenade on top of the Kentucky Street Reservoir, ca. 1872. WRHS.
The KENTUCKY ST. RESERVOIR was the first reservoir and central pumping station used to deliver fresh water to Cleveland inhabitants (see WATER SYSTEM). When citizens approved a $400,000 expenditure for erection of a water system in 1853, a board of waterworks trustees was established, consisting of HENRY B. PAYNE, BASIL L. SPANGLER, and RICHARD HILLIARD. Land was purchased on the west side of the CUYAHOGA RIVER, bordered by Kentucky St. (W. 38th), Duane St. (W. 32nd), Franklin Blvd., and Woodbine Ave., where the pumping station and reservoir were built (final costs were $526,712.99). When the waterworks opened on 24 Sept. 1856, the state fair, in progress at the PUBLIC SQUARE, provided a showcase for the new reservoir, which fed a fountain at the square from which visitors could sample the drinking water.
The 6-million-gallon capacity reservoir covered 6 acres, rising 35' above street level and receiving water from Lake Erie via a 300' steel tunnel at W. 58th St. Two large mains distributed the water through the city. Steps up the side of the reservoir led to a promenade which afforded a scenic view of the city, and by 1860 omnibus service carried visitors to the landmark. The reservoir supplied drinking water until the early 1880s, when the city's growth outstripped its holding capacity. The old reservoir was abandoned but was renamed Reservoir Park on 16 June 1890. It became Fairview Park in 1897.
Imagine an earthen, rectangular mound approximately 40 to 50 feet tall stretching from approximately West 38th to West 32nd Street, bounded by Franklin Avenue on the north. A pumping station located at the end of West 38th Street brought the water up from Lake Erie and pipes delivered it to the west and east sides of town.
A promenade was built on top of the mound which residents of the surrounding neighborhoods used to enjoy views of the lake and city. This promenade became known as Fairview Park. After the land was leveled, it sat vacant for quite a while. The city eventually developed the area into a park, which it named Reservoir Park.
Fairview Park included a field house with showers, toilets, a wading pool and small meeting area. This field house is the current tool shed for the garden.
During the period around the Depression and World War II, the Board of Education for the City of Cleveland decided to incorporate a horticulture program into its curriculum. A portion of Fairview Park was set aside for the program.
Kentucky Gardens is the second-oldest community garden in Cleveland, the oldest being the Ben Franklin Garden. For the past ten years it has been run as an organic garden. Today there are 155 plots gardened by 133 gardeners.