School of Creative & Performing Arts – Contribution

09/26/2006: Thanks to Patricia A. Gunn of Cincinnati for submitting this story, accompanied by a photo of a possible vortex. While conducting research about Levi Coffin, who aided thousands of escaping slaves to freedom, Patricia took a photo of the current School for Creative & Performing Arts (formerly Woodward High School). A possible vortex appeared in the photograph at the approximate location where a statue of William Woodward (the high school’s namesake) once stood. Even stranger, William Woodward and his wife Abigail were buried on school grounds near the statue!

I am an amateur historian researching subjects not readily explored. In Cincinnati, OH, no Ohio Historical Society marker exists in the city downtown to honor the work of Quaker abolitionist Levi Coffin did from 1847-1877 to aide thousands of escaping slaves to freedom northward. In addition, no marker exists in recognition of William Woodward, a city education founding father, who built schools and a system to educate the poor, less advantaged city children downtown. In Coffin’s book, Reminiscences, his memoirs, he gives names of downtown streets, buildings where he and his family lived, people who assisted his abolitionist efforts, routes of escape, incidences with the law, etc. One of Coffin’s homes was built by Woodward in 1832, situated on the southwest corner of Franklin St. (aka Woodward Street) and Broadway, known as the Rucker House. The building was razed in the late 1870s and new buildings built. Eventually these, too, were razed for the last of the downtown Woodward school buildings. The present School for Creative & Performing Arts on Sycamore Street occupies the former downtown Woodward High School, built 1908 A.D.

In 2004, I was researching the SCPA school and grounds because of its association with Levi Coffin. Inside the present building, beside the Room 206 classroom, two plaques honoring Levi Coffin hang on the wall. I went outside to photograph the grounds using a one-time camera, 27 photographs on the roll. I had the photos developed later at a local Walgreen Pharmacy but of the 27 photos, one had a flaw. There was a light streak, overexposure flaw, hair, or vortex in one photo. To take the photo I had been facing eastward toward Broadway Street, with the sun over my left shoulder. I wore a watch and POW bracelet on my left wrist when I held the camera. My hair was long but pulled back into a ponytail and I was wearing a foam college visor.

The Walgreens photo developer did not know the origin of the “ruined” photo. But the more I looked at the photo, the only one of 27 exposures to be ruined, it made me wonder why that location, what was the history of that particular location where the flaw occurred? Were the spirits of William Woodward and Levi Coffin attempting to penetrate my psyche for a reason, I wondered? I researched “William Woodward” online at the Cincinnati Public Library Greater Cincinnati Memory Project at I found several old photos posted of the early Woodward schools. At the location where the flaw occurred had stood the Woodward statue on the Franklin Street entrance of the present building. The statue was moved to its present Reading Road location in the 1950’s.

In 2006, I learned that the graves of William Woodward and his wife, Abigail Cutter Woodward, were buried on the school grounds near this statue. In 2006, I revisited the grounds, found a grave marker set flush with the sidewalk outside the Broadway Street exit of the present 1908 building which confirmed the Woodwards are buried on the school grounds. In 2006, on the grounds purchased by William Woodward before he died in 1833, the former Woodward “Traditional” High School at 7001 Reading Road was abandoned and a new Woodward Center & Technical High School opened. The present downtown SC&PA building will be relocating to a new building now under construction near the Music Hall sometime between 2008 and 2010. What will become of the present SC&PA building, the former Woodward High School building, 1908 A.D., built downtown as well as the graves of William and Abigail Woodward? An Ohio Historical marker should be erected downtown between Sycamore Street & Broadway on the former Franklin Street, near where the Woodward statue once stood and where the graves are said to be buried, to commemorate Woodward’s contributions to the city’s less advantaged and his vision purchasing the Reading Road land where his Woodward legacy continues.