The 1937 flood was the largest natural disaster in the history of Ludlow.
Ludlow had been visited by numerous floods before 1937. Residents in the
lower lying areas had become accustomed to these frequent occurrences.
The 1937 flood, however, was very different. By January 20, 1937, floodwaters
had cut off Bromley from the City of Ludlow. By January 22, Ludlow residents
living in low-lying areas began moving their furniture and other belongings
to high ground. At this time, Hooper, Somerset and Forest Avenues were
under water. Also, water was creeping up the lower portions of Euclid,
Butler and Kenner Streets.
Transportation in and out of Ludlow became more difficult. The Ludlow
Streetcar line was blocked in Covington and egress through Bromley was
impossible. To make things even more difficult, Sleepy Hollow Road had
not yet been built. The only reliable way out was through Devou Park.
The Green Line Company began running buses to Ludlow through the park.
Heavy rains and melting snow resulted in the continued rise of the Ohio
River. On the morning of Black Sunday, January 24, the river stood at
a height of 73'. Heavy rains lasted most of the day amounting to 2.55".
The river reached a crest of 79.99' on January 26 (the highest recorded
flood in local history). Over 500 families were forced to leave their
homes and over 43% of the city was underwater.
A number of streets in the western end of town were in high water by Black
Sunday. Portions of West Oak Street, Park Avenue, Lake Street, and Deverill
Street were impacted.
Residents stored their furniture in the Odd Fellows Hall, St. Boniface
School, St. James School, the Masonic Hall, Wesley Methodist Church, the
First Baptist Church, the Knights of Columbus Hall, and the Dixie Metal
A relief center was established in the city by the American Red Cross
at the First Presbyterian Church. Emergency meals were served at both
the Presbyterian Church and St. Boniface Church.
Ludlow was without running water and gas. Residents were forced to cook
their food on outdoor fires. Many obtained drinking and cooking water
from the natural spring near Adela Street (the present Hobo Club) and
from several creek beds in Devou Park. Most of the city was also without
electricity. Only the line that supplied the city hall was operational.
Men from the Civilian Conservation Corps helped the citizens recover from
the flood. These workers were housed at St. James School. The Ludlow Volunteer
Fire Department and the Ludlow Police Department worked around the clock
to ensure the safety of residents. All flooded homes were sanitized and
inspected before residents were permitted to return.
Numerous buildings were heavily damaged or destroyed. An overturned home
blocked the intersection of Deverill and Elm Streets. Another overturned
home was lodged against the Trumbull Electric Building on Hooper Street.
In addition, many small garages and sheds had been washed away.
Damage estimates included the following: city schools $40,000.00, streets
$30,000.00, city sewers $10,000.00, and water mains $10,000.00. The greatest
damage, however, was done to the housing stock in the city.
Following the flood, a number of citizens requested the construction of
a floodwall for Ludlow. Federal engineers, however, determined that the
cost of such a wall would be cost prohibitive.
Ludlow News, June 4, 1939, p. 10; News Enterprise, July 2, 1964; "The
1937 Flood," by John Burns, KCPL.