The Friars Club is a non-profit social service organization in Cincinnati, Ohio that is dedicated to serving at-risk and disadvantaged children through organized sports, activity, nutrition and fitness. It once operated a facility in the CUF neighborhood.
In response to the need for youth-focused activities and services for the children of German immigrants in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati, Father Archangelus Gstir of Saint Francis Seraph Church began hosting programs in the former Saint Francis School to keep the juveniles occupied. 8 Brockhuis then obtained permission from Father Edmund Klein to convert empty space in the school into club rooms and a gymnasium, 8 which opened as the Friars’ Gymnasium and Athletic Club 8 in November 1908.6 It was later shortened to the Friars’ Club. 2 The organization was the only one of its type operated solely by a religious order. 4
Showers and lockers were located in the basement, while the auditorium of the old school was converted into a gymnasium and the lounge outfitted with billiard tables. Another billiard room was added in 1910 followed by the Muhle Memorial Library in 1912. 8 An indoor pool was completed in the basement in October 1914.
Facing an aging and overcrowded facility, 8 the decision was made to relocate the Friars Club to Ohio Avenue and McMillian Street in the Clifton Heights neighborhood in 1928. 1 2 3 A large corner lot had been donated by Dr. Paul DeCoursey, and significant donations were received to help fund the new structure. 8 The ground was broken for the new building on May 18, 1930, which opened on May 17, 1931. 8 A solemn dedication took place on October 18 and opening festivities were held until October 24.
The new complex included a larger fitness center, bowling alley, handball courts, gymnasium, and swimming pool. 3 4 It also included a residency program for young male students that attended the University of Cincinnati.
In 1941, 8 Lumen Martin Winter, 5 a noted muralist who lived at the Friars’ Club, began work on a set of murals that depicted industry, music, religion, and literature in the residents’ lounge. 8 Winter labored on the murals for four years, although the work was interrupted for 18 months while he was enlisted as a chief artist-illustrator for the Air Force’s Signal Corps. The murals were dedicated on November 12, 1944.
A chapel was added in 1950 and the bowling alley was replaced with a ballroom in 1956. 8
On certain days between restricted hours, the all-male Friars Club allowed women to participate in athletic events, and it was not until 1979 that the organization opened its doors to women. 2
By the dawn of the 21st century, the Friars Club was overcrowded and aging, requiring $200,000 per year to maintain. 3 It relocated to 2316 Harrywood Court on June 30, 2006. The circa 1931 building was razed on May 1, 2010, 1 9 and was replaced with a $16 million gated apartment community in 2011.
- Monk, Dan. “New life for Cincinnati’s old Friar’s Club site.” Business Courier of Cincinnati 30 Apr. 2010. 7 May 2010.
- “Our History.” Friars Club of Cincinnati. N.p., 2009. Web. 7 May 2010.
- Hughes, Jesykah. “Friars Club leaves Clifton building due to high costs, space constraints.” News Record 25 Apr. 2006. 7 May 2010.
- “Friars’ Club Dominated Cage Sport.” Catholic Telegraph-Register (Cincinnati) 14 July 1950: 1-3. Web. 7 May 2010.
- Mural history.
- Bath, Joe. “In The Long Ago of Friar History.” Friars Accelerator 2.10 (Aug. 1929): 5+. Web. 10 May 2010.
- DuMond, Duke. “Hilltop.” Friars Accelerator 2.10 (Aug. 1929): 19. Web. 10 May 2010.
- Friars Club Souvenir Booklet. Cincinnati: n.p., 1958. N. pag. Web. 10 May 2010.
- Johnston, John. “Friars Club loses building, not ministry.” Cincinnati Enquirer 9 May 2010. 10 May 2010.