Loveland is a city in Hamilton, Clermont, and Warren counties in the southwestern part of the U.S. state of Ohio. Considered part of the Greater Cincinnati area, Loveland is located near exit 52 off Interstate 275, about northeast of the Cincinnati city limits. It borders Symmes, Miami and Hamilton Townships and straddles the Little Miami River. The population was 12,081 at the 2010 census and was estimated at 12,082 in 2011. Once a busy railroad town, Loveland is now a major stop along the Little Miami Scenic Trail.
Present-day Loveland originally lay at the edges of the Symmes Purchase and Virginia Military District, in what was then the Northwest Territory. The area was first settled in 1795 by Col. Thomas Paxton:
The city is named after James Loveland, who operated a general store and post office near the railroad tracks downtown. It was incorporated as a village on May 12 or 16, 1876, and later incorporated as a chartered city in 1961.
In its early days, Loveland was known as a resort town, with its summer homes for the wealthy, earning it the nickname "Little Switzerland of the Miami Valley." Notable residents included future Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, while the Cincinnati YWCA maintained a summer cottage in Loveland. The area was also home to Ohio's first paper mill, built in 1810 by John Smith. A local road retains the mill's eventual name, Kugler Mill. The area surrounding Loveland in Clermont County was well known for its peaches and strawberries.
The Hillsboro and Cincinnati Railroad was chartered in 1846 to run a line between Hillsboro and O'Bannon Creek in Loveland on the Little Miami Railroad's route. By 1850, the H&C had completed the to Hillsboro, Ohio. The H&C would lease its line in perpetuity to the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad and ultimately became the mainline of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Loveland's location at the junction of the Little Miami Railroad (now converted into the Loveland Bike Trail) and the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad fueled the city's growth, bringing "40 passenger trains per day, and 12 scheduled freight trains between Loveland and Cincinnati."
Another railroad ran through antebellum Loveland: the Underground Railroad's Eastern Route from Cincinnati included a stop at the village and continued northward to Waynesville and Lebanon. During the Civil War, Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his troops passed through Loveland, seizing possessions of northern and southern sympathizers alike (see Morgan's Raid).
Settlement of Loveland was confined to the Clermont County side of the river, until the first wagon bridges were built in 1868 and 1872.
Downtown Loveland's proximity to the Little Miami River has made it vulnerable to flooding. The worst such event, the Ohio Flood of March 1913, destroyed a corn mill and washed out the Loveland Bridge, which was replaced with an iron bridge the next year.
In the 1920s, The Cincinnati Enquirer ran a promotion that offered a free plot of land in Loveland, along the Little Miami River, after paying for a one-year subscription to the daily. The Loveland Castle (see below) was built on two such plots.
After a population spike during the 1950s, Loveland reincorporated as a chartered city – the first of only two in Clermont County – on July 25, 1961, with George Anderson as its first mayor. The city absorbed smaller settlements, such as Paxton, Obanionsville, and Symmestown. German architect Rudolf Fränkel developed a master plan for Loveland.
Another major flood in 1959 led to the construction of a dike along the Little Miami River in 1962–1963.
The long-abandoned Little Miami Railroad corridor was converted into a bike trail in the 1980s and became part of the Little Miami Scenic Trail in 1984.
Loveland has periodically sought to expand its borders by annexing surrounding areas, primarily to the more commercially active west. In 1993, the city attempted to annex parts of Deerfield Township, prompting petitions to instead merge the township with the City of Mason. Moves to merge Symmes Township with Loveland began the next year but ultimately failed. In 1996, Loveland moved its eastern border by purchasing Col. Paxton's original White Pillars homestead, which had remained unincorporated, despite being the first settlement in the Loveland area.
In the late 1990s, Loveland was designated a Tree City by the National Arbor Day Foundation, as it began a number of efforts to promote its Historic Downtown neighborhood, in part to celebrate the city's bicentennial. The programs included a renovation of Historic Downtown itself to sport a more "gentrified" look, for example replacing concrete sidewalks with brick ones, installing park benches throughout, and providing incentives to businesses willing to improve their façades. Major roads such as South Lebanon Road (County Road 298) were expanded and given landscaped medians.
The Loveland Beautification Committee was established to sponsor various programs and events that aim to improve landscapes and other buildings around town. Under the mayorship of Lee Skierkiewicz, Loveland heavily promoted itself as a cycling destination. The Tour de Loveland, an annual cycling race, was started in order to promote the Loveland Bike Trail as the centerpiece of Historic Downtown Loveland. The city's efforts culminated with USA Cycling Elite National Championship criteriums in June 1998. On January 24, 2005, Loveland City Council voted to cancel the Tour, due to declining attendance and a lack of sponsors.
With "four blooms", Loveland won the 2005 America in Bloom competition for cities with 10,001 to 15,000 residents. Loveland lost to St. Ives/Carbis Bay in the 2006 Communities in Bloom International Challenge, medium category, but won the "Communities in Bloom Youth Involvement Project Award."
In 2004, CSX Transportation leased the former Baltimore and Ohio railroad to RailAmerica's Indiana and Ohio Railway system. On May 4, 2007, Ohio's first four-quadrant gate was installed at the Second Street railroad crossing in Loveland, as part of a coordinated three-crossing system.
Loveland has seen several controversies over zoning regulations. After the city acquired the White Pillars property in 1996, it began plans to develop the land, which is situated on State Route 48. Prior to being elected councilman, Paul Elliot participated in a lawsuit against the city over attempting to rezone the property for commercial use without voter approval. In 2003, Mike Showler led a successful referendum to block the rezoning. An earlier attempt to develop a YMCA location on a section of Phillips Park also failed, when a group of residents protested the city's development plans, prompting the YMCA to abandon the location. In December 2006, Loveland announced a plan to build a Loveland Recreation Center on land adjacent to Phillips Park. The city planned to enter into an operating agreement with the YMCA once the center was built; however, the Recreation Center tax referendum was defeated in May 2007. The Recreation Center plan was later revised, but Loveland residents again rejected an income tax levy to fund the center on November 6, 2007.
Shooter's Supply, a local gun store, proposed building an indoor shooting range at the former location of the Matthew 25: Ministries humanitarian agency. Nearby residents attempted to block the shooting range, which would be built near several apartment complexes and residential neighborhoods, as well as a church. In May 2007, the building was instead converted into a boarding kennel.