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July 19, 2011

Every good club needs a Clubhouse.  When the Brighton Bicycle Club was founded in 1878 the founding members were all fairly young men or boys. Harry G. Ellard was about 19 years old. It was most likely his home at 668 Freeman Avenue in the predominantly German Brighton neighborhood that the club was first formed.  Most of the inaugural members lived within just a few blocks of one another.  In 1886 the club is listed in the Williams’ Directory at 70 Mclean Ave, which happens to be on the same block where the Cincinnati Red Stockings baseball grounds were located.  It was just one block from Harry Ellard’s home on Freeman Ave.

By 1891 the club had grown in prominence and they were able to support a clubhouse on 14th Street adjacent to the Music Hall on Washington Park. This structure is recognizable today:

Clubhouse building today

In 1884 clubs in Cincinnati were renting out Power Hall, which is the hall to the north of the Music Hall building facing 14th Street, for races and winter riding.  The hall had a large open floorplan with balconies for observers. This hall is now the Ballroom and is right across the street from the former clubhouse.

Otto Burger’s photos of the interior of the clubhouse show a dowdy late 19th century interior with printed floral paper on the walls and ceiling, lace curtains, decorative carpets, and a collection of high back chairs and framed prints on the walls. Lighting was from gas fixtures suspended from the middle of the room from the ceiling.

The front room on the ground floor had a piano opposite a fireplace. This was the main meeting room. The next room back  was dominated by a pool table.  Scores were kept by chits on a wire stretched high between the walls of the room.

The room with the pool table had a door to the upstairs, which was also part of the clubhouse. The period photo of the club shows members leaning out the windows, so these rooms must have been used as well.


In 1932, on the occasion of a club reunion, Herman Bumiller wrote:

The old clubhouse near the Canal

and the Brewery that stood nigh it!

How soothing to our lips the fluid

that flowed from the Keg – “The

old oaken Keg” – “The Iron-bound

Keg” – “The ice-covered Keg” that

sprouted in the cellar.

The towns, the hamlets, and the

countryside with its hills and

meadows, and the chicken dinners

that awaited us at the end of a


And every Inn and Roadhouse that

we in our cycling days knew, now

only fond and mellow memories for

me and for you.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2012 4:03 am

    Great blog and post. How do you acquire these old photos?

    • July 23, 2012 8:27 pm

      Thanks –

      I’ve been fortunate to find a number of these photos of the club in previously published materials available online (the google search for books is a great starting point). Also, the Historical Society makes available their archived newsletters, one of which is had a great article on cycling in Cincinnati called “Refreshing Enjoyment, Healthful Excitement: Early Bicycling in Cincinnati” from Spring, 1996. The Historical Society at the Museum Center is another great resource for primary sources. There are a number of unpublished photos in their collection that I would love to put up on the site, but they have costly permissions attached to them.

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