Community History – Ludlow – Flood 1964

Floods, 1937

The 1937 flood was the largest natural disaster in the history of Ludlow. Ludlow had been visited by numerous floods before 1937. Residents in the lower lying areas had become accustomed to these frequent occurrences.

The 1937 flood, however, was very different. By January 20, 1937, floodwaters had cut off Bromley from the City of Ludlow. By January 22, Ludlow residents living in low-lying areas began moving their furniture and other belongings to high ground. At this time, Hooper, Somerset and Forest Avenues were under water. Also, water was creeping up the lower portions of Euclid, Butler and Kenner Streets.

Transportation in and out of Ludlow became more difficult. The Ludlow Streetcar line was blocked in Covington and egress through Bromley was impossible. To make things even more difficult, Sleepy Hollow Road had not yet been built. The only reliable way out was through Devou Park. The Green Line Company began running buses to Ludlow through the park.

Heavy rains and melting snow resulted in the continued rise of the Ohio River. On the morning of Black Sunday, January 24, the river stood at a height of 73’. Heavy rains lasted most of the day amounting to 2.55”. The river reached a crest of 79.99’ on January 26 (the highest recorded flood in local history). Over 500 families were forced to leave their homes and over 43% of the city was underwater.

A number of streets in the western end of town were in high water by Black Sunday. Portions of West Oak Street, Park Avenue, Lake Street, and Deverill Street were impacted.

Residents stored their furniture in the Odd Fellows Hall, St. Boniface School, St. James School, the Masonic Hall, Wesley Methodist Church, the First Baptist Church, the Knights of Columbus Hall, and the Dixie Metal Tag Company.

A relief center was established in the city by the American Red Cross at the First Presbyterian Church. Emergency meals were served at both the Presbyterian Church and St. Boniface Church.

Ludlow was without running water and gas. Residents were forced to cook their food on outdoor fires. Many obtained drinking and cooking water from the natural spring near Adela Street (the present Hobo Club) and from several creek beds in Devou Park. Most

of the city was also without electricity. Only the line that supplied the city hall was operational.

Men from the Civilian Conservation Corps helped the citizens recover from the flood. These workers were housed at St. James School. The Ludlow Volunteer Fire Department and the Ludlow Police Department worked around the clock to ensure the safety of residents. All flooded homes were sanitized and inspected before residents were permitted to return.

Numerous buildings were heavily damaged or destroyed. An overturned home blocked the intersection of Deverill and Elm Streets. Another overturned home was lodged against the Trumbull Electric Building on Hooper Street. In addition, many small garages and sheds had been washed away.

Damage estimates included the following: city schools $40,000.00, streets $30,000.00, city sewers $10,000.00, and water mains $10,000.00.

The greatest damage, however, was done to the housing stock in the city.

Following the flood, a number of citizens requested the construction of a floodwall for Ludlow. Federal engineers, however, determined that the cost of such a wall would be cost prohibitive.

Ludlow News, June 4, 1939, p. 10; News Enterprise, July 2, 1964; “The 1937 Flood,” by John Burns, KCPL.

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