Sunday, December 02, 2001

Railroad sparked growth

By Gene Franzen
Enquirer Contributor

        ERLANGER — The town originally was known as “Timberlake” in reference to Major William Thorton Timberlake, who became a community leader after serving in the War of 1812.

[photo] The Erlanger railroad depot now houses the Erlanger Historical Society Museum.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        The town's train station was named Greenwood in honor of the president of the Cincinnati Southern Railroad, and when a post office was added in 1882, it was named Erlanger in honor of Baron Frederick Emile d'Erlanger. He was a member of the European banking dynasty that owned the C & S Railroad. He never visited the city that bears his name.

        In 1887, local investors working with the railroad formed the Erlanger Land Syndicate and began selling 220 real estate lots for residential development. A special train ran from Cincinnati offering “free fare and lunch” to prospective buyers. Anyone purchasing a lot received a railroad pass offering one year's free transportation from Erlanger to Cincinnati. The first lot sold for $384.18 and was financed for $10 down and $1 per week at 6 percent interest.

        The promotion was a huge success. Records tell of Sunday excursion trains, each pulling 20 carloads of prospects, visiting the area.

        By 1890, the thriving community had divided into two distinct areas. South Erlanger was composed mostly of longtime German Catholic residents, while Erlanger residents were Protestant and relative newcomers. In 1896, South Erlanger incorporated as the city of Elsmere and one year later, fearing annexation by Elsmere, Erlanger incorporated.

        A 1975 vote to unite the two cities met with resounding defeat. Only 37 percent of Elsmere and 35 percent of Erlanger voted in favor of the merger.

        Now and Then, a look at historic places in Northern Kentucky, appears Sundays in The Kentucky Enquirer. To suggest a feature, call 578-5555.

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- Railroad sparked growth