Bromley has suffered greatly from periodic flooding since its establishment. Much of the city was built on low ground near the Ohio River. Earlier floods, including the flood of 1913, did severe damage to the town.
The 1937 flood was the greatest catastrophe in the history of the City of Bromley. Floodwaters began rising in mid-January. By January 20, 1937, the Ohio River was expected to crest at 61′. The homes on Pike Street were sitting in 3′ of water and the two streets connecting the city to Ludlow were underwater. Bromley was now cut off from all its neighbors. By January 21, one third of Bromley was underwater, including all of Pike and Shelby Streets from Pleasant to Short Streets.
The situation became more desperate on January 23, when the gas supply to Bromley was cut. By that time, a ferry was in operation between Ludlow and Bromley. A ferry dock was established on Boone Street in Bromley. Boats brought food and coal to this dock from Ludlow on a regular basis throughout the duration of the flood. On Black Sunday, January 25, 1937, the Ohio River reached a stage of 79.9′ – the highest level in recorded history. At this time, Bromley was 70% underwater.
The Bromley City Hall became a relief headquarters. Food was served here and a number of people found temporary shelter in the building. The city hall also was used as a health center. Inoculations for typhoid were given to all the residents at the hall. By January 26, 600 Bromley residents had been driven from their homes. Many were living with friends and relatives on high ground. Relief activities were under the director of Bromley Fire Chief Walter Scheid. Herman Bogenschutz, a Bromley grocer, was put in charge of food rationing.
The Immanuel Reformed Church was used to house victims and to store furnishings. The Bromley Drug Store, which was located in the flooded district, operated from the church building during this same time. At the height of the flood, the Bromley Christian Church was completely packed with residents’ belongings and furniture.
As the floodwaters receded, cleanup work began. Nearly twenty homes in the city had been shifted from their foundations during the flood. Seven homes had simply disappeared down the river. The Federal Government sent 165 WPA workers to Bromley and Ludlow to aid in the cleanup efforts. It would take the city months to recover from the devastation.
One direct result of the flood was the construction of Highwater Road. During the flood, the City of Bromley was completely isolated. All routes entering and leaving the city were blocked. Following the flood, city officials promoted the construction of this new road linking Bromley to Villa Hills. Highwater Road proved very beneficial to the city during the 1964 and 1997 floods when other roads were blocked by high water.
Kentucky Post, January 15, 1937, p. 1, January 18, 1937, p. 1, January 19, 1937, p. 1, January 20, 1937, p. 1, January 21, 1937, p. 1, January 22, 1937, p. 1, January 23, 1937, p. 1, January 25, 1937, p. 1, January 26, 1937, p. 2, January 27, 1937, p. 2, January 29, 1937, p. 1, February 2, 1937, p. 1 and February 4, 1937, p. 1.