STANLEY M. ROWE, SR.
Stanley Rowe was judged a poor health risk when he came up for the World War I draft in 1917-18; he recited this with glee 62 years later when he observed his ninetieth birthday.
Cincinnati benefited greatly from those intervening years: among other community activities, Stan Rowe 1) was one of the founders and a charter board member of The Charter Party; 2) almost single-handedly was the founder of Cincinnati's Nature Center, and 3) perhaps his most significant contribution, was a prime leader in the organization of the Citizen's Development Committee ( CDC) which played such a vital role in the shaping of the Cincinnati of today.
He was a very quiet, unassuming man to have achieved so much. An associate describes him as seeming to be a rather diffident person, self-effacing, always very courteous and considerate. He was tall and slender; his face relaxed into a warm ingratiating smile.
He was very gracious, "hardly ever had a bad word for anybody." He enjoyed social events and his associates in the CDC and the Commercial Club. His gentle manner somewhat belied his iron will and persistence when there was a job to be done.
Alfred Bettman, chairman of the Cincinnati City Planning Commission, started in the late '30's to press for a new blueprint for Cincinnati's future, an updating of the 1925 Master Plan. As World War II neared an end, a new urgency was added: the City was not giving any thought to what it would do to provide jobs for soldiers returning from World War II.
He was getting no place with City Council. When he lowered his sights and asked simply for $25,000 for a pilot planning study of the core area, the Republican City Council threatened his budget with cuts instead of additional funds. Bettman needed clout and felt the business community was the place to find it.
He had worked with Stanley Rowe on metropolitan housing matters, and in June, 1943 he called him for help.
Rowe talked to Fred Geier, president of the Cincinnati Milling Machine Co., and they agreed something should be done. Together they called on R.R. Deupree, head of Procter & Gamble and the dean of the business community, and asked him to head up a committee. It should be, as Rowe described it later, "a small, strong committee consisting of leading citizens who would step out and work for the benefit of the City, without any more publicity than was absolutely required and without in any way benefiting themselves."
Deupree declined the chairmanship. He pointed to Rowe and said, "You head it up for two years. I'll raise the money; I have a young and coming man in P & G and I'm sure I can get him to run it in two years." (The young man was Neil McElroy).
That night they formed the organization, with Rowe as its first president. After discussion, they called it the City Planning Committee, since its first job was planning.
When the Master Plan had been developed and approved, the Committee changed its name to the Citizens Development Committee and continued to be an important force in the development of Cincinnati for many years. (For a fuller history, see Oral Foundation piece on 'The CDC and the CBC').
The Cincinnati Nature Center will stand as a second memorial to Stan Rowe.
Stan was on the board of the National Audubon Society when it was left a large estate in Greenwich, Connecticut, together with a substantial amount of money "to educate people in the ways that nature works and how they should be safeguarded." This resulted in the formation of Audubon's first Nature Center.
Stan's mind was prepared, therefore, when in 1965, as he told the story later, "Karl Maslowski (noted nature photographer and writer) came to me and said, 'You know that Carl and Mary Krippendorf died a few weeks ago and it would be a shame to have that wonderful piece of property split up into residential lots.' 1 said it would be an excellent location for one of the new Nature Centers. We went at once to see the Krippendorf daughter, Rosan Adams (wife of Philip Adams, director of the Cincinnati Art Museum), and she was delighted with the idea. She said, 'I wish 1 could give it to you but 1 can't. 1 will sell it for the amount that was used in my parents' estates.' "
Stan Rowe dedicated himself wholeheartedly to the project: developed plans with the help of the National Audubon Society, raised practically all the funds needed for the purchase, planning and development of the property (raised $2 million of endowment funds after he had passed 80), organized a board and made the dream a reality. "When he had the idea someone ought to give, he never let up on it," his son Snowden said. He recalled that Stan was meeting resistance from Jack Emery, president of the Art Museum. "I don't give a damn about art," Stan said, "but I'll give $10,000 to your museum if you'll give $50,000 to the Nature Center." Emery gave in.
At the Nature Center's fourteenth year, Stan was able to report "we have increased the Krippendorfs 175 acres to 755 to which should be added Neil and Camilla McElroy's gift to us of their Long Branch Farm with its 535 acres." The Center then had over 3500 members and was completely solvent. "This has all been done," he concluded, "without receiving any public funds."
A third memorable role he played was in connection with Cincinnati's historic reform movement of the mid-20's. He was one of the planners and promoters of the Charter program, and when on June 9,1924, the City Charter committee was formed, Stan Rowe was elected a director.
Things came to a head with the Councilmanic elections of 1924. Since a continuation of the fraudulent election practices of previous years would almost certainly assure the victory of the corrupt Cox machine and the defeat of Charter, )011 watching was an important function. Stan's experience was illustrative of the problem - and also of the quiet tenacity of the man.
He was assigned to check the counting of ballots in one of the slum wards of the Basin. He was greeted by a couple of large bullies representing the machine. As Louis Tucker in his Citizen's Crusade reports, the ballots for the Charter Amendment were counted first, and the poll managers said, "Here's the results. Now get out." "Rowe insisted on staying for the complete count. They threatened 1im with bodily harm, if he refused to leave. He left."
He went to the Board of Elections, however, and returned accompanied by l policeman. "Rowe once again assumed his position, but when the intimidator (policeman) left, the controllers of the poll, their bravado restored, instructed .1im to sit in a corner and 'mind your own business'. Rowe refused to be placed out of eye contact with the vote-counting process. He phoned Leonard (a member )f the Board of Elections) and registered a second protest. Leonard informed .1im to tell his tormentors to 'stop the nonsense' or he would personally arrive )n the scene. Replied Rowe: 'I'm not going to tell them, you tell them!' "Another official was sent, and Stan succeeded in 'watching' the count.
Stanley M. Rowe was born in Cincinnati June 1, 1890, the son of Caspar, who was an orphan, and Fanny (Sarran) Rowe. Caspar went to work when he was fourteen as an office boy for Charles Fleischmann who had just then started l1is yeast business. He rose to become General Manager and Treasurer of the Fleischmann Company.
Stanley attended the Avondale public school, was graduated from Asheville School in 1908, and received a BA degree from Yale in 1921.
"Yale did wonders for me," he said in a talk on his ninetieth birthday. "She broadened my whole outlook and taught me her strict code of ethics." Snowden adds that "he spent plenty of time" working for Yale, serving as Class Secretary from 1954 through 1963, as president of the Cincinnati Yale Club, the oldest Yale Club in the country, and for several years as chairman of the Yale Club fund drives. He felt Yale was "a focal point of his life - opened up his eyes, let him meet people from allover." He was very eager for his sons to go to Yale, and it was "a great joy to him" when they did.
He returned to Cincinnati on graduation, and in 1915 he married Dorothy Snowden. He had met her in Weehapang, Rhode Island, where the Caspar Rowe and Brinkley Snowden families spent summers. They had two sons, Stanley M. and Snowden; Weehapang continued to be the place where summers were spent, in the Inn there until 1950 and then in a house they built. Dorothy died in 1982 at the age of 82, but Stanley continued going there summers.
Rowe's first employment was with the Cincinnati Rubber Company, where he served as secretary.
Then came the war, and his classification of 4F because of a lung problem. That made him decide he'd be smart to take out more life insurance, he said later, "but when I applied every company looked up my health record in the draft and then promptly rejected me." He lived to be ninety-seven. He served during the war in the newly-formed U.S. Ordnance Department.
Shortly after he returned to Cincinnati, he and Oscar Shepard started the Shepard Elevator Co. Oscar Shepard had been Chief Engineer for the Warner Elevator Co., the number two in the country. He became unhappy with the management, felt there was too little planning for the future. So he decided to fonD his own company. Stan's father invested in the venture, but lacked confidence in Oscar's ability to sell. He urged young Stanley to join the company and correct that lack. Stan did, and this remained his principal occupation, after 1921 as vice-president and treasurer, until in 1960 the company was sold to the Dover Corporation.
"The thing that pleased him most," says son Snowden Rowe, "was when (in 1958 or so) Shepard bought out Warner Elevator Co." Snowden quotes him as saying, "I wish Oscar could have lived to see this." The firm was soon bought by Dover, and Stan, by then Chairman of the Board, retired. The Cincinnati Post reports a difference between him and the new acquirer over operating policies.
He was a close friend of Senator Bob Taft (Sr.). They met at Yale, where Taft was two years ahead of him. Taft in the early years told him he should become more active in the <:,ommunity, and got him into the Better Housing League, which later led to his being chairman of the local Metropolitan Housing Authority. These proved to be hot spots. He was in the position of selling parcels of property, planning construction, hiring architects and contractors. Many of his architect friends who thought they had an inside track became angry with him, Snowden says, and brought great pressure on him. But Stan was not influenced, and received many plaudits for the job he did. Stanley Rowe Tower, near Crosley Field, is a memorial to his services.
It was Taft who talked him into buying forty acres in Indian Hill, near Taft, in 1924.
The Senator told the Rowes of an attractive piece of property coming on the market; John Clippinger, then in the real estate business, took them to see few days later. The price was $15,000. The Rowes were "entranced with the I," Stan told the Indian Hill Garden Club in 1983, and said they'd buy it.
The next day Clippenger called, said a Mr. Cunningham, in the auto business, had dealt direct with the owner, and the property was sold. It was characteristic of Stan Rowe that this did not end the matter. "Let's go talk with Cunningham," he said. Clippinger saw little use in that, but acceded. It developed that Cunningham had bought the house without conferring with his wife, and was regretting it. The deed was turned over to Stanley Rowe - and since Cunningham had bargained, Stan got it for $14,500 instead of $15,000.
The house was built in 1928, and additional parcels of property were bought j added from time to time. The purchases were made mainly, according to Snowden, because his neighbor kept getting into financial trouble and asking Stan to help him by buying some of the property. "He sort of backed into his interest in nature, through trees," Snowden reports. Dorothy Rowe confirms this, in an article she wrote for The Avant Gardner. "We got excited about trees because the State of Ohio advertised it would give them to people 'to hold the hillsides' ... 4700 tree babies sat in our nursery for two or three years doing nothing. All of a sudden we had an embryo forest of pines, oaks and tulip trees on our hands and we were off to the races when my husband got the bright idea of trying to collect all the trees and shrubs we could." The American Horticultural Society, honoring Stanley in 1982 with an amateur citation for the arboretum, refers to its "remarkable collection of conifers, crabapples, magnolias, oaks and beeches."
After a time Stan had put together 170 acres, containing some 1800 different species of trees, plants and shrubs. It became an experimental area, to determine whether trees from other climates would grow in Cincinnati.
Most of the finest trees were in one section of the property, and this was left to Indian Hill Village as a parkland. The village was somewhat reluctant to accept because of the anticipated upkeep, so the house was left also, with the right to sell it to provide endowment. This has become the Stanley Rowe Arboretum.
With Taft also he went into real estate development in 1928. As he reported to the Indian Hill Historical Museum, he and Taft "realized that something had to be done to stop the dilapidated, substandard shacks that were being thrown together and lived in at the top of Indian Hill Road." The two men formed the Redbud Realty Company and bought "practically every piece of property between Indian Hill Road and DeMar Road, and from Miami Road all the way to Camargo Pike," planning to do the first major subdivision in Indian Hill. With the depression, the plan to divide into large lots was dropped in favor of one-to-three acre plots.
The activities extended over a 25 year period. At one time, the venture owed the banks $300,000 and each of the two men was out $75,000 which they had put into the company. As a result of all this, the report states, they ended up making about $15,000 each. Snowden expresses little surprise that the project was not a financial success: "neither one knew what the hell to do about subdivisions," he says. However, Stan gave the project a different evaluation: he said it resulted in "one of the very best subdivisions in the United States. One proof of this is that few people riding (through the area) realize they are going through a subdivision. . . The area has developed so satisfactorily that the risks (I) and Senator Taft took were worthwhile."
Rowe was vice-mayor of Indian Hill for several years; he was often asked to become Mayor but he refused, said he didn't want it. He apparently had some feeling of guilt about this, and was pleased later when Snowden took on the office. "You," he said "did the job I should have done."
He liked to organize things. Snowden says he was far-sighted: "he could see where the action was going to go, get there, and do something about it." He organized a Beach Association in Rhode Island to protect the beach from vandalism, pollution and abuse; also to keep it private. He was one of the founders of the Indian Hill Church, and on the vestry of the Church of the Advent in his early days. But he "was not an intensely religious man, was not a church leader."
In the early 1920's the Commercial Club asked Fred Geier and Stan Rowe to look at the situation that had developed with the Cincinnati Museum of Natural history. They were shocked by what they found: the director, Ralph Dury, six months behind in his pay, sweeping the floors, the whole operation a shambles. The two men raised money to provide an adequate budget, set up a viable organization, and moved the Museum into a fine new building of its own. Fred Geier provided most of the money for the new building.
The push that Senator Taft gave Rowe into housing had a lasting effect. Rowe's first venture into charitable work was as trustee of the Better Housing League in 1917. He later became its president, as well as chairman of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, and was a prime factor in the development of public housing in the West End. The first project was Laurel Homes, followed by English Woods and Lincoln Court. Reviewing these projects in a 1972 taped interview with George Stimson, Rowe felt "one great mistake" had been made: a family couldn't live in this housing with an income over a very low amount. "Now practically all the occupants are on relief," he said. "The ones who said 'Let's keep this place clean' were the very ones who got raises - and had to move out." -
His experience with the Better Housing League stood the City in good stead when the federal government set up a housing authority. The CDC sought to establish a local 'authority' and in the interview Stan tells how he "spent days urging this person and that to take the chairmanship, and none of them would. They came back and said, 'Why don't you take it?' and I finally said, 'Well, if it's necessary, I will. So that's how I got into it, much against my will."
When Federal funds became available and State legislation was passed, "we were ready," Stan told Stimson. His committee went to Washington a week or two after the bill had passed, with full plans; "we can spend as much money as you can give us," it told the Housing Authority. The Government decided to divide the available funds among New York, Chicago and Cincinnati, and put Cincinnati down for $150 million. "The other cities screamed," said Rowe, and the figure finally became $7 million. It "has worked out wonderfully," said Stanley. During his ten years as Chairman of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, new apartments were built for 4160 families.
His approach to this and other projects is revealed in the Stimson interview. "We would thrash out first what is the most necessary thing to accomplish. Once we had decided on it, we didn't go out and tell the newspapers or anybody 'This is what we think should be done.' We just went out and tried to get this first and that next and wait to see who blocked something and then we'd go to them." Progress, he said, was made mainly by personal contacts - with City officials, City Council, the City Manager, Columbus and Washington. "Always someone on our (CDC) executive committee knew the key individual, and would say 'I'll call him up.' It helped that people "got to know we were pushing a thing not for personal benefit but for the community. . . I never knew of a single instance when a person or his company had an immediate benefit from what was a good venture for the public."
Stanley Rowe was a director of Howard Paper Mills Inc. in Dayton, Kroger Company, Cincinnati Equitable Life Insurance Co., of which he was at one time president, Emery Memorial, Spring Grove Cemetery Association and Fiduciary Management of New York.
He was a trustee of the Diocese of Southern Ohio. He was a Republican and an Episcopalian and belonged to the Camargo, Queen City and Commercial Clubs.
Stan did not have many hobbies. He played some golf, but was "never too good at it," according to his son. He preferred tennis, was a member of the Cincinnati Tennis Club in his younger years. Later the Rowes had a tennis court at their home, and Stan played mostly with his family. But at age 60 he had minor trouble with his heart, and gave up tennis. He did enjoy a round of golf he had with Senator Taft and President Eisenhower.
In New Jersey he did a bit of sailing, but, Snowden says, "he never cared for it." When he was young he spent "all his time" chopping trees to make trails. He said he had made seven miles of trails, with a couple of men he had hired to work with him. This "was his most ardent hobby of all."
He was, according to Snowden, "a very caring father" - but "not too good at communicating this." He was better at expressing emotional matters through writing than in talking. As he got older, "this improved."
He remained alert and fully competent until the end. His tall slender figure remained almost erect as ever, his bow tie and soft hat just as sporty. Finally, on February 21, 1987, his long, full and productive life ended, at age 97.
(With permission of the author.)