​Woodward​Trust

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  • 1826 Woodward Trust Deed - On 11/21/1826, William & Abigail Woodward gave seven acres of land below Woodward (now Thirteenth) Street to Samuel Lewis & Osmond Cogswell, as two of three trustees, to establish and maintain a free grammar school for the benefit of the poor children of Cincinnati. At that time, there were no free public schools in Cincinnati [Image of original document]


  • 1827 Woodward Act - On 1/24/1827, the Ohio General Assembly incorporated the trustees of The Woodward Free Grammar School, as established by the “1826 Woodward Trust Deed” as well as further requirements and restrictions not provided for in Woodward’s original deed – including details relative to use, administration and appointments, and the non-sale and perpetual leasing of the land. [The incorporation changed in material respects the terms of the trust as set forth in the deed.]



In 1828, the City of Cincinnati opened its first free public primary school.

  • 1830 Trust Indenture – On 5/25/1830, in light of the availability of free public primary school education, William Woodward extended the use and application of The Woodward Free Grammar School assets to establish and maintain a free high school for the benefit of the poor children of Cincinnati. [Image of original document]


  • 1830 WHS Deed – On 12/16/1830, William & Abigail Woodward gave land above Woodward (Thirteenth) Street to Samuel Lewis & Osmond Cogswell, as two of five trustees, to establish and maintain a free high school.  [This document has no relation to what is today the Woodward Trust.] [Image of original document]


  • 1831 Woodward Act - On 1/15/1831, the Ohio General Assembly repealed its “1827 Woodward Act” and incorporated the trustees of The Woodward High School, as established by the “1830 Trust Indenture,” again including further requirements and restrictions not provided for in Woodward’s deeds and indenture – including details relative to use, administration and appointments, and the non-sale and perpetual leasing of the land. [The incorporation again changed in material respects the terms of the trust as set forth in the deeds and indenture.]


Particularly illuminating as to the continuing intent of William Woodward:  Upon becoming aware that those who would have qualified for his originally-intended beneficence were now otherwise provided for, he immediately extended his generosity to a new class of poor youth. 

The first Woodward High School opened on October 24, 1831.

William Woodward died on January 24, 1833.

  • 1836 Woodward Act - An 1836 act of the Ohio Legislature authorized the Woodward Trustees to establish Woodward College of Cincinnati and to confer degrees except in medicine, law and divinity.  This was located on the third floor of the building then occupied by the Woodward High School.


Upon the subsequent availability of free high school education in Cincinnati (the first opened in 1847), trustees were further granted authority to provide, for students whose financial status would not otherwise permit it, for an education in liberal arts and sciences by paying tuition in universities providing such general higher education (but not in special colleges furnishing professional degrees).


In 1850, due to lack of need, the Woodward Trustees discontinued Woodward High School.

In 1851, due to lack of funds, the Woodward Trustees discontinued Woodward College.

In 1851, a contract was entered into by the “Trustees and Visitors of Common Schools of the City of Cincinnati” (now known as the Board of Education) on one hand, and the “Trustees of Woodward College and High School” and “Trustees Under the Will of Thomas Hughes” on the other hand - to establish a high school for boys (Woodward HS) and a high school for girls (Hughes HS), to educate all the white youth of the city who might apply. 

-         These high schools, the only ones in Cincinnati, were to be under the direction of the Union Board of High Schools (“Union Board”) – comprised of 13 trustees: 6 from the Common Schools trustees, 2 from the Woodward trustees, 2 from the Hughes trustees, and 3 elected by City Council.

-         To this arrangement, Woodward Trust would, without compensation [and in violation of Woodward’s trust], provide the building and land of the former Woodward High School and College.  In addition, the total net income of the Woodward funds would [again, in violation of Woodward’s trust] be paid into the general free public school fund.

In 1855, the second Woodward High School was built by the Union Board on the site of the Woodward-donated land and building. 

In 1862, by consent of all Union Board parties [again, in violation of Woodward’s trust], nonresident paying children were admitted to Woodward High School.

An 1883 act of the Ohio Legislature incorporated the Trustees of the Woodward High School of the city of Cincinnati.  This act also changed the terms of all trustees to 5 years and the manner of appointment of trustees to be only by the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County.



In 1895, the 1851 contract was modified to place all Cincinnati high schools under the exclusive authority of the Union Board, which would be supported by funds appropriated by the Board of Education (to which an annual accounting was required).

This amendment assigned permanent jurisdiction over all Cincinnati high schools to the Union Board, granted the Board of Education one more member (now 7) on the Union Board and assigned permanent supervision of the high schools the Superintendent of Schools.

In 1918, the third Woodward High School building replaced the second. 

From 1851 through about 1935, the extent of control wavered between the Board of Education and the Union Board.  As the years passed, however, the Board of Education progressively restricted the scope of the Union Board’s management until it was little more than an advisory body.  The Woodward Trustees disputed this power shift and eventually, in retaliation, withheld income from its funds for several years.

By the early 1940s, Woodward High School had more inadequate facilities than any other Cincinnati high school, missing even a playfield for its students (even more necessary due to the extremely congested location and its serving the more underprivileged classes coming to it from the “basin of the city.”).  This was interpreted by many as an indication of how far astray the Woodward Trustees had gone from the clearly defined purposes expressed in William Woodward’s deeds.

In 1945, as a result of these and other factors, a group of individuals lead by J.R. Allias brought suit against George Dornette and the other Woodward Trustees.  In this action, the court ultimately nullified the most significant arrangements and actions of the Woodward Trust of the previous 100 years – most notably in this context, that the Woodward Trust could not give its income into a general public fund nor provide, without compensation, the building and land for a public high school. 

Research Still In Process
We have, as yet, been unable to completely determine what occurred as a result of the court’s rulings in the Dornette v. Allais case.  It is known that Woodward Trust ceased giving its income into the general public school fund, and thereafter created what we now know as the Student Assistance Fund, administered through the Board of Education, to assist financially poor children.  Based on current land records, it would appear that the Board of Education purchased (for an unknown amount on an unknown date) the land underlying Woodward High School (Lots 60 & 61).

There are several other anomalies arising from comparison of an 1860 Plat of properties owned by Woodward Trust and current land records:

Public Parks

-  Lots 1-5 – Now a basketball playground behind 1219 Sycamore (catty-corner across from SCPA). [Hamilton County Parcels 075-0004-0026 thru 0029]

-  Lots 37 and 38 a & b – Now a park between 1203 and 1211 Broadway and behind 1203 Broadway. [Hamilton County Parcels 075-0001-0017 & 0018; 075-0001-0021 thru 0023]

-  Lots 57-59 – Now a park behind the municipal swimming pool at Sycamore & 13th Streets.    [Hamilton County Parcels 075-0004-0051 thru 0053] 

Land records indicate the purchase of these lots by different individuals from 1938-1965.  After some additional transfers, the City of Cincinnati purchased the lots in 1975 and is currently shown as the owner.


History: Additional History of the Original Woodward Trust

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