by Mike Roberts, Church Historian
The Heritage Room of our church is dedicated to the thousands of people who have worked many long and hard hours to maintain Universalist traditions for Cincinnatians who have been drawn to our belief system. It houses many archives that tell the story of our religious community.
That history dates back to the formation of our church in a house in downtown Cincinnati in 1827. While our congregation has worshiped at times in temporary quarters, our church has enjoyed lengthy residence at five different locations. The first was in a church constructed on Walnut Street between 3rd and 4th Streets. That site is currently occupied by Key Bank in the old Dixie Terminal Building. The second was on Plum Street half a block from the present Duke Energy Center. It is now a surface parking lot. The church building was sold by our congregation in 1884 and the business that occupied it burned to the ground in the 1920’s. Like many Cincinnatians in the late 19th century, our congregation headed out of downtown to settle into the hills that surround the city. They built a church in Walnut Hills on Essex Street and it was occupied by our religious ancestors for nearly 60 years. A dwindling membership next moved to a house in Salem Acres in Anderson Township in the mid 1960’s and maintained UU worship there until our present church was constructed in 1985.
Needless to say, in the 192 years of our existence, many archival materials have survived. These include a nearly complete set of Board of Trustees minutes that date back to 1844; church newsletters nearly all of which are from the last fifty years; some orders of service, the oldest dating to the early 1940’s; legal documents and hundreds of odds and ends, a few of which date back to the early years of our church. This archival material is contained in the old filing cabinet located next to the far entrance door to the Heritage Room. Most of the files are placed in folders and are organized chronologically from the middle years of the 18th century to the present. A few of these records are still maintained in bound volumes, especially the early Board of Trustees minutes.
In addition to the archives, a small library exists and is open to all church members for use. The books contained in the library are divided by category. These are the subject categories as well as the number of titles available in each category:
- Music and Readings (21)
- Religious Education for Children (60)
- Universalism/Unitarianism (85)
- World Religions (110)
- Self Help (42)
- Social Justice (35)
- Church Management (27)
- Gender Issues (21)
- Spirituality and Meditation (42)
- Miscellaneous (19)
That are a total of 462 titles. Books are numbered in each category and are available for use. A checkout system is explained in the basket atop the archive filing cabinet. A bibliography of our titles is also included. Some of the books, especially those in the Universalism/Unitarianism category, are quite old. Nearly all of them are in good shape and some, I am sure, would qualify as rare books. Several are authored by former ministers of our church.
Around the room are tributes and items contributed to the church over the years by members and friends. Take a minute in your free time to look around and enjoy this living record of our past. You might take note of a plaque that indicates the name of the room is the Cora Littell room, named after the last member of the Littell family who was a member of our church.
Top image: Heritage Room